Subject: UN Decolonization Committee: June 30 hearings on ET
Date: Thu, 2 Jul 1998 09:13:07 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Sharon R.A. Scharfe" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
UNITED NATIONS, 30 June 1998
Press Release GA/COL/2982
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION TAKES UP QUESTIONS OF WESTERN SAHARA, EAST TIMOR, HEARS PETITIONERS
Augusto N. Miclat, Jr., of The Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor, this afternoon told the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples that it did not need to be reminded of its mandate to recognize the paramountcy of Non-Self-Governing Territories. It must accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote, to the utmost, the well-being of those entities. The Committee met to consider the questions of Western Sahara and East Timor.
He said freedom and self-determination would come to East Timor even if the United Kingdom continued to sell weapons of mass destruction to Indonesia; even if the United States continued to drill the Indonesian military in torture and counter-insurgency; even if Australia continued to recognize the Territory's annexation; and even if the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) clung to a policy of non-interference and perpetuated a conspiracy of silence on the genocide in East Timor.
The Committee could hasten the coming of freedom in the Territory by vigorously implementing its own resolutions on the question, he added. This was the most opportune time to break the cycle of compromise and accommodation, of realpolitik, and to adopt a no-nonsense attitude to the issue.
Jose Ramos-Horta, the 1996 Nobel Peace co-laureate, said the administering Powers must cooperate fully with the Committee to implement the General Assembly resolution on eradicating colonialism by the year 2000. While he welcomed conciliatory statements by the authorities in Jakarta, he nevertheless regretted that Indonesia's puppet in East Timor, Abilio Osorio Soares, continued to make incendiary statements, with threats of violence against students who wished to demonstrate peacefully in support of a United Nations-supervised referendum in the Territory.
A statement on East Timor was made by the representative of Sao Tome and Principe. Petitions were also heard from representatives of the East Timor Action Network/United States, London University, the Timorese Foundation for Reconciliation and Development, Timorese Youth for Reconciliation, Associacao Socialista de Timor, and Associacao de Defesa dos Angolanos.
The Committee will meet again tomorrow at 3 p.m. to hear more petitions on East Timor.
Committee Work Programme
The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met this afternoon to consider the questions of Western Sahara and East Timor. It had before it Secretariat working papers on those two Territories.
According to the working paper on East Timor (document A/AC.109/2111), East Timor, located at the top of the chain of islands forming the Republic of Indonesia, is a province or "first-level region" under Indonesian Law 7/76 of 17 July 1976. According to that law, the territorial government consists of a "Regional Secretariat" and a "Regional House of Representatives", and East Timor is represented in the National House of Representatives and in the People's Consultative Assembly of Indonesia.
The paper says that General Assembly resolution 32/34 of 28 November 1977 rejected the claim that East Timor had been integrated into Indonesia, inasmuch as the people of the Territory had been unable to exercise freely their right to self-determination and independence. Indonesia has continued to maintain a military presence in East Timor and, in 1997, Indonesian sources stated that it had seven battalions in the Territory, with between 600 and 650 men per battalion. According to other sources, there are an estimated 15,000 Indonesian troops in the Territory.
East Timorese resistance to Indonesian rule has continued, the paper notes. On 6 June 1997, press reports indicated that at least 36 persons were killed in a series of attacks blamed on pro-independence guerrillas. In other incidents, guerrilla leader David Alex died of gunshot wounds on 25 June 1997, following a shootout with Indonesian soldiers in Baucau; a bomb exploded in a central Java housing complex on 13 September 1997; East Timorese held demonstrations on 12 November 1997 to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the killing by security forces of a large number of demonstrators in Dili; and media sources reported a clash between Indonesian troops and students of the University of East Timor on 14 November 1997.
The paper cites Security Council resolutions 384 (1975) and 389 (1976) which "calls upon all States to respect the territorial integrity of East Timor, as well as the inalienable right of its people to self-determination, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV)", and also "calls upon the Government of Indonesia to withdraw without delay all its forces from the Territory".
According to the paper, the Government of Portugal, in its capacity as administering Power of East Timor, has, since 1997, annually informed the Secretary-General that, owing to the presence in the Territory of Indonesian armed forces, it has, de facto, been prevented from transmitting any information concerning East Timor under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter. Since 1983, the Secretary-General has conducted tripartite talks involving Indonesia and Portugal, as well as consultation with East Timorese representatives. His latest progress report to the General Assembly is contained in document A/52/349.
The paper states that on 18 July 1997, the Foreign Ministers of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries -- Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe -- decided to give East Timor observer status in the organization from 1998. That decision came after a unanimous vote to change the body's rules, thus allowing East Timor's admission.
Mr. RODRIGUEZ PARILLA (Cuba), Acting Chairman, then concluded consideration of the item and introduced the question of East Timor. He said the delegations of Brazil and Sao Tome and Principe wished to participate in the proceedings. He invited the representative of Sao Tome and Principe to make a statement.
DOMINGOS AUGUSTO FERREIRA (Sao Tome and Principe) said that previous meetings of the Committee did not bring any substance to the issue of East Timor, with respect to a solution to the problem of the universal rights of the Territory's people, including the exercise of its rights to self- determination and independence.
Human rights was still a problem in the Territory, he said. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was not observed by the Indonesian Government and, therefore, human rights violations were a daily occurrence in the lives of the people.
He said that his delegation wished to stress upon the Indonesian Government the importance of fulfilling its obligations. If the new Indonesian Government wished to demonstrate goodwill to the international community, the first thing it should do was to release all political prisoners, by which action it would be respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and creating a good environment for a true negotiation.
TITO DOS SANTOS BAPTISTA (Indonesia) objected to the inclusion of the East Timor question on the agenda. The Territory had ceased to be the subject for decolonization, and it was, therefore, inappropriate for the Special Committee to take up the matter. Consideration by the Committee contributed nothing to the tripartite dialogue under the auspices of the Secretary- General. The objection should be reflected in the official record of the meeting.
FERNANDO NEVES (Portugal) referred Indonesia to Security Council resolution 37/30 of 1992 and to General Assembly resolutions on East Timor. If the international community had indeed witnessed an act of self- determination and the situation was as the Indonesian delegation claimed, the question of East Timor would not have been before the Special Committee for 22 years.
Mr. DOS SANTOS BAPTISTA (Indonesia) said he did not wish to prolong or hinder the Committee's work and requested again that his delegation's objection be reflected in the official record.
Mr. RODRIGUEZ PARILLA (Cuba) said the objection would be recorded.
On the issue of petitioners' requests for hearing, he said the Committee would hear petitioners whose requests had been granted. The petitioners were requested to limit their statements to 10 minutes instead of the 15 minutes suggested earlier, so that the Committee could hear all 53 speakers and maximize the conference resources made available.
ERIC GUSTAFSON, of the East Timor Action Network/United States, said by non-violently overthrowing the Suharto dictatorship, the people of Indonesia and East Timor had begun to create democratic space that would make it possible to resolve the question of East Timor. The transition would be difficult, fraught with risk, casualties and potentially disastrous outcomes. For centuries, the Portuguese denied East Timor its right to self- determination. Then, Indonesia had suppressed that right for the last 22 years. During that time, the Committee watched helplessly, unable to carry out its responsibility to implement the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Peoples and Countries.
He said East Timor was a major blot on the record of the United Nations. The Indonesian military occupation persisted in defiance of two resolutions by the Security Council and eight by the General Assembly. As recently as this week, Indonesian soldiers were still shooting down East Timorese civilians when they expressed their desire for self-determination. The Acting President of Indonesia, unlike his predecessor and mentor, would like to placate international, legal and political concerns, but refused to discuss the fundamental issue. The East Timor Action Network welcomed the Acting President's actions as signals that the Indonesian Government could be more flexible than its predecessor. But they were only signals, with no intrinsic significance. Simultaneously, the military, which backed the Acting President, was sending different signals -- military repression and violence against civilians of East Timor.
He said East Timor's political status was for the East Timorese alone to decide. They had the inalienable right to self-determination which could not be taken away by Indonesian military invasion. It also could not be usurped by the un-elected protégé of Indonesia's ousted dictator, neither could it be negotiated away by Portugal, the United Nations Secretariat or East Timorese individuals. The autonomy of Acting President Habibie was a smokescreen. The East Timorese people would eventually vote on their political future, under international supervision. They could choose to be a province of a democratic Indonesia, or they could choose total independence or some other option. The election should be preceded by troop withdrawal and more local self-government for the people of East Timor.
