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Secret plan shows Jakarta to bully, woo Irian Jaya

26 November 2000

By Terry Friel

JAKARTA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Indonesia is running a secret campaign to stop the rich and restive province of Irian Jaya breaking away, using a combination of bullying, clandestine operations and persuasion, internal documents show.

A Home Affairs Department plan obtained by Reuters and marked "Top Secret," calls for the raising of village-level militias, creating a hero out of an unspecified Irian figure and tough action against independence leaders.

Separatist passions are rising in the vast, easternmost province, stoked by human rights abuses by soldiers and police and resentment at what many there see as Jakarta's plundering of its fabulous mineral and resources wealth.

Many senior officials and military leaders fear its breakaway would stoke other separatist movements and deprive the cash-strapped central government of vital revenue.

The secret plan was drafted by the Home Affairs Department's director-general for national unity, Ermaya Suradinata, who confirmed the document's authenticity and told Reuters it was part of Jakarta's blueprint for a peaceful solution in Irian Jaya.


"Rising calls for independence in Irian Jaya have gained momentum as...the independence group grows more solid than ever," it says, warning separatist sympathisers have infiltrated local government in the province, also known as West Papua.

The document calls for a two-pronged strategy: hearts-and-minds and a clandestine intelligence operation.

Suradinata said the clandestine and intelligence operations were to prevent violence by "certain groups."

There are also fears bloodshed could erupt for the December 1 anniversary of tribal chiefs' 1961 declaration of independence.

Suradinata said Jakarta wanted a peaceful solution, largely through more autonomy and increased development for the impoverished and isolated territory.

"Solving the problem of Irian Jaya cannot be done with violence. It must be done through dialogue," he said.

"They feel, especially in the more isolated areas, that the government is not paying enough attention. Another thing contributing to the increase in pushing their wish for independence is they feel their prosperity is very low."


In a grim echo of the disgraced and failed strategy to keep East Timor under Jakarta's control, the secret plan urges the formation of village level militias.

Two militias are already operating in Irian Jaya: one in favour of independence and a smaller pro-Jakarta group.

But they have not yet reached the bloody level of the pro-Jakarta militias who laid waste to East Timor after it voted to end Indonesia's military occupation.

Suradinata said the militias were not intended as a paramilitary force, but as "working partners" to help the government implement its policy and win over the Irianese.

His blueprint urges the promotion of local culture and communities and development for the backward province.

"The problem is they feel their life lacks prosperity. If they have prosperity, I feel they will reject independence."

This softly-softly approach would be backed by diplomatic lobbying abroad to deny the separatists the foreign support that was so vital to East Timor's split from Jakarta.

The programme began earlier this year and is due to run until at least May, 2001. The government has already announced it would pump an extra $50 million into the underdeveloped province to boost infrastructure, health and education services.

The plan was drafted after a people's congress of community and separatist activists declared the territory independent.

"Papuans are euphoric about the freedom issue, while the groups who are fighting for independence are becoming even stronger," the document warned.


One of Indonesia's most senior generals recently cautioned Irian Jaya poses a serious threat to the country's shaky unity.

"There has been a rapid escalation of separatist calls... the military has to be prepared," Lieutenant-General Agus Widjojo told Reuters.

After East Timor's break from Indonesia last year, some analysts fear any formal move by Irian Jaya to seek independence, combined with a separatist push in the westernmost province of Aceh, could tear apart the world's largest archipelago.

President Abdurrahman Wahid consistently rules out a Timor-style independence vote, but his government is drafting a special autonomy deal to give Irian Jaya and Aceh more control over their own affairs and resources from May 1 next year.

On the western half of New Guinea island, Irian Jaya has a population of some two million, is rich in natural resources and home to one of the world's largest copper and gold mines, majority-owned by U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.

Indigenous Irianese -- only about half the population -- remain mostly poor and separatist leaders accuse Jakarta of stealing the province's resources and giving nothing back.

The rest come from around Indonesia, either drawn by trading opportunities or brought in by the government as part of a now-discredited policy to move people out of overpopulated areas.

Irian Jaya joined Indonesia in 1963 after heavy diplomatic pressure on the Netherlands. Six years later, a still controversial U.N.-run plebiscite was held among local leaders which resulted in a vote to formally join Indonesia.

from: International Action for West Papua (IAWP)

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