WELL WISHERS IN PAPUA: Today's story about the independence movement in Irian Jaya (page 7), brought home to reporter Simon Montlake the yawning cultural gap between this province and the Javanese culture dominant elsewhere in Indonesia. "Papuans shake your hand with vigor (unlike the limp handshakes on Java), and their direct approach and back-slapping familiarity are distinct from the elliptical Javanese speech and style," says Simon. Their Melanesian culture prizes consensus and long negotiations.
The contrast was driven home at a rally to mark the release of a report on the Theys Eluay investigation. About 1,500 Papuans turned out to hear church prayers and angry laments for their fallen leader, and Simon was invited to sit at the front. Afterward, community leaders mingled by the stage as folks came up to meet them. "Seeing me lingering there, too, they insisted on shaking my hand and thanking me for coming, not pausing to ask who I was. Many fixed me in the eye, pumped my hand and said, 'God Bless You.' It took several minutes to satisfy all the greeters before I could buttonhole the independence leader," he says.
SANDER THOENES: The prime suspect identified by UN and Dutch investigators in the murder of Sander Thoenes a Monitor contributor and Financial Times correspondent in East Timor in 1999 (as the Monitor reported on April 29) returned to the territory last week as part of an official Indonesian military delegation on a goodwill visit. London's Sunday Telegraph reports that "By sending Lt. Camilo dos Santos to a border-opening ceremony attended by the head of the interim UN administration and East Timorese political leaders, senior Indonesian officers were displaying a provocative defiance. Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian head of the UN mission, looked dismayed. Mari Alkatiri, East Timor's chief minister, was clearly furious."