RODICA PINTEA-AUSTIN, of the London University, said the flight of the Portuguese local Government to the island of Atauro effectively removed Portugal from any future involvement in the fate of its former colony. Twenty years on, lack of social and political unity remained the trademark of the East Timorese society. In the current context, the call for a referendum was just as irrelevant as it was 20 years ago. Unable to relinquish an oppressive past, East Timorese had not been allowed to come to terms with the present, let alone to address the future.
Despite Indonesia's actions towards economic development in East Timor, which must be acknowledged, meaningful development remained impeded by the looming spectre of the colonial past, which continued to deepen, rather than heal, the nation's wounds. After 20 years of stalemate, was it not time for Portugal to step down and allow a fresh perspective into the negotiation? Was it not time for the West to abandon their elusive moral high ground and be a participant, rather than mere observer, to the dilemma of East Timor?
She said attainable goals were in sight. A wider measure of autonomy and better integration in the development of East Timor could be realized. The future could see a unified prosperous island which would bury once and for all the ghost of the colonial past. The future could see the Indonesian archipelago as a loose federation of independent States bound by economic and security interests. Only a language of common intent could teach, however, that walking came before running. "We can only be as idealistic over the future of East Timor as reality allows us to be", she added.
ABILIO ARAUJO, of the Timorese Foundation for Reconciliation and Development, said new winds were blowing in Indonesia today, affecting various levels and social sectors of society. However it was important to underline that the reformation movement there was due to social forces affected by the monetary crisis, the increase in unemployment, and the high inflation rate. The prolonged drought and the climate changes caused by El Niño were agricultural factors that further worsened the situation. There was, however, a realization that it was imperative to find a solution to the question of East Timor. The announcement by President Habibie of Indonesia of his readiness to grant special autonomous status to the Territory was greatly welcomed by his Foundation.
Certain sectors reacted negatively to President Habibie's proposal and sought to intensify the pressure to force Indonesia to negotiate the terms where the right for self-determination was safeguarded, he continued. His group believed that failure to consider the proposal could definitely shut the door to a possible solution and the "sine die" postponement of an international agreement on the question. The Foundation supported the tripartite dialogue between the Governments of Portugal and Indonesia under the aegis of the United Nations. The alternative of dialogue was the only appropriate vehicle for the resolution of the question of East Timor.
ROGERIO PEREIRA, of the Timorese Youth for Reconciliation, said his organization remained confident that, with continued United Nations support, a fair solution to the East Timor problem, that was acceptable to Portugal and Indonesia and of benefit to the Timorese, could be achieved. It was also confident that only a win-win deal in which all the parties benefited would allow the Timorese to live in peace and harmony. With such goals in mind, the Timorese must have the courage to embrace open dialogue, to respect each other by striving to find common ground and conceding when necessary. At the beginning, few Timorese had much faith in the reconciliation process. However, almost all now were convinced of the necessity of supporting that process in the hope of achieving further progress.
He said East Timorese were used to people saying that they faced a choice between independence and slavery. However, experiences had taught them that the real choice facing them was between brotherhood and continuous civil war. Any solution would obviously require concessions from all sides. There was no longer any place for stubbornness. The East Timor conflict had its own nature and causes. In reality, the dichotomy in the conflict was between the Timorese and Timorese with Portugal on one side, and Indonesia on the other. It was pointless to argue which side was right or wrong, as it led nowhere.
AZANCOT DE MENEZES, of the Associaçao Socialista de Timor, said that Indonesian President Habibie's attempts to show the world that his Government was undertaking political reforms was false. One of the indications of the Indonesian Government's hypocrisy was the presence in the Austrian Embassy in Jakarta since last September of Avelino da Silva, a member of his association's central committee, his wife and two daughters aged four and six years, respectively. They and two others had been prevented by the Indonesian authorities from travelling to Portugal.
Without arguments to support its accusation, the Indonesian Government had falsely accused Dr. da Silva of being a terrorist, he added. While there was no news of bomb attacks, dead or wounded on Indonesian territory, there was news of violations, jailed and dead people in East Timor. Non-governmental organizations were called upon to start an international campaign to free Dr. da Silva, his family and companions.
ANTONIO TAVARES, of the Associaçao de Defesa dos Angolanos, said that if President Habibie wished to prove to the international community his Government's commitment to carrying out political reform and solving the political problems of East Timor, Dr. da Silva and his family would not be seeking political asylum in the Austrian Embassy in Jakarta.
