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Indonesia shelves Papua division after deadly clashes JAKARTA - The Indonesian government on Wednesday decided to shelve plans to split easternmost Papua province into three after three days of street clashes involving supporters and opponents of the move left three people dead. ``Based on political and administrative considerations, the division of Papua province ... has been put off and (Papua) will be kept in the status quo,'' top security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a press conference.
The government would take into account economic and social-cultural factors before deciding whether to go ahead with the division, the minister said, insisting that the plan had not been abandoned completely. The central government says the purpose of dividing the existing province into three is to improve administration in the mountainous 411,000-square-kilometre (158,700 square mile) territory, which has a population of about three million.
Opponents say the real aim is to lessen support for a long-running separatist movement. They say it violates the grant of special autonomy to the resource-rich province which went into effect in 2001. Police reinforcements were flown Wednesday to the town of Timika, where clashes between supporters and opponents of the split have erupted since Saturday, leaving three people dead and dozens injured.
One company - about 100 men - of paramilitary police arrived from the provincial capital Jayapura on Tuesday and another company would arrive from Makassar in South Sulawesi later Wednesday, said provincial police chief Budi Utomo. He said police would form a buffer force between the two warring groups and try to mediate a settlement.
The clashes have pitted thousands of mostly Amungme hill tribesmen who oppose the establishment of a new province of Central Irian Jaya against hundreds of supporters of the plan. ``They are to maintain a barricade between the two sides so that they do not attack each other again,'' Utomo told Metro TV station in a telephone interview. The tribesmen have used bows and arrows and spears during clashes on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Around dawn Wednesday tribesmen angered by police efforts to prevent a renewed clash slightly injured one officer with an arrow, Captain Ruslan Abdul Gani told AFP from Timika. He said Utomo was currently mediating a peace deal between the two camps involving ``compensation under tribal laws.'' Tribesmen have said the violence will not end until the number of fatalities from each side is the same. Two of those killed were opponents of the new province.
``We are trying to persuade them to accept another form of compensation,'' Utomo said earlier in his radio interview. He said it may include the slaughter of pigs, highly prized animals in the local culture. Tribal representatives say they feared an influx of outsiders to help run the new province will marginalise them like Australia's Aborigines. Trouble began after the declaration Saturday of the new province by local legislators and administrative leaders.
Indonesia has faced a sporadic low-level armed separatist revolt, along with peaceful pressure for independence, since it took control of Papua in 1963 from Dutch colonialists.



Posted in Violence @ 28 August 2003 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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