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Papuan priest fears for rights activists

Separatists and human rights activists fear that two important figures in Papua province are under death threats from Indonesian special forces, a Papuan priest and journalist has said in Dublin.

The alleged threat to the two activists - Mr John Bonay and Mr John Rumbiak of the Legal Aid Institute Papua ELS-HAM - arises from their rejection of the work of two Indonesian inquiries into the assassination last November of the disputed territory's venerated symbolic figure of independence, Theys Hiyo Eluay, who was 62.

Activists believe he was murdered by the military and an investigation by ELS-HAM indicated this. Local church leaders have written to President Megawati Sukarnoputri criticising military involvement in the inquiry.

Fr Neles Tebay, a priest working for the past two years as a correspondent in the province for the Jakarta Post, said: "We can expect to see an attempt on the lives of Bonay and Rumbiak before 7th March" - when the present contingent of Kopassus special forces is expected to end its tour of duty in the territory.

Fr Tebay was visiting Ireland as a guest of West Papua Action. He said that as a member of the UN Security Council, Ireland could take a leading role in putting West Papuan self-determination back on the UN agenda and drawing attention to human rights abuses there by Indonesian troops. About 100,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed, he said.

Irish Times