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Jakarta correspondent Jonathan Head
"A scene which has rarely been witnessed"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 22:15 GMT
Morning Star flies in Irian Jaya
Jayapura Police watched the flag raising in Jayapura

Hundreds of thousands have been protesting all over the eastern Indonesian province of Irian Jaya in support of an independent state.

East Timor
The largest crowd gathered in the provincial capital Jayapura, early in the morning and raised the pro-independence flag, the so-called Morning Star, which was first flown while Irian Jaya was still a Dutch colony.

The protest passed off peacefully after local people agreed with the Indonesian security forces to take down the flag in the evening and disperse.


(The government) does not rule out repressive efforts if things happen ... beyond the limits of law and humanity
President Abdurrahman Wahid
The BBC's Jakarta correspondent, Jonathan Head, says in the past, those who tried to raise the flag in Irian Jaya were often shot on sight by Indonesian troops.

But the new democratic government in Jakarta has promised to treat those opposed to Indonesian rule with greater sensitivity.

Decades of protest

Ever since Indonesia took control of the province in 1969, it has battled against strong opposition from the local population, resulting in thousands of deaths.

And as the new Indonesian President, Abdurrahman Wahid, left for a state visit to China not he warned separatists that did not rule out repression to suppress unrest which threatens to tear his country apart


Independence is the only choice.
Pro-independence leader Theys Eluay
Mr Wahid mentioned Irian Jaya, Aceh and Ambon specifically.

"The people also need to realise that the government is very seriously determined to continue preventive efforts," President Wahid said.

"However, it does not rule out repressive efforts if things happen which are already in the category beyond the limits of law and humanity."

Autonomy rejected

President Wahid has offered the province autonomy, but not full independence.

But that was not enough, pro-independence leader Theys Eluay said.

"Independence is the only choice. We demand the withdrawal of the military from Irian Jaya before 1 May 2000," Mr Eluay told journalists.

Our correspondent says just like in other provinces, the Indonesian government faces a tough dilemma in Irian Jaya .

Allowing the pro-independence movement greater freedom, risks encouraging them to try to break away from Indonesia altogether - something the military has said it will not tolerate.

Continued military oppression could spark a public uprising.

The challenge for a new provincial government is now, observers say, to find new ways of governing Irian Jaya without resorting to oppressive force.

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See also:
01 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Irian Jayans call for independence
30 Sep 98 |  LATEST NEWS
Truce agreed in Irian Jaya
07 Jul 98 |  LATEST NEWS
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07 Jul 98 |  LATEST NEWS
Irian Jaya protest 'treachery'

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