Subject: Flag raising 'not act of separatism'

The Jakarta Post
Friday, September 19, 2008

Flag raising 'not act of separatism'

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The raising of a Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag by Papuans should be considered an attempt to seek attention rather than an act of separatism, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said in Jakarta on Thursday.

"We can't conclude that they want to separate from Indonesia just because they hoisted the flag. We should seek a dialogue with them instead of punishing them," he said in a joint press briefing with his Australian counterpart Joel Fitzgibbon.

Juwono said Jakarta must address the roots of the Papuan's discontent rather than simply punish them.

"Only through dialogue will we know what they want. Punishing them will only spark antagonism," he said.

Jakarta outlawed the Bintang Kejora in 2007, and those who raise it face imprisonment.

This year alone, 10 incidents involving the raising of the flag have been reported and all perpetrators have been processed legally.

The latest incident occurred on Aug. 9 in Wamena. During the incident, a Papuan was shot by police.

Members of the Papua Customary Council have also played down the hoisting of the flag, calling it a spontaneous expression of dissatisfaction at the Indonesian government's failure to fulfill its promise of bringing prosperity to Papua.

Citing a separate incident, Juwono and Fitzgibbon agreed that five Australians that are being held in Indonesia after illegally flying a light aircraft into tightly controlled Papua airspace pose no threat to Indonesia.

"Our finding is that the Australians, who flew from Queensland to Papua, are not a threat or anything like that," Juwono said.

"It was only a number of people looking for an opportunity to open up a tourism business," he said.

The group was brought to an immigration detention facility in Merauke after they had landed the aircraft in a town last Friday without proper clearance or documents.

"There isn't any evidence that they were up to what we would describe as any sort of activities that threaten Indonesia," Fitzgibbon said.

"I understand that they were under the impression that they would be able to secure a visa on arrival... (but) that doesn't change the fact that what they did show very poor judgment and the Australian government is very appreciative of the way the Indonesian government has handled the matter," he said.


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