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Subject: ETISC: East Timor Autonomy: Only a transitional Step
Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998 08:12:56 +0000

East Timor Autonomy: Only a transitional Step.

ETISC 07/08/98 The East Timor International Support Center (ETISC) welcomes reports that progress has been achieved at yesterday's talks between the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Portugal under the auspices of the UN Secretary General.

Indonesia's offer of Autonomy is no solution to the East Timor conflict.

ETISC is of the view that a real and permanent solution to the 23-year conflict can only be achieved if the wishes of the East Timorese people are respected. The only way to do this is by holding a properly conducted referendum.

ETISC supports the idea of a transitional autonomy, but only until such time as a referendum can be organised. During this period a local, democratically elected East Timor government must be given a set of well defined powers, previoulsy agreed to by Portugal, Indonesia and East Timorese leaders.

The election must be conducted by an independent authority, under United Nations supervision, and not by the Indonesian government.

Indonesia has no credentials regarding the conduct of fair elections. Binding international protection mechanisms need to be set into place, to ensure that the Jakarta government consistently respects the autonomy powers granted, until the referendum is held. The negotiation of the transitional autonomy requires the full involvement of the people of East Timor.

The attempt by Indonesia to keep East Timorese Leader Xanana Gusmao in jail, to use as a bargaining chip in negotiations, is totally unacceptable, and places great doubts on the sincerity of Jakarta's offers. It is the conviction of ETISC that the election for the interim government should not be held until Xanana Gusmao is released. The election would be unacceptable to the East Timorese people, and clearly a façade, without the involvement of the person whom most East Timorese regard as their leader.

ETISC calls upon the government of President Habibie to show its commitment to resolving the costly East Timor conflict by immediately releasing Leader Xanana Gusmao, and take all steps to facilitate his participation in the forthcoming negotiations, in the leading role he deserves.

ETISC hopes that the bitter and costly lesson of the 23 years of warfare that resulted from the inflexibility, deviousness and arrogance of the Suharto regime's handling of the EastTimorese people will have been learned, and that President Habibie, and his Foreign Minister Mr Alatas, have realised that a new approach must be taken.

Such an approach, to be successful, needs to be based on honesty, mutual respect, and a genuine desire to truly resolve the conflict. We also take this opportunity to disseminate an open lettter to East Timorese leaders, written by one of ETISC's East Timorese Darwin-based members, María do Céu Federer.

She argues why autonomy is only a transitory solution for the East Timor conflict, and not a permanent one, unless the people so choose through a referendum. For further comment by María do Céu : tel +61 8 8948 4458, +61 8 8985 5678, +61 8 8985 5529

CIRCULAR LETTER TO EAST TIMORESE LEADERS From: Maria do Céu Lopes da Silva de Federer

Darwin 3/8/98


His Eminence Don Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo - Bishop of the Diocese of Dili His Eminence Don Basílio de Nascimento Martins - Bishop of the Diocese of Baucau His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao - Commander-in-Chief of FALINTIL, President of CNRT His Excellency Dr José Ramos-Horta - Vice President of CNRT His Excellency Taur Matan Ruak - Commander of FALINTIL Leaders of the Clandestine Resistance

Respected Leaders and Compatriots,

These are important and historical times in which the East Timorese people and their leaders, the Indonesians, the International Community and the United Nations are faced with the very difficult task of finding an honourable and dignified solution for the problem of East Timor. There is no doubt whatsoever that a just and peaceful solution must embrace the aspirations of the long suffering East Timorese people.

I, Maria do Céu, a daughter of East Timor, feel compelled to contribute my views about the future of East Timor at this decisive moment. The enclosed document is my personal opinion, an opinion which strongly opposes the 'autonomy' option for East Timor which has recently been presented by President Habibie of Indonesia. This option, in my view, is a clear violation of the rights of the East Timorese people to assert their right to self-determination. What I fear most is that the desire to quickly end the violence and military occupation of East Timor will lead decision makers to choose autonomy. This would be a disaster.

The enclosed statement of mine - which I hope you read - shows how autonomy will in fact be rejected by East Timorese, and if established, will lead to violence, but this time amongst East Timorese within the territory. Under these circumstances the United Nations may need to be involved in finding a solution, for it should be remembered that East Timor remains a United Nations problem until such time as an act of self-determination - not a grant of autonomy - is carried out. Under autonomy Indonesian migration will continue, to the anger of East Timorese, whilst Timor Gap oil profits will go directly to Jakarta.

Worst of all is the fact that Indonesia will continue to hold sufficient power in East Timor to, not only reduce the internal powers granted to the East Timorese people, but also to strangle East Timor, by allocating insufficient funds, by interfering through the Indonesian judicial system, and by exerting military force on East Timorese through massed battalions garrisoned in West Timor, on the very border with East Timor. Autonomy will not bring peace in East Timor, it will not bring regional stability, and it will not delete the East Timor issue from the world agenda.

I appeal to all Timorese leaders who will be taking part in the dialogue between United Nations, Portugal and Indonesia on the future of East Timor to fully consult with the East Timorese people, and insist upon the absolute importance of undertaking an act of self-determination. A grant of autonomy by Indonesia will be counter productive and will betray all of us East Timorese.

Sincerely yours,
Maria do Céu L. S. de Federer

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