29 May 2003

Indonesia orders acceleration of Papua provincial split

5:29 pm on 29 May 2003

The Indonesian government has ordered Papua province's Governor Jaap Salossa to hasten the process of splitting the territory into three provinces.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says Indonesia's Home Affairs minister Hari Sabarno has instructed Governor Salossa to "immediately implement" the process, which had been ordered by President Megawati Sukarnoputri in a decree in January.

Despite being deemed illegal by several parties, the official reason given for dividing Papua is to bring the government closer to the people and facilitate economic development.

It was argued that it would be impossible for one governor to administer Papua's 28 districts which are spread over a huge and remote area.

However, the International Crisis Group (ICG) says the real reasons for the split are very different.

The ICG's Indonesia director Sidney Jones says it is aimed at weakening the independence movement, and she had noted that the move has done more to create tension and turmoil in Papua than any government action in years.