World Health Organization

WHO Indonesia

NEWS SUMMARY 17 June 2003

 

 GENERAL

Indonesia Imposes Restrictions In Aceh Province
U.S. Extends Travel Warning for Indonesia
AusAID set to raise grants to RI by 25%

 

ACEH

Respiratory problems hit refugees in Aceh
40,000 flee homes in Aceh as fighting rages on
Indonesian Army Moves Thousands Of Villagers To Aceh Camp
INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT TO ANNOUNCE ARRANGEMENTS FOR FOREIGNERS IN ACEH
Fresh fighting in Aceh
Mass Grave Allegations Anger Indonesia's Army Chief

 

 

GENERAL

Indonesia Imposes Restrictions In Aceh Province

JAKARTA, June 17 (AP)--Indonesian forces are making good progress in their campaign against separatist rebels in Aceh province, although the hardest phase of the campaign is still unfinished, the country's military chief said Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the government announced that President Megawati Sukarnoputri had signed a decree tightly restricting foreigners' access to the province.

Tourists will be banned and foreign journalists must receive government approval. All relief efforts must be coordinated by the government, and aid groups will be banned from activities that are not in the army's interest, the decree said.

The military claims it has killed more than 200 insurgents belonging to the Free Aceh Movement in an offensive launched May. 19. Twenty-five police and troops also have died, authorities say.

"For the time being we've seen significant achievements," Gen. Endriartono Sutarto told reporters in the capital, Jakarta.

The offensive, sparked by the rebels' refusal to accept a government ultimatum to renounce their goal of independence, ended a five-month peace deal that had stopped the 26-year war.

In the 1980s and '90s, the guerrillas survived numerous government offensives in the oil- and gas-rich province of four million people on Sumatra island. Military analysts say the insurgents are again employing classic guerrilla tactics of melting away before launching hit-and-run attacks against Indonesia's unwieldy army.

The military has been accused of forcibly evacuating more than 13,000 villagers from regions of Aceh where the rebels command wide support and placing them in government-run camps.

Sutarto said his forces had occupied most known rebel bases in the province - a goal which military planners had predicted would take at least two months.

"The most difficult phase of the operation is to separate rebels from civilians, and we need about four months to do that," Sutarto said.

A total of 96 civilians have been killed in the campaign, according to media reports. But the guerrillas say most of the fatalities in the offensive are villagers executed by soldiers during raids in the countryside - a charge the army denies.

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U.S. Extends Travel Warning for Indonesia

WASHINGTON, June 12 (AP) - The State Department on Thursday warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Indonesia, where terrorists linked to al-Qaida may be plotting new terror attacks targeting Americans.

The advisory was prompted by the outbreak of hostilities in Aceh province, where the Indonesian military is battling separatists belonging to the Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM. The Indonesian government has warned all foreigners to leave Aceh and has said the conflict could result in terrorist attacks throughout the country, especially in cities.

``American citizens are strongly urged to avoid traveling to Aceh and those already present should leave immediately,'' the State Department said.

Soft targets are particularly vulnerable, including ``hotels, clubs, restaurants, shopping centers, housing compounds, transportation systems, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events,'' the department said.

The Jemaah Islamiyah, an international terrorist organization known to have cells in Indonesia, has connections to al-Qaida. The group is believed to have been behind the October 2002 terrorist attacks in Bali that killed more than 200 people, most of them foreigners.

The statement supersedes the one issued April 25, which also warned Americans against nonessential travel to Indonesia. The department allowed the return of staff and family members to the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya at that time.

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AusAID set to raise grants to RI by 25%

The Jakarta Post

June 12, 2003

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Australian government will increase the amount of grants it gives to Indonesia by 25 percent to A$151 million (about US$80 million) for the period of July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004, from about A$120 million in the previous year.

"We will increase the amount of the grants because we want to emphasize the good relationship between the Australian and Indonesian governments," Sam Zappia, the counselor for development cooperation in the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), said on Wednesday.

Besides being used to promote better education in Indonesia, a sector that has been Australia's major concern for years, the grants would also be used to assist Indonesia in its preparation for the 2004 elections, Zappia said.

The money given for the elections might reach 10 percent of the total.

After the Oct. 12 bombing in Bali, which claimed the lives of nearly 90 Australians, AusAID added a new strategic objective to its grants: To support counter-terrorism capacity building.

