ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
New separatist threat in IndonesiaBy David Swartzemtruber
However, a period of political stability under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and economic growth has dispelled the “ungovernable” tag.
In spite of that, this week has brought news from the Papuan district of Puncak Jaya, Indonesia’s easternmost province that separate attacks on police and military posts on Tuesday left one soldier wounded.
On Tuesday, thousands of people rallied for independence from Indonesia in the country's Papua region, after days of political violence that killed at least 21 people. The separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM) is the organization involved in the demonstrations.
Similar rallies were also staged in at least seven major towns in Papua and West Papua provinces, as well as in Jakarta.
On Tuesday, Lambert Pekikir, an OPM leader, said his organization was not responsible for the series of attacks.
“The Free Papua Liberation Army is not responsible for the attack in [Abepura],” he said in a phone interview from an undisclosed location.
In cities and towns in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, demonstrators, many of them in marched amid heavily armed police officers and soldiers, the police and witnesses said.
The protesters demanded a referendum on independence for the region and the repudiation of a 1969 vote that was backed by the United Nations and that formalized Indonesian control.
The protests were largely peaceful, although activists and church workers accused the authorities of fomenting a climate of fear to deter people from demonstrating. Many Papuans, who are ethnically distinct from most other Indonesians, characterize as heavy-handed and exploitative the rule from Jakarta.
The main demonstration took place in Jayapura, Papua’s provincial capital, where thousands of supporters of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) took to the streets in support of a pro-independence event being held in Oxford, England.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa minimized the significance of the Oxford conference, which is being hosted by the group International Lawyers for West Papua in a bid to bring cases of rampant human rights abuses in Papua before an international tribunal.
“The movement is not that big because they [involve] the same old people. I used to live in England so I know them. Their efforts never gain the support of the British people or government,” Marty said.
Marty, the former ambassador to Britain, said he was sure the British government would continue to support Indonesia’s policy on special autonomy for Papua.
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