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Police gear up for Irian rally JAYAPURA - Hundreds of security personnel paraded throughthe main streets of Jayapura, the capital city of Irian Jaya province on Thursday as a show of force ahead of a mass rally on Friday to commemorate the anniversary of the 1961 declaration of independence. The parade of security personnel, comprising members of the police, Army,Marines and Navy special forces along with two armored vehicles received a cold shoulder from most of the residents.

Jayapura Police chief Supt. Daud Sihombing said the parade was meant to convince the Irianese that the security personnel were ready to safeguard the province from any attempts to disrupt public order in the territory. "Let the people be the judge of what we are doing. We have strong personnel and equipment. Let them feel safe upon seeing our show of force. There is no need to worry about the upcoming celebration." "This will show the people that we are ready to take risks in safeguarding the city from any disturbances," Daud told reporters at policeheadquarters.

To the security personnel, he encouraged them to be stern in taking action against any threat to disrupt public order. "Don't hesitate to take measures, use your strength and weapons appropriately. If you are yelled at, close your ears, if you are pushed, resist and if you are attacked with machetes or any kind of sharp weapon, use your weapons, paralyze them to protect yourself and other unarmed civilians," Daud told the security personnel. Daud confirmed that security had been beefed up by the deployment of at least four battalions of military personnel to back up the police during the rally. In other parts of the city, members of the Papuan task force and dozens of supporters prepared a stage in front of Gedung Kesenian at Imbi field for the anniversary ceremony. Ominously, only a few meters from the field, security personnel have erected tents for security personnel bivouac. Nearby shops closed on Thursday, anticipating violence.

The task force secretary, Mathias Arwakon, said the security forces seemed to want to provoke the people by this show of force and by erecting tents in front of the stage. "Apparently they are trying to provoke us but we will not respond becausewe have been instructed by the chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council to remain calm and not to take any action that might lead to a conflict with the security personnel," he said. Mathias also disclosed that a progovernment militia, Merah Putih Force (Red and White militia), would also be deployed to face the task force.

Papuan task force members were still assembling as of Thursday evening, under the scrutiny of security personnel. Smells of liquor sometimes comingfrom the gathering. "The declaration of independence must take place, because many people from remote areas have braved the security cordon to reach this town," saidone Papuan task force member who identified himself only as Mathias.

"The organizing committee must respect those people," added the youth, who once studied at Atmajaya University in Yogyakarta. A meeting between the provincial authorities and the proindependence leaders earlier in the day concluded that there would be no political manifesto delivered during the rally. "We are not going to read a political statement as we did last year. The Morning Star flag will be hoisted in the morning at Imbi Park and we will hold a mass prayer afterwards," one of the Papuan proindependence figure, Tom Beanal, said.

He added that the flag would be lowered at the end of the rally and be removed to the house of Papuan Presidium Council chief Theys Hiyo Eluay, who is under police detention on subversion charges. Besides Theys, the police have also detained the council's secretary-general Thaha Al Hamid. On Thursday, Don Flassy and Jhon Mambor were added to the list of Irian Jaya proindependence leaders arrested for alleged treason. Meanwhile, 11 Church leaders in Irian Jaya called on the military, policeand Papua National Forces (TPN) and the Papua Freedom Movement (OPM) to exercise restraint to avoid violence, which could lead to the death of innocent civilians. Jayapura deputy bishop Mgr. Jack Mote Pr, accompanied by the secretary-general of the working body of Christian Bible Church, Corinus Berotabuy, said that a clash between the Papuans and the military and police and a clash between Papuans and migrants must be avoided. "Open conflicts will only lead to civil and military emergency status for Papua. Therefore, all parties must be open to dialog," Jack said, noting that soldiers should stop intimidating people in the villages.

Posted in General @ 30 November 2000 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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