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Indonesia Approves Autonomy for Irian Jaya - 2001-10-23

Indonesian lawmakers have voted to give autonomy to the separatist Irian Jaya province. The law does not have the full support of the province's people.

Working late into the evening, Indonesia's parliament approved the special autonomy law for the eastern province of Irian Jaya. The law allows the province's people to control up to 80 percent of the royalties from logging, mining, and oil and gas exploitation in the province.

The law makes other changes. Now, the province will be called Papua, which analysts say is an important symbolic change for the its indigenous population. The province also will be permitted its own flag and anthem.

Some pro-independence groups are not embracing the move. They say the bill does not address human-rights violations and that Papuan residents were not consulted when the law was drafted.

Fighting has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s, after Indonesian authorities held a referendum that led to the territory becoming a province. Many people say that ballot was rigged, and gave rise to the guerrilla Free Papua Movement. Indonesian officials hope the special autonomy law will now help quell independence demands. The government has granted some forms of limited autonomy to all 32 of its provinces this year. Like Papua, the northern Aceh Province was granted extra concessions. But so far, the autonomy law has done little to stop violence between guerrillas and Indonesian troops.