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Subject: WP: Xanana op-ed
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 10:56:31 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

The Washington Post Op-ed : From a Jakarta Prison Cell

Xanana Gusmao

While pro-democracy activists continue to push for an end to the Habibie-military government in Indonesia, my fellow East Timorese and I remain that country's prisoners.

My jail cell is a conventional one, located in the Cipinang Prison here. The prison of my 750,000 fellow East Timorese is our country, one that the U.S.-backed Indonesian military invaded in 1975.

Almost 23 years later, Indonesia's brutal military remains in our homeland. More than 250,000 East Timorese -- about one-third of the pre-invasion population -- have died as a direct result of Indonesia's illegal occupation. But despite the downfall in May of Suharto, Indonesia's longtime dictator, little has changed in East Timor under his successor, Habibie.

What has changed is the larger context in which the occupation takes place. Never before has there been such external pressure on Indonesia to end its occupation and allow for the holding of an internationally supervised referendum as provided for under United Nations resolutions.

Indonesia's economy is a shambles. The economic crisis has led to hunger and unemployment for more than 80 million Indonesians. In addition, Indonesia's military -- the real power behind the throne in Jakarta -- is politically vulnerable as reports of its numerous atrocities within Indonesia increasingly come to light. And domestic activists are intensifying pressure on Jakarta to allow for real democratic reforms.

These national and international factors have compelled the Indonesian government to give the appearance of flexibility. Thus, after so many years of refusing any change in East Timor's status, Jakarta took the unprecedented step of offering autonomy. While this is progress, it is not a serious proposal as long as it does not ultimately allow the East Timorese to decide their own political fate by means of a referendum.

Indonesia's offer, however, has opened important diplomatic space. In U.N.-brokered negotiations in New York on Aug. 4-5, Indonesia and Portugal agreed to establish interest sections in each other's capitals. (Portugal, East Timor's former colonial master, remains the "administering power" of the country under international law.)

Although Jakarta has long defied U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on it to withdraw from East Timor "without delay," Indonesia also agreed to gradually reduce the number of its troops in the territory. But such a promise is empty unless the United Nations regularly verifies that reductions are actually taking place. Indeed, the East Timorese resistance reports the arrival of thousands of new Indonesian troops over the past few weeks.

A more important issue for the East Timorese people, however, is the continuing human rights atrocities. Jakarta must commit itself to ending the activities of its soldiers, intelligence agents and paramilitary groups that continue to terrorize the population. Unspeakable cases of torture, disappearances and collective massacres are the true face of Indonesia's cruel annexation of our country.

We insist that Indonesia allow credible international groups to enter East Timor to gather data on these human rights abuses. Only in this way can the international community and the Indonesian people come to know how much the East Timorese have suffered and how much we love and deserve our freedom.

For the East Timorese, the August meeting in New York opened the way for a serious and far-reaching dialogue, one that must allow for our direct and full participation. We congratulate U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his special representative, Jamsheed Marker, for their historic efforts.

The East Timorese people are ready to meet the challenge of peace, one we face with the same spirit of determination that has guided our struggle for freedom over the past 23 years. We will continue to support the peace process with all our hearts, as long as it respects our right to self-determination as called for by 10 U.N. resolutions and as affirmed by the International Court of Justice.

The United States can play an important role in this process. In the name of justice, freedom, peace and democracy President Clinton can help put an end to the Indonesian military's illegal occupation of our homeland. A good way to begin would be by ceasing to supply and train the Indonesian armed forces.

The writer is president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance. Captured in East Timor by Indonesian soldiers in 1992, he is serving a 20-year sentence for rebellion.

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