He explained that to counter terrorism, Indonesia should have adequate tools to eradicate money-laundering.

"We provide training for officials of PPATK (the Financial Transaction and Report Analysis Center), so they will have a better understanding of money-laundering," he said.

The Bali bombing also has prompted the Australian government to strengthen the health system in Bali. Part of the grants will be used for improving infrastructure in the Bali administration's Sanglah hospital, where many of the Bali bombing victims received treatment.

By proportion, according to Zappia, 20 percent of the grants would be allotted to the health sector, 45 percent for education and scholarships, 10 percent for humanitarian aid, 20 percent for promoting good governance and 5 percent for improving the environment.

 

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ACEH

Respiratory problems hit refugees in Aceh

The Jakarta Post

June 18, 2003

Health problems have added to the misery of thousands of Acehnese refugees since they abandoned their homes for camps to evade gunfights between government troops and separatist rebels in the province.

A spokesman for the provincial social affairs agency, Burhanuddin, said cases of upper tract respiratory infection and diarrhea had been found in the most crowded camp in Cot Gapu field in Bireuen regency.

He blamed poor sanitation and a lack of clean water for the diseases, but short stopped of detailing local government measures to deal with the health problems.

Many of some 10,000 people from Juli district sheltering in the camp, situated one kilometer from the heart of downtown Bireuen, demanded that they be allowed to return to their homes, saying they could not stand the unhygienic conditions at the camp.

There are only 20 bath rooms for the refugees in the camp, which was built by the government.

"There is no water available for wudhu (ritual ablution for Muslims), let alone for bathing. Many of us cannot pray due to the absence of water," Hasanah, one of the refugees, said.

Aceh is a predominantly Muslim province, where sharia has taken effect as part of the special autonomy package granted to the territory to curb the demand for independence.

There are over 40,000 displaced people across Aceh, 16,000 of them in Bireuen and the rest scattered across nine regencies in the province.

Burhanuddin said the number of refugees once exceeded 62,000.

He said the local government had distributed rice, canned food, coconut oil, sugar, powdered milk for children below five years old and clothes to the refugees.

Responding to the refugees' demand to be allowed to return to their homes, military spokesman Lt. Col. Achmad Yani Basuki said they could leave only if security had been restored in their residential areas.

The evacuation of people is part of military efforts to avoid civilian casualties during the operation to crush the rebels, who have blended in with people while waging guerrilla warfare.

Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said in Jakarta it would take around four months to effectively separate the rebels from civilians.

"Separating civilians from GAM is the most difficult phase in our operation because some civilians are also relatives of GAM rebels," Endriartono said.

He said the TNI would intensify its offensive to occupy GAM bases as soon as the rebels were separated from civilians.

After nearly one month since the military operation began, the TNI claims to have killed 202 rebels, but only dozens of weapons have been seized.

Endriartono said he was curious about the discrepancy between the number of rebels shot dead and arms confiscated. "We are still analyzing these facts," he said.

He also denied allegations that two F-16 jet fighters deployed on Monday had killed civilians. He said the use of warplanes to attack separatist bases was aimed at showing the Indonesian public that the TNI is stronger than the rebel group.

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40,000 flee homes in Aceh as fighting rages on

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

June 17, 2003

Banda Aceh - An all-out military offensive against separatist rebels in Indonesia's restive Aceh province has forced more than 40,000 residents to flee their homes, NGOs said Tuesday.

Local social workers said a wave of refugees started flowing in on May 20, one day after the government imposed martial law and the military launched a massive assault attempting to crush the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

The 40,919 villagers were currently sheltered at temporary evacuation centres across 10-district areas in Aceh, said Burhanuddin, spokesman of the social office in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

Meanwhile, a total of 507 schools have been set on fire throughout the troubled province since the government launched its offensive on May 19, leaving 70,000 students with no place to study.

A presidential decree was issued late Monday banning foreign tourists to Aceh, while barring foreign journalists without legal permits issued by Indonesia's Foreign Ministry.

Under the decree, all foreign humanitarian aid agencies must be coordinated through the Ministry of the People's Welfare.

Chief of the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) General Endriartono Sutarto claimed Tuesday the operation in the rebellious province had resulted in significant gains.

"The TNI has successfully taken over the GAM's main strongholds," Sutarto told the state-run Antara news agency.

