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Irian Jaya guerillas regroup after leader's arrest

Irian Jaya guerillas regroup after leader's arrest

2 February 2001

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The Free Papua Movement's spokesman in Australia, John Otto Oondawami, has outlined a new leadership structure for the guerilla movement following the arrest last week by Papua New Guinea police of one of the OPM's senior commanders, Matthias Wenda.

Wenda and 12 of his men were captured inside PNG territory, near the northern border town of Vanimo, and have been charged with operating an illegal army inside PNG.

Wenda's men have been given prison sentences of six months' hard labour,

while Wenda and his deputy face trial this week and could face life in jail.

In a statement released in Sydney, Mr Oondawami said there was a risk the arrested men would be handed to the Indonesia authorities. He condemned the PNG Government for its involvement in their capture.

"These freedom fighters are in great danger. They may be deported to Indonesian authorities.

"Any forcible handover to Indonesia is a crime against humanity. We urge the Government of PNG not to sell your own brother for a piece of bread and meat."

The OPM's statement comes a day after MELSOL (Melanesian Solidarity), a pan-Melanesian non-government organisation, accused the PNG Government for "doing the work of the Indonesian military".

The chairman of MELSOL, Mr Powes Parkop, says there appeared to be a deal between PNG, Indonesia and Australia to contain the Free Papua Movement.

As a result of Wenda's arrest, all operational matters for OPM guerillas

based along PNG's 820-kilometre border with the Indonesian province were now in the hands of Commander Bernard Mawen, Mr Oondawami said.

At 71, Mawen is the oldest and perhaps longest surviving OPM commander. He is credited with having helped introduce organised OPM resistance into the highlands of Irian Jaya during the 1970s.

Mr Oondawami said that since the arrest of Wenda and the killing last year of another commander in the northern region, Hans Bomay, the Northern Command of the OPM was no longer "operational" and the headquarters for all OPM guerillas would now be in the south.

He said he outlined the new structure because "some other people" had been claiming to represent the OPM.

He referred in particular to a southern operations commander, Mr Willy Onde. He recently captured three Korean timber workers and a number of Indonesian workers hostage and held them hostage.

Some observers claim he has been working with Indonesian units in the south.



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