Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: President asked not respond to US Congress over OPM issue

also Interview-Indonesia should show tolerance in Papua-minister

08/11/08 01:31

President asked not respond to US Congress over OPM issue

By Andi Abdussalam

Jakarta, (ANTARA News) - Legislators and activists have called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono not to respond to a U.S. Congress letter asking him to release two sympathizers of the outlawed Free Papua Organization (OPM), Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage.

"The president must firmly reject the request," Chairman of the People`s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Hidayat Nurwahid said here on Sunday.

The MPR chairman made the statement in response to a report that 40 US Congressmen had written to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono demanding the "immediate and unconditional" release of the two sympathizers of the outlawed separatist OPM.

Karma and Pakage were sentenced to 15 years and 10 years imprisonment respectively in May 2005 for hoisting a separatist "Bintang Kejora" (Morning Star) flag in Abepura, Papua, on December 1, 2004.

"This is a form of intervention into the nation`s sovereignty," Nurwahid said expressing his regret.

Abdillah Toha, chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation Body (BKSAP) of the House of Representatives (DPR), concurred with Nuwahid, saying there was no need for the president to respond to the US congressmen`s request.

"The US Congress is free to write letters to anyone for the sake of its constituents. So, if the president responds to it, he should only explain Indonesia`s present legal system," he said.

Former chairman of the Executive Board of Islamic Students Organization (HMI), Anas Urbaningrum said Papua is a province within Indonesia`s territory and sovereignty. Thus, it is a matter of Indonesia`s domestic affairs.

"That is why it is not proper for the parliaments of other countries to meddle into others` internal affairs," Urbaningrum who is now an executive chairman of the Democrat Party.

He said that a member of parliament of a big country like the United States should understand the principles of mutual respect towards the domestic affairs of other countries.

"Yet, what happens with the US Congress. They show arrogance and attitude as if they could serve as police for other countries," he said.

Therefore, he said that the US Congress letter need not be replied. "If we should reply it, we should only explain the principles of good relations and mutual respect," Urbaningrum said.

Hajriyanto Yasseir Thohari of the Commission I of the DPR which deals with foreign affairs, said the letter indicated that the US Congress was ignorant about the unitary state condition of Indonesia.

"With the letter it is clear that they are ignorant about Indonesia`s democracy and law. Indonesia is no less democratic than the United States, and it is neither inferior to the United States in terms of law enforcement, because Indonesia upholds legal supremacy," Thohari said.

Deputy Chairman of Commission I of the DPR Yusron Ihza Mahendra said if the United States alleged that injustice had taken place in Papua, they were actually triggered by the United States itself.

"Local people have been focusing a spot light on the presence of Freeport in Timika and other foreign investors, including the British Petroleum in Bintuni, as a source of injustice," he said.

Yusron said that as a result of injustice with regard to abundant natural resources they could not enjoy, certain local people who did not understand the problem were than trapped in establishing a movement against the government of Indonesia.

Andreas H Pareira, another member of the House`s Commission I said that the maneuver being played by the US Congressmen was a litmus test for President Yudhoyono.

"It will indicate whether or not Yudhoyono would show his sovereign authority or merely act as a puppet serving the interest of another country," Pareira said.

Meanwhile, thousands of activists of the Indonesian Islamic Organization Hizbut Tahir Indonesia (HTI) staged a rally outside the U.S. Consulate General in East Java on Sunday protesting the US Congress.

This was the second rally held by the HTI in two days. On Saturday, tens of them staged a rally in front of the US embassy in Jakarta warning Washington not to meddle in Indonesia`s domestic affairs.

The demonstrators unfurled banners reading "HTI Rejects US Intervention in Papua" and "Prevent the Nation`s Disintegration".

"The US said that freedom of thought and expression should be respected while in fact the two OPM members had committed a rebellious act and hoisted the morning star flag," Rally coordinator Fikri A Zudian said.

Therefore, the HTI would call on the President to turn down the US Congressmen`s request, and see that the two OPM sympathizers stay in jail.

"The government must reject any kind of intervention. Don`t pay attention to the US Congress` letter," Sodik Ramadhan, another rally coordinator, said.

Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda said on Saturday he will soon answer the US Congress` letter.

"We will answer the letter as soon as possible. In essence, we will ask the US government to respect the legal decisions made in our country," he said.

Yet, Minister/State Secretary Hatta Radjasa said that until Sunday morning he had not received the US Congress letter.

"Up to know, we still have not yet received the letter," the minister said.

In the meantime, the United States government issued a statement on Sunday through its embassy in Jakarta that it supported Indonesia`s full sovereignty and integrity and did not support any separatist movements in Indonesia, including in Papua.

It supported the Indonesian government in applying Law No. 21 / 2002 on Regional Autonomy in Papua and West Papua.


Interview-Indonesia should show tolerance in Papua-minister

By Ed Davies and Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Indonesia does not face any organized resistance to its rule in Papua and there should be a degree of tolerance responding to cases of banned separatist flags being hoisted, the defence minister said on Monday.

A group of 40 U.S. Congress members recently sent a letter to Indonesia's president calling for the "immediate and unconditional  release" of two jailed Papuan separatists and warning that the human rights situation there was deteriorating.

Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage were sentenced to 10 and 15 years respectively for raising a separatist flag in 2004.

"I'm trying to persuade my colleagues in government...that these outbursts of flag-raising or cultural dignity should be tolerated at a certain level," Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said in an interview with Reuters.

"It's more of an outpouring of grievances. That the Papuans feel they're still not being treated well by us from the central authorities," he added.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged to end conflict in resource-rich Papua and speed up development under a autonomy deal, although critics say it has not been implemented.

Independence activists in Papua have waged a campaign for nearly 40 years to break away from Indonesia, while a low-level armed rebellion has also simmered.

Sudarsono said there was no sign now of armed resistance.

"So far we don't see anything. There is no external support in terms of military and weapons."

But in a sign of ongoing tensions, six people were arrested in July on treason charges after hoisting the Morning Star flag, the symbol of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).

On Saturday, a man was also killed after police fired warning shots when a separatist flag was raised, a local official said.

Rights groups have criticised security forces for abuses in Papua, but Sudarsono said that the current administration favoured settling local conflicts through dialogue and violence by security forces "should be a last resort".

Sudarsono also said potential conflict from Muslim migration into Christian-majority Papua had to be handled carefully.

"We see that as a risk, just as what happened 10 years ago in Central Sulawesi also grew out of this internal migration between islands," he said, referring to bloody religious conflict.

In Aceh, another area that suffered a separatist revolt for decades until a peace deal on Aug. 15, 2005, he said that "I think that on the whole it's quite stable".

But he also said that the province on the northern tip of Sumatra was having some problems trying to absorb former rebels, who also sometimes struggled to adapt after decades of conflict.

"They're used to raising their fists or picking up arms, which is much more romantic and more idealistic," he said.

Sudarsono said a key need for the cash-strapped security forces currently was more patrol boats to help police Indonesia's huge coastline and more than 17,000 islands.

Quoting an estimate from the maritime ministry, he said that $26 billion of the country's resources could be stolen this year by well organised and financed smuggling groups involved in areas such as illegal logging or fishing.

That compares with the combined defence and police budget of about $4.2 billion, he said.

Under the rule of former president Suharto, which ended in 1998, it was common practice for the armed forces to use their positions to make money and top-up salaries.

He said a team overseeing the transfer of military businesses had found that out of 1,500 so-called cooperatives or outright businesses, only five or six viable ones remained, while many had collapsed



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