More than 40,000 Indonesian troops and police forces have been battling about 5,000 GAM separatists in the oil and natural gas-rich province. The invasion seeks to put down the 27-year-old rebellion in Aceh, 1,750 kilometres northwest of Jakarta.

The military has claimed as many as 204 rebels were killed so far, 112 others arrested and 144 have surrendered. At the same time, 27 soldiers and police officers were killed and 63 others wounded.

The civilian death toll was not given.

Sutarto backed the deployment of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to attack rebel strongholds.

"The jet fighter deployment was merely aimed to show the community that TNI is more powerful than GAM rebels," Sutarto said. "I have no objection to using F-16 jet fighters and OV-10 Bronco aircraft, as long as they were not used to attack civilians."

The Jakarta Post reported F-16s bombed and rocketed GAM bases in North Aceh district - the first time Indonesia has used air combat since purchasing fighter jets from the U.S. in 1996.

Military officials reported increasing rebel casualties in Aceh province, but admitted troops were facing difficulties confronting the highly-mobile guerrillas who melt into the population.

GAM has fought for independence since 1976. More than 11,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the fighting.

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Indonesian Army Moves Thousands Of Villagers To Aceh Camp

BIREUEN, Indonesia (AP)--Soldiers have trucked thousands of villagers out of suspected rebel strongholds in Indonesia's Aceh province as part of a monthlong offensive against the insurgents, army and government officials said Monday.

Around 13,000 people - among them many women and children - are living in a makeshift camp near Bireuen town after fleeing fighting in the area since Friday.

A government official in the area, Syahrul Hasan, said the villagers had been transported by army trucks to the camp on a soccer field.

Lt. Col. Firdaus Kormano said "some of the villagers" had been moved by the army but said none was forced to move. He said the evacuation was ordered because of an operation in the area of Jeuli aimed at killing a local rebel commander.

Earlier, the military had said it was making plans to forcibly evacuate villagers from known rebel strongholds to make it easier for troops to target insurgents.

The camp is in north Aceh, where most of fighting has occurred since the government launched a fresh campaign against the rebels on May 19.

Villagers at the camp said food and water were in short supply, and complained that hygiene and medical facilities were poor.

Many had fallen ill with fever, colds and rashes, said Zaenal, who was brought with his family to the camp by the army. Like many Indonesians, he goes by a single name.

Hasan acknowledged officials were slow to supply aid but said the situation had now improved. The camp is equipped with toilets, medical facilities and tents.

"On the first day that the refugees arrived, we were late in providing food, but not anymore," Hasan said.

The fighting has left large parts of the province without electricity, and food and fuel prices have risen sharply. The U.N. and the Indonesian government say stocks of food and humanitarian supplies remain sufficient.

Earlier, army spokesman Lt. Col. Ahmad Yani Basuki said four civilians were found dead Sunday in three different areas - two in Aceh Besar, and one each in south Aceh and Bireuen.

He accused the rebel Free Aceh Movement of being responsible for the killings.

The military claims to have killed more than 200 rebels in the offensive, which was launched after an internationally mediated peace deal broke down. More than 20 soldiers and police have also been killed.

The rebels have been fighting for 27 years for independence for the oil- and gas-rich province. About 12,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT TO ANNOUNCE ARRANGEMENTS FOR FOREIGNERS IN ACEH

BBC Monitoring International Reports

June 14, 2003

Jakarta: Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Friday (13 June) the government had already made certain arrangements to enable foreigners to work or be in war-torn Aceh Province. The arrangements, however, had yet to be announced.

"But, in principle, they are already in effect in the field," Soesilo said after a limited cabinet session to discuss Indonesian options post-International Monetary Fund (IMF) cooperation at the State Palace here.

The government would soon issue an announcement on the arrangement for foreigners who worked as journalists or activists of Non-Governmental Organizations, to guarantee their safety and its effective implementation of integrated operations in the province, he said.

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Fresh fighting in Aceh

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, June 14 (Reuters) - At least 10,000 villagers, many carrying bedding, clothes and cooking utensils, have fled fresh fighting in Indonesia's rebellious Aceh province.

In a official Antara news agency report from the Bireun district, scene of the some of the heaviest clashes since the government launched a fresh military offensive to crush rebels four weeks ago, residents fled nine villages on Friday.

