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Subject: RENETIL leader calls for concrete action from the UK Govt
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 22:01:52 +0100 (BST)
From: TAPOL

TAPOL REPORT, 24 July 1998

RENETIL leader asks British Government to take initiatives on E Timor

The leader of the East Timorese students organisation, Fernando de Araujo, today urged the British Government to follow up the Troika ambassadorial visit to East Timor by taking concrete initiatives to implement its conclusions.

In a meeting with Martin Hill, head of the Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines section of the Southeast Asia Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Fernando said the conclusions reached by the mission were very useful and could contribute towards solving the issue of East Timor.

Fernando met the FCO official at the end of an eight-day visit to Britain and Ireland. The conclusions of the Troika visit were made public in the House of Commons on Thursday. However, the full report has not been made public.

Fernando said that proposals for a ceasefire and for a reduction in the number of Indonesian troops in East Timor were helpful but it would be essential to establish monitoring procedures to ensure that the Indonesian armed forces kept to their side of any agreement reached. He said this could only be done by UN monitors.

He supported a proposal made recently by Bishop Belo for Indonesian troops in East Timor to be replaced by a UN force.

He welcomed the Troika mission's acknowledgement of the need for direct consultations with the people of East Timor to ascertain their wishes about the future status of their country. But he urged the British Government to go further by taking concrete initiatives to ensure the consultations would happen. He said the East Timorese people had been calling for a referendum for many years yet the international community had still not responded to these pleas.

When Hill mentioned that some circles feared that a referendum might lead to a civil war, Fernando said this was unfounded. The Timorese people were quite capable of resolving any conflicts that may arise. It was essential that the paramilitary forces set up and armed by the forces of occupation should be disarmed and disbanded as suggested by the Troika mission.

Martin Hill said that the British Government had made strenuous efforts to make sure that the Troika ambassadorial visit would take place during Britain's presidency of the European Union. Up until the last moment, it appeared that this would not be possible. It was not until 23 June that the Jakarta authorities finally gave the go-ahead for the visit which started four days later.

He told Fernando that in the opinion of the British Government, there was no quick solution to the East Timor question and that much time would be needed to rebuild confidence and remove mutual mistrust. He gzve no undertaking that anything concrete would be done to carry through the proposals of the mission.

On Thursday, Fernando met parliamentarian Jeremy Corbyn, vice chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group to seek the support of the British Parliament for pressure on the British Government to take concrete initiatives to resolve the question of East Timor.

At both meetings, Fernando made a special plea on behalf of the thirteen 1965 political prisoners who were still being held after more than three decades. They were elderly and ailing and they should be released on humanitarian grounds.

Fernando told Martin Hill that he was released from Cipinang on 23 March this year after spending six years in prison. His release is 'conditional'; he is required to report monthly to the public prosecutor's office and has been warned against engaging in 'political activities'.

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