16 Dec 2002

Papuan civilians call on Indonesian police to soften stance against OPM

7:15 am on 16 December 2002

Civilians in Timika in the Indonesian province of Papua have reportedly called on police to end what they say are excessive responses to the pro-independence movement flying its Morning Star flag.

There have been a series of arrests for hoisting the separatist emblem in recent weeks - most recently the arrests of five members of the militant group, the OPM, in Timika.

Large numbers of people in Timika have gathered in front of the regional government office and called on President Megawati Sukarnoputri and the provincial Governor Jaap Salossa to take responsibility for the excessive police action.

Meanwhile, the international spokesman for the OPM, Dr John Ondawame, says such arrests provoke unrest and can have grave political implications.

He says the Indonesian government should send foreign observers in Jakarta to Papua to monitor the situation and ease the tension.