"I heard the sound of constant gunfire near our house. We were extremely scared and afraid we would be hit by stray bullets," it quoted one villager, Mustafa, as saying.

Up to 200 people have been killed in the latest offensive and more than 25,000 had fled their homes before Friday's exodus.

Antara said the villagers were taking shelter in tents on a soccer field in a town about 170 km (105 miles) east of the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

It said the refugees comprised men, women, the elderly and children. Some had fled in trucks and other vehicles.

Officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The military hopes to crush the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). GAM has sought independence since 1976 for the oil and gas-rich province on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

The United Nations said earlier this week that the number of refugees in Aceh was not alarming, adding it believed there were was not a food shortage in the province.

The 27-year conflict has made life a misery for Aceh's four million residents and left 10,000 people, mainly civilians, dead.

Indonesia's national human rights commission said on Friday there were strong indications eight civilians had been deliberately killed since the government offensive began.

The semi-autonomous commission said some witnesses had blamed the military, although the commission added it had yet to reach a conclusion. The military has vehemently denied killing civilians and warned of legal action against false reports.

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Mass Grave Allegations Anger Indonesia's Army Chief

Associated Press

June 12, 2003

LHOKSEUMAWE, Indonesia (AP)--An Indonesian human rights group says it has received reports of a mass grave with dozens of bodies in restive Aceh province near the scene of some of the fiercest recent fighting between the military and separatist rebels.

Indonesia's army chief of staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu Thursday responded angrily to the unverified reports from the National Commission on Human Rights, saying he would "knock their heads off" if the military proved the claims unfounded.

Rights commission spokesman M.M. Billah told The Associated Press Wednesday said that the reports of a grave with as many as 50 unidentified bodies in the northern district of Biruen came from the commission's staff in Aceh who had heard about the grave but not seen it. He said the commission would send a team to Aceh next week to investigate the claims.

The commission receives funding from the government but is considered independent of government control.

Ryacudu, currently on tour of the military's operations against the Free Aceh Movement rebels, said of the commission and the allegations: "Ask them to come here. I will knock their heads off (if) they are just talking."

Last month, the military launched a major offensive against the rebels after a five-month peace deal broke down. More than 180 people - most of them suspected rebels - have been killed in daily clashes since the campaign began.

On Tuesday, seven Indonesian troops were killed and seven more were injured in Biruen in the worst fighting since the offensive began on May 19.

Human rights activists have accused Indonesia's notoriously ill-disciplined and poorly trained troops of executing several suspected rebels. The military has denied the allegations. This week, six soldiers, including three on Thursday, were found guilty by a military tribunal of beating villagers during the offensive and sentenced to short jail terms.

The rebels have been fighting for 27 years for independence of the oil- and gas-rich province. About 12,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The latest offensive began after peace deal collapsed.

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EAST JAVA

Drought threatens West Java rice supply

The Jakarta Post

June 12, 2003

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Indramayu, West Java

Over 45,000 hectares of rice plants in the Indramayu and Cirebon regencies, known as the rice belt of West Java, have withered following the early arrival of the annual drought, predicted to last until November.

A tract of farmland in the region could not be planted and in some areas, young rice plants could not grow because of the drastic decrease in the water supply from three dams in the province.

"Almost all irrigation channels to farms in a number of districts in the regency are drying up because there is no water supply from the three dams," chief of the Indramayu settlement and infrastructures office Rahardjo told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said that the water supply of the dams in Salam Darma, Subang regency, in Bendung Rentang, Majalengka regency, and in Jatiluhur, Purwakarta regency, had suddenly decreased because it had not rained over the last few weeks.

Rahardjo said around 20,000 hectares of rice plants had withered in the districts of Karangampel, Krangkeng, Juntinyuat, Balongan, Losarang and Kandanghaur, and farmers could do nothing as the dry season began in May, two months earlier than expected.

Chief of the local agriculture office Muhaimin said he was pessimistic that the farmers could plant the target 95,000 hectares of rice during the planting season.

"So far, only about 52,000 hectares have been planted," he said, adding that the drought would affect the regency's rice production this year.

Separately, chief of the Cirebon agriculture office Sathori Djuhaeri confirmed that the drought has damaged 25 hectares of rice fields in the regency.

"Compared to 2002, the situation is worse this year because the early drought has damaged tens of thousands of rice paddies in the regency," he said.

