13 Aug 2002

Papuan groups to gauge views in Indonesian province

10:41 am on 13 August 2002

Pro-independence groups from Papua will over the next month seek the views of the people on what they want to happen in the Indonesian province.

For 40 years groups, such as the OPM, have been pushing for independence, but Papua exile and academic, John Ondawame, says reconciliation meetings next month may change the agenda.

Mr Ondawame heads the Centre for Conflict Studies at Sydney University, where he says early next month Papuan leaders from the province and abroad will meet as part of a reconciliation process.

He says similar meetings will be held in Papua and New York.

The Papuans are looking to have a peaceful dialogue with the Indonesian Govenrment, and these meetings will agree on a planned agenda.

Mr Ondawame says it will be a democratic process in which the people may choose autonomy over full independence, so western nations should back them.

"So we have two democratic principles we have to apply, majority decision. If a majority says we have to be independent and we have autonomy we have to respect that. I think this is my OPM position, Papuan Presidium, the Papuan general position is therefore that democratic countries like Australia, New Zealand or America should support the majority position."

John Ondawame