He said his association reaffirmed its full confidence in Portugal as the administering Power in East Timor. The association was convinced that Portugal and the other Portuguese-speaking countries would continue to uphold the rights of the East Timorese people.
He called upon the Indonesian President to free all East Timorese, as well as Indonesian political prisoners.
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA, 1996 Nobel Peace co-laureate, said that too often arguments were heard concerning the viability and stability of small nation States. Fiji, the Caribbean islands and many other small countries proved that, despite their smallness, they were more viable and stable than larger ones. They did not invade and occupy other countries and, in fact, most conflicts in the world through history had been caused by the large Powers in their pursuit of territorial expansion and resources.
He said the administering Powers must cooperate fully with the Special Committee in its efforts to implement the General Assembly resolution on eradicating colonialism by the year 2000. In that regard, he expressed appreciation to Portugal for its unrelenting efforts in discharging its responsibilities towards the colonized people of East Timor, including Portugal's recent $4 million humanitarian aid package announced by Prime Minister Antonio Guterres to help the East Timorese cope with the impact of the Indonesian economic and financial crisis.
Welcoming the conciliatory statements by the authorities in Jakarta, he nevertheless regretted that Indonesia's puppet in East Timor, Abilio Osorio Soares, continued to make incendiary statements, with threats of violence against students who wished to demonstrate peacefully in support of a United Nations-supervised referendum in the Territory.
By and large, the Indonesian security forces had behaved in a manner that was unthinkable only a year ago, he said. However, there had been some tragic incidents. Earlier this month, the Indonesian military shot dead a young man, 21-year-old Herman Dasdores Soares, whom they suspected of stealing wood. But, for the first time, the Indonesian command in Dili took responsibility for the killing and apologized.
AUGUSTO N. MICLAT, JR., of The Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor, said the birth of the National Council of Timorese Resistance was a milestone that manifested the innate readiness of the East Timorese People to unite in their sovereign and inherent right to govern themselves. The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples did not need to be reminded of its mandate to recognize that the interests of the inhabitants of Non-Self- Governing Territories were paramount. The Committee must accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote, to the utmost, the well-being of those entities.
While Suharto may have retreated backstage, had anything fundamentally changed? he asked. Were East Timor and Indonesia free? Suharto's replacement, V.J. Habibie, had already announced that his Government's fundamental policy on East Timor would not change. His offer of the granting of a special status for the Territory within the framework of integration with Indonesia was an overture to seduce a segment of the East Timorese populace in a classic divide-and-rule prank. It was a recycled Suharto recipe which had heatedly been rejected by the East Timorese.
He said freedom in East Timor would come even if the United States continued to drill Indonesian military officers on the art of torture and counter-insurgency under the Joint Combined Exchange Training and the International Military Education Training programmes. Self-determination would come even if the United Kingdom continued to sell weapons of mass destruction to Indonesia. Freedom would come even if Australia continued its de jure recognition of Indonesia's annexation of East Timor while it continued to siphon oil from the Timor Gap. It would come even if ASEAN clung to a warped policy of avowed non-interference in internal human rights issues within its member nations and perpetuated a conspiracy of silence on the genocide in East Timor and other atrocities.
The Committee and the United Nations could hasten the certain coming of freedom in East Timor. All the Organization had to do was to vigorously implement its own resolutions on the question. This was the most opportune time to break the cycle of compromises and accommodation, of what was perceived as realpolitik, and proceed to adopt a no-nonsense attitude in resolving the issue in the same way it crowed to have done in the Gulf War. If globalization was here to stay, global people-to-people solidarity had likewise arrived. It was the fresh spirit that would pulverize the crumbling parapets of despots and tyrants, of avarice and greed, and of indifference and irrelevance.
Mr. RODRIGUEZ PARILLA (Cuba), Acting Chairman, drew the attention of Committee members to the additional requests for hearing on the question of East Timor, which had been circulated in aide-mémoire 10/98/Addendum 1.
He said there was not enough time to hear all the petitioners today and that the hearings would continue tomorrow afternoon.
For more information on Parliamentarians for East Timor, Please Contact: Sharon Scharfe, International Secretariat Parliamentarians for East Timor Suite 116, 5929-L Jeanne D'Arc Blvd., Orleans, ON K1C 7K2 CANADA Fax: 1-613-834-2021 E-Mail: email@example.com