Thousands of villagers are also suffering from the drought, as their wells have dried up and they are running out of fresh water.

He said that the districts worst-hit by the drought were Kepetakan, Arjowinangun, North Cirebon, Kaliwedi, Panguragan and Gresik.

Kusnen, a local farmer, said that more than two hectares of rice plants on his farm had "turned yellow" because of the water crisis.

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CENTRAL SULAWESI

Indonesian Christian Leader Gets 3 Years Jail

PALU, Indonesia, June 16 (AP)--An Indonesian court Monday sentenced a Christian minister to three years in jail for illegally possessing firearms in central Sulawesi, which has been wracked by bloody fighting between Muslims and Christians.

Rinaldy Damanik, a respected religious figure who campaigned for peace in the region, has always maintained his innocence. Several Christian groups in the U.S. and elsewhere have campaigned on his behalf.

"The defendant Rinaldy Damanik was proven possessing seven homemade guns and 144 rounds of ammunition," Judge I. Nyoman Somanada told the Palu District Court before Damanik was sentenced.

Damanik was arrested on Sept. 9 after police found the weapons in his car while he was helping victims escape fighting in Morowali district, central Sulawesi.

Damanik, 44, smiled as the judge read out the verdict, and said he was thankful that his trial, which began Feb. 3, had not triggered a violent reaction.

"All the people know I am not a criminal," he told the court before being escorted to prison.

His lawyer, Johnson Panjaitan, said Damanik was a victim of a political conspiracy and that police had "engineered the facts" of the case. He didn't elaborate.

About 1,000 people were killed in two years of Muslim-Christian fighting in central Sulawesi that started in 2000 after spreading from the neighboring Maluku islands.

Damanik was a vocal critic of the security forces who fueled the conflict by supporting fighters from both sides.

In March 2001, the same court sentenced three Christians to death for allegedly masterminding riots that led to the murder of more than 240 Muslims in Poso. They are currently appealing the verdict.

Indonesia's judicial system is notoriously corrupt. Critics say many prosecutors, judges and lawyers can be bribed.

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MALUKU

Mines, ammunition found in Maluku

The Jakarta Post

June 16, 2003

Azis Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon, Maluku

A group of soldiers from the Army's 11/BS Airborne Unit in Ambon discovered six active mines, hand grenades, a gun and more than 50 rounds of ammunition in an area near a Roman Catholic church in Ahuru, Sirimau district.

They did not know who owned the arms but said they would carry out a search because they believed more arms and ammunition were still hidden in the village, following recent sectarian conflict between Muslims and Christians.

Chief of the airborne unit Maj. Harris Sarjana said that the discovery on Friday of the arms followed the finding by a villager of a high-intensity explosive on Thursday near the area. He reported it to a nearby military post in the district.

"We shall continue the search for other arms that may have been hidden after the sectarian conflict," he said, adding that he would request a special team defuse the mines.

He called on residents of the village to remain alert for possible explosives or mines that could explode if stepped on.

Harris alleged that many people from the two conflicting factions still held arms through fear of fresh violence.

"Locals should cooperate with security authorities in anticipation of possible new conflict and we shall provide protection for those who report civilians holding firearms, explosives or other weapons," he said.

In addition, people in Ambon Bay district also found two hand-made explosives, the ownership of which has not yet been claimed.

Separately, chief of the Pattimura Military Command overseeing Maluku Maj. Gen. Agustadi Sasongko Purnomo called on locals to hand over any arms they might be holding to help avoid new violence on the eve of the gubernatorial election.

"The local military will seize illegal arms kept by anyone, and those who refuse to hand over their arms to security authorities will be taken to court," he said.

The local police and military plan to deploy 3,000 personnel to maintain security and order on the eve of the gubernatorial election, as well as to avoid new conflict in the province.

The conflict, which has brought devastation to the province over the last three years, is related to the governorship, as the last governor, Saleh Latuconsina, whose tenure ended last September, was a Muslim.

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PAPUA

Govt urged to win hearts of Papuan people

The Jakarta Post

June 17, 2003

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The central government should intensify its communication with the international community and win the hearts of Papuan people, instead of employing a military approach, to crush the Free Papua Movement (OPM), according to community and religious leaders in Papua.

Papuan Governor Jaap Solossa said that the government should counter OPM's struggle for independence through political and cultural means with intensive actions to win support from countries who are influential in international fora.

