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West Papuan leader frees some hostages

West Papuan leader frees some hostages

Date -- 30 January 2001


JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (JP): Willem Onde, leader of the Merauke-based separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM) released on Sunday afternoon 13 of 16 hostages who were abducted by his men on Jan. 16.

Three hostages, including two Korean nationals, were not released as Onde wanted a guarantee that his request to meet with President Abdurrahman Wahid is granted.

Deputy regent of Merauke Benyamin Simatupang told reporters here on Sunday that negotiators managed to convince Onde to release 13 hostages. Onde had told Merauke regent Gebse on Saturday afternoon that he would not free any of the 16 hostages, who are employees of a Korean timber company PT Korindo, until he (Onde) met with the President.

According to Benyamin, the three men who are still being held hostage by the rebel group are Kun Kwan, Lee Jongmy and Kamilus Muyu.

The 13 hostages left Onde's rebel camp together with the negotiators who

were, among others, Merauke regent Gebse, Merauke Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Mulyono, chief of Tribuana IX Special Task Force (Kopassus) Lt. Col. Nus

Rasia, Nurberta (Onde's sister) and three Koreans officials of PT Korindo.

The negotiations were held three kilometers away from Onde's base.

The crisis started on Jan. 16 when 11 employees of PT Korindo were abducted by members of the Papua National Liberation Army (TPN Papua), a faction of the Merauke-based OPM led by Onde, in the district of Asiki which is a 12-hour drive from Merauke town and about 900 kilometers south of the province's capital Jayapura.

Two days later the OPM members abducted three more people who tried to negotiate with them.

The abductors demanded US$1 million in compensation for environmental damage, the withdrawal of the police's Mobile Brigade troops from Asiki and a total halt to logging.

The Indonesian authorities is exercising restrain in dealing with Onde and his men as not to endanger the lives of the hostages.

Onde had earlier threatened to kill the hostages if military action was taken to free the hostages.

However, as a precaution, a 12-member bomb squad and some 30 Kopassus personnel have been sent to Merauke.

The first day

On Saturday, the first day of negotiations, Onde said he would not free any of the hostages because he first wanted to meet with President Abdurrahman Wahid.

"It doesn't matter if Gus Dur comes to Merauke or we go to Jakarta with our tribal leaders, and religious and political figures. If the (Indonesian)

government refuses our demands for independence, we will go directly to the United Nations to have the Indonesian Presidential Decree No. 1/1969 on the integration of Papua (Irian Jaya) into Indonesia revoked," a negotiator, who asked anonymity, quoted Onde as saying.

"I'll kill the hostages if I come to know that the Indonesian authorities are searching for me. We are taking the 16 people hostage not because we are

hungry. We have become impatient for the Indonesian government's reply (to our demand for independence). And we have been quite likely cheated.

"Give us, Papuans, a clear answer (to our demand for independence) if you want the hostages to return home alive. I, Willem Onde, guarantee their safety while they are in our custody. I don't want anyone to meet with the hostages," Onde had earlier said.



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