4 Jan 2008

Church leader in Papua urges greater freedoms at border with PNG

11:21 am on 4 January 2008

A Church leader in Indonesia's Papua region has welcomed a proposal by Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister to ease restrictions on the border between the two countries.

Father Neles Tebay of the Jayapura Catholic Diocese says Papuans should be able to move freely over the borders because they are fellow Melanesians with Papua New Guineans.

PNG's Sir Michael Somare put the request to Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono at the recent climate change conference in Bali.

Father Neles says he would also like to see the number of Indonesian combat troops on the border reduced because their presence creates fear and stops people moving freely.

But he admits Jakarta is unlikely to follow the proposal through.

"(The) Indonesian government thinks that the Papuans will easily go abroad, looking for political asylum. So it means raising the political case of West Papua abroad. This is one of the reasons why the Indonesian government perhaps might be hesitant or reluctant to address the proposal raised by Prime Minister Michael Somare."