Irianese raise secessionist flag in peaceful protest

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Thu Dec 2 17:35:27 MST 1999

2 December 1999
Irianese raise secessionist flag in peaceful protest
Jayapura(Indonesia) Thousands of people rallied on Wednesday in Indonesia's
easternmost province of Irian Jaya to press demands for independence. About
15,000 people gathered in this provincial capital to commemorate the
anniversary of the separatist rebel group, the Free Papua Movement.
Protesters defied bans from the police and military and raised the "Morning
Star" independence flag.
Jayapura police said the rally was peaceful and no arrests were reported.
"There have been no incidents so far but we're keeping watching the
demonstration," said Lt. Col. Faisal, who like many Indonesians only uses
one name. He added the police had noted the identity of people raising the
flag and would later prosecute them.
The protest came on the heels of other secession demonstrations across this
vast archipelago of 13,000 islands.
In the past month people in several provinces, including Aceh and South
Sulawesi, have demanded an East Timor-style independence referendums. East
Timor officially seceded from Indonesia in October following a
U.N.-sponsored plebiscite.
Many analysts believe the escalating demands for independence could lead up
to the breakup of Indonesia.
There were demonstrations in other towns across the resource-rich province
on the western half of New Guinea island, about 3,000 kilometers (1,875
miles) east of Jakarta, Faisal said.
Indonesia occupied West Papua, a Dutch colony, in 1963. The region was
renamed Irian Jaya and Indonesian sovereignty was formalized in 1969
following a vote organized by the United Nations. Pro-independence forces
say the process was unfair and undemocratic.
In recent years, one of the main complaints of the separatists has been the
rapid migration of people from other Indonesian islands coming to Irian Jaya
and depriving the indigenous population of work and education opportunities.
Only about one-third of the province's 1.65 million people hail from the
Until last year, Indonesia's army ran the province with an iron hand.
Thousands of locals were killed and tortured during a series of
anti-insurgency operations.
In 1998, the Indonesian government abolished the state of emergency and
repression eased. But secessionist activists were emboldened by the
secession of East Timor and protests have steadily mounted.
Separatist leader Theys Eluay told demonstrators on Wednesday that Indonesia
must relinquish all claims to the territory. "We demand our sovereignty be
acknowledged since we proclaimed our independence and raised our flag in
1961," Eluay reportedly said.
Witnesses said the protesters also demanded the release of all Irianese
political prisoners, the removal of Indonesian troops from the territory and
the launch of U.N.-sponsored negotiations with independence as the final
 For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service

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