26 Feb 2003

New Zealand hopes for peaceful resolution to Papua division controversy

11:41 am on 26 February 2003

The New Zealand government says it hopes a growing dispute over Indonesia's plans to split Papua into three will not undermine the earlier promise of autonomy for the province.

Critics of the plan say the planned division contradicts the earlier autonomy ruling, while the self determination movement says it is an attempt to undermine it and to extend Jakarta's control.

John Rumbiak of the Elsham human rights agency says the international community, which had earlier backed the autonomy arrangements, has to say where it stands on the new decree.

And he says the decision to split the province will lead to increased violence.

New Zealand's foreign minister, Phil Goff, says his government's view remains that disputes should be settled by negotiation rather than violence, and that the autonomy package was a step in the right direction for the province.

"We hope that the disagreement over whether West Papua should be divided into three provinces is something that can be resolved and won't stand in the way of the potential progress that could be made under the autonomy arrangements as originally offered by the government in Jakarta."