25 Apr 2003

International Crisis Group warns of growing tensions in Papua

10:36 am on 25 April 2003

A spokesperson for the International Crisis Group in Jakarta says Indonesia may split Papua province into three despite widespread opposition, because it will benefit Megawati Sukarnoputri in next year's election.

Sidney Jones says there has been a definite escalation in tension in the province.

Her comments came as dozens of Papuans protested in Jakarta over a range of grievances, including the light sentences given the killers of the pro-independence leader Theys Eluay.

And Sidney Jones says a statement from the army chief of staff that the killers were heroes has caused incredible anger among Papuans.

Ms Jones says tensions are very much on the rise and the Government's commitment to splitting the province in three is not helping.

"They may even try to put it into force before the 2004 elections. If they do that it will create even greater tensions than already exist now. On the other hand, if they do it before the 2004 elections Megawati's party will benefit substantially."

Sidney Jones says this is because Megawati's party would be assured of the support of the new provinces.