6 Feb 2003

PNG will not hold joint military operations with Indonesia against OPM rebels

5:22 pm on 6 February 2003

Papua New Guinea's Defence Force has ruled out joint operations with Indonesia against Papuan rebels, in an apparent defiance of a statement by Jakarta that such an arrangement has been agreed to.

PNG's acting Defence Force Commander, Captain Tom Ur, has told the Post Courier newspaper that under no circumstances will PNG hold joint operations with Indonesia as each country is responsible for its own side of the border.

Earlier, Indonesia's military chief, General Endriartono Sutarto, said a joint agreement had been made to secure the border against Free Papua rebels accused of launching anti-Jakarta attacks from PNG.

PNG's foreign ministry says a delegation is currently in Jakarta to discuss border security issues.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Papua Presidium Council, Franz Albert Joku, says PNG soldiers have shown reluctance in acting against Papuans who they consider fellow Melanesians.

He says PNG soldiers may not obey their superiors.

"The military will not be forced into any joint operations with Indonesia along the border because the difficulty will be having Papua New Guineans taking action against Papuans or Melanesians. We will make it our duty to see the government of Papua New Guinea ensures this does not happen."

Franz Albert Joku of the Papua Presidium Council.

Sources within the PNG Defence Force warned the government to treat the OPM border issues sensitively.

They say Papuans have always been in PNG either by right or because they have been forced to flee there.