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Megawati Cancels Irian Jaya Visit Amid Security Concerns - 2001-12-21


Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has canceled a visit to the separatist province of Irian Jaya planned for Saturday amid security concerns. Palace officials say the trip will be postponed indefinitely. Chief Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says President Megawati's long standing plans to visit Irian Jaya were canceled at the last minute, due to rising tensions in the province.

Those tensions have been on the rise since November, when Irian Jaya's independence leader, Theys Eluay, was found murdered. The case has yet to be solved, and provincial leaders have accused the Indonesian military of being involved.

Although the Armed Forces have denied involvement in Mr. Eluay's murder, the police have not ruled it out and the president has ordered an independent investigation.

Ms. Megawati's visit was to have coincided with the inauguration of a special autonomy plan for Irian Jaya. The arrangement would give the province a greater share of the wealth from its rich natural resources and a special council to protect the rights of the predominately Melanesian people. The province will also be renamed Papua.

The autonomy plan, however, has been rejected by independence supporters, and the murder of Mr. Eluay has only fueled separatist sentiment.

Some political analysts in Indonesia say, by canceling her visit, the president has lost an important opportunity to explain autonomy to the people of Irian Jaya and to build goodwill.

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