Saturday, August 6, 2011

Papuans demand more attention

Heads of state institutions have called on the President to pay close attention to Papua and Aceh to ensure their special autonomy status benefitted local people, and to prevent growing tensions there from igniting as regional elections draw near.

They warned that the special autonomy status given to Papua and Aceh should adhere to the Unitary State of Indonesia, to ward off calls for a referendum, as have been heard in West Papua.

The concerns were raised during a three-hour consultation meeting between heads of state institutions and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the State Palace on Thursday.

Attending the meeting, among others, were People’s Consultative Assembly Speaker Taufik Kiemas, House of Representatives Speaker Marzuki Alie, Regional Representatives Council speaker Irman Gusman and Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud M.D.

“We discussed the latest situations in Papua and Aceh, including their preparation for regional elections. We ask the government to pay special attention to the two,” Irman told reporters after the meeting.

Irman said that the meeting, however, did not discuss Tuesday’s International Lawyers for West Papua conference in Oxford, England, which campaigned for a legal review of the 1969 Act of Free Choice that led to the incorporation of West Papua into Indonesia.

“For us, the Unitary State of Indonesia is already final. What we want is how to better manage [both Papua and Aceh] mainly ahead of the regional elections, which are prone to causing conflict,” Irman said.

Nineteen people were killed in clashes between supporters of rival political candidates in seemingly unrelated incidents on Sunday. Because of the violence, the vote to elect a district chief scheduled for Nov. 9 was postponed.

Four civilians were later found dead after an attack on Monday. The attack occurred at about 3:30 a.m. local time as a group of fresh produce vendors was traveling from Koya to Youtefa market in Abepura.

Police claim to have found a Morning Star flag — used by the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and Papua independence supporters — at the side of the road near the site of the attack, along with damaged cars, ammunition shells and spears and arrows.

On Wednesday, gunmen shot at a military helicopter in the hilly district of Puncak Jaya, a rebel stronghold and longtime hotbed of separatist violence. The chopper was flying in the remote region to evacuate Fana Hadi, an army private who was wounded during an attack on his post Tuesday morning.

Indonesian Army chief Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo vowed on Thursday to hunt down separatist rebels after a swell in violence in the restive province of Papua killed two soldiers.

They will be “chased down” and “cleaned up” by local military units, he said as quoted by the Associated Press. Pramono is the younger brother of first lady Ani Yudhoyono.

Yudhoyono, in a press conference after the meeting with the heads of state institutions, said he would consider inserting their input into his state address, which he would deliver on Aug. 16 ahead of Independence Day.

Yudhoyono did not touch on the issue of Papua or Aceh.

“What we discussed [with the heads of state institutions] is important. My speech will in fact relate to actual and strategic issues in our country now,” he said.

Yudhoyono said the government and heads of state institutions had agreed to prioritize enforcing the law, combating corruption, expanding the economy and advancing democracy. (rpt)