According to him, a defensive approach and military offensive will not be effective in crushing the underground independence movement because like Aceh, the core problem in the Papua is injustice, human rights abuses and unfair treatment and not the armed rebellion.

"Besides, the government should also be consistent in its implementation of the special autonomy to win the hearts of the people so that they will no longer support the separatist movement. The more human rights abuses and injustices that occur the more the people will suffer and the more they will support the separatist movement," he said after a meeting with Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the latter's office here on Saturday.

Also accompanying Solossa in the meeting were leaders of religious groups in Papua and former Papuan governors Barnabas Suebu and Izaac Hindom.

He declined to reveal details about the meeting but according to credible sources, the Papuan delegation met Susilo in line with the government's planned military offensive in Papua following the ongoing one in Aceh.

When asked whether the government had changed its mind on the planned military operation in Papua, the governor said: "No... there is no such plan (to launch military operation in Papua).

He, nevertheless, was quick to add: "The meeting, of course, focused strongly on the government's plan to pay more attention to end the secessionist movements in Aceh and Papua, as well as terrorism issues and security matters prior to the 2004 general election."

The military leadership has warned against OPM's intensive lobbying with international non-governmental organizations and developed countries to win their support for the province's separation from Indonesia.

Solossa regretted that the government has not disbursed the special autonomy funds worth Rp 1.3 trillion (US$158.5 million) in the fiscal year 2003.

The funds should have been disbursed in March.

Almost all development projects that have been approved and completed this fiscal year could not be carried out because of the delay, he said. "We do need the funds to finance development projects and the government should show its goodwill to encourage progress under the autonomy era in the province to win the hearts of the Papuan people. The government should foster the Papuan people's dignity."

Solossa also questioned the suspension of the establishment of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) which has a vital political function in determining the development policy and the future of the country's easternmost province.

He said Papua and the central government have been at odds over the MRP since the latter did not want the highest Papuan law-making body to have any political authority.

He said neither side discussed the planned development of Papua into three provinces, a move Papuan religious leaders have opposed.

The military has been behind the government's move in its attempt to weaken the separatist movement.

However, the military has been strongly criticized for rampant human rights abuses over the last three years, ranging from the murder of proindependence Papuan figure Dortheys "Theys" Hiyo Eluway to the recent killing of dozens of civilians in a hunt for rebels in Timika, Jayawijaya regency.

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Unicef concerned over high Papua infant mortality, AIDS

The Jakarta Post

June 14, 2003

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has allocated US$1 million (Rp 8.2 billion) to help cope with the high infant mortality rate and spread of HIV/AIDS in the resource-rich province of Papua.

The director of the Unicef office in Jayapura, Kiyoshi Nakamitsu, said here on Friday that the financial assistance, which would be disbursed in phases, was aimed at expressing Unicef's deep concern over the serious health problems, especially affecting women and children, in the thinly populated province.

He said that according to Unicef data, the infant mortality rate in the province reached 117 per 1,000 under-five children, which was the worst in the world.

"This means 117 out of every 1,000 infants die every year before they reach the age of one year old. This infant mortality rate is very high, and much higher than the national rate of 50 per 1,000 infants," he said

He added that Unicef was obliged and had a responsibility to cope with the serious health problems among women and their children in the province.

Kiyoshi said the high infant mortality rate had a lot to do with rampant malnutrition among women and their children, and the lack of health services, especially in remote areas.

"Many infants are doomed to die because besides being malnourished, most children and women do not have access to better health services because of poverty and the fact that they live in remote areas," he said.

He said further said that this had been worsened by the high percentage of people with HIV/AIDS in the province over the last decade.

Out of a total of 1,263 people with HIV in the province, 539 have developed AIDS. If compared to the province's population of 2.3 million, this figure is the highest in the country.

"The infant mortality rate is expected to remain high over the next ten years in line with the high percentage of people with HIV/AIDS. Prenatal babies are quite prone to contracting HIV/AIDS from their mothers. Besides, teenagers are also prone to the disease as a result of promiscuity," he said, adding that Unicef would launch an anti-AIDS campaign among high school students.

He said the assistance would distributed in five regencies -- Biak, Jayawijaya, Jayapura, Sorong and Manokwari-- and take the form of medicines, and training and support programs.

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