Connect with ETAN
Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest ETAN on Instagram Donate to ETAN!

Subject: CCN: Ramos Horta in Canada
Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 20:28:57 -0500
From: kerryp@jungle.ottawa.on.ca (Kerry Pither) Organization: The Jungle BBS in Ottawa Canada

Catholic Communications Network (CCN) A service of the Diocesan Telecommunications Corporation.

Title: Ramos Horta - East Timor

Subject: No commitment by government on self-determination for East Timor

By Art Babych

OTTAWA (CCN) -- Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate Jose Ramos Horta met with Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy Oct. 26 but came away without a public commitment to support East Timor's right to independence from Indonesia.

"I pleaded with him to use his personal influence, prestige and the influence of Canada to work towards that end," said Ramos Horta, vice-president of the National Council of the Timorese Resistance, at a news conference on Parliament Hill later. "The only thing that the minister assured me was that he would use Canada's membership in the (U.N.) Security Council to support the current talks sponsored by the U.N. and support a greater U.N. human rights presence in East Timor."

With Ramos Horta at the news conference were representatives of nongovernmental organizations including Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, a member of a delegation of Canadian church leaders who visited East Timor in early October.

"This is the moment to act," said Schonenbach. "And this is the point that our ecumenical delegation will make very very strongly when we meet with minister Axworthy in a week or so." He said right now the East Timorese leadership is able to manage the "passion that is bubbling" in the country in the wake of the resignation of former President Suharto of Indonesia. "That is, perhaps, what the international community has to realize -- that if that leadership is not there then we are into generations and generations of turmoil and suffering." Ramos Horta agreed, saying "We wonder how long we can keep our people calm."

Ramos Horta, who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, said the basic demand of the people of his country is not anything out of this world. "We are not asking for heaven and earth," he said. "We are asking what Canadians take for granted -- the right of free choice, the right to self determination, the right of the people to determine how they should live. It's a right that has been recognized for the people of East Timor by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council, the General Assembly, the International Court of Justice and, just a few days ago, the unanimous decision of the entire U.S. Congress, signed into law by President Clinton, calling for a referendum under U.N. supervision."

If there were to be a referendum in East Timor today, said Ramos Horta, "One hundred percent of the people would vote in block against the occupation, against the Indonesian invasion. It would not be like having 51 percent vote for independence and 49 percent for joining with Indonesia, he added. "There is no reason whatsoever for Canada not to support us and with us help build the future democratic East Timor."

Also at the news conference was Kerry Pither, spokesperson for the East Timor Alert Network (ETAN) who noted that East Timor's right to self determination is supported by 10 U.N. resolutions, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Congress. She added "most importantly, this right was supported by Prime Minister Chretien and by minister Lloyd Axworthy when they were in opposition."

Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, also called on the government to take a stand on self-determination for the East Timorese. As well, she said, Canada should discipline Canadian businesses who are taking advantage of the crisis in East Timor in order to make a profit. "It is very distressing to many of us around this country to watch our government place the concerns of human rights, labor rights, the environment, social rights and just plain human dignity second to the corporate interests that seem to dominate this government and to whom this government is subservient."

Svend Robinson, Foreign Affairs Critic for the NDP, said that Canada's record to date on East Timor has been one of "silence, hypocrisy and of moral bankruptcy." It's time for the government to stand up for human rights in Indonesia and East Timor, he said, "particularly after having pepper sprayed and arrested students who had the courage to do so at the APEC Summit last fall."

In the house of Commons later, Robinson asked Axworthy to answer, "yes or >no", whether he supports East Timor's right to self determination. The minister replied that at the meeting with Ramos Horta "I indicated to him that we are strongly supportive of the U.N. sponsored process of negotiations going on." To that end, he added, "we have agreed to provide direct funding to a major meeting of the East Timor network dialogue group which brings together all parties to the dispute to find a resolution."

Indonesian forces invaded East Timor in 1975 after the small country was granted independence by Portugal. Since then hundreds of East Timorese rebels have been imprisoned and thousands more killed by Indonesian forces.

Quotes from news conference:

On Monday (Oct. 26) Jose Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate and vice- president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, appeared at a news conference in Ottawa in which he called on Canada to support the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination. With him were representatives of several church, labor, and nongovernmental organizations including Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The following is an edited transcript of Ramos Horta's remarks -- which he made without a prepared text -- and include his responses to questions from reporters. ---------------

There is no doubt that in spite of our disappointment at times at the lack of firmness and consistency on the part of Canada in dealing with either East Timor or human rights in Indonesia, the best of Canada always comes out through in the actions and words of people like you, ETAN (East Timor Alert Network), MPs, the Church and the NGOs, and for that we are very thankful.

Our basic and fundamental demand is not out of this world. We are not asking for heaven and earth. We're asking for what Canadians take for granted -- the right of free choice, the right to self-determination, the right of the people to determine how they should live. And it's a right that has been recognized to the people of East Timor by the United Nations, the U.N. Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the International Court of Justice and, just a few days ago, by the unanimous decision of the entire

U.S. Congress. signed into law by President Clinton, calling for a referendum under U.N. supervision. It is this right that has been denied by Indonesia.

I have to say that in spite of Canada's international reputation -- as well as those of countries such as the United States and in Europe -- who talk about human rights and democracy, it has been the West that is also guilty of conspiring with Indonesia, by providing weapons, by silence, by indifference, in suppressing the rights of the people of East Timor to self-determination. The responsibility is not only when you are directly engaged, involved in a crime. Responsibility is also when you're silent about it, when you're indifferent about it when you know something is wrong. And often, worse than that -- and I state this without any resentment and because I still have to greatest respect for the Western democracies including Canada -- they even go to such great lengths to cover up the ugly truth of the situation, the ugly truth of suppression in East Timor. Because to admit the truth is to question your own policies. Not only Canada but so many Western countries, year after year, engage in a coverup of the ugly reality of East Timor. The fall of the Suharto regime offers an opportunity, a golden opportunity, for Canada to play a leading role. This is an opportunity for Canada to say that it fully supports the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination and towards that end it fully supports U.N. efforts in holding an internationally supervised referendum in East Timor.

As I told the (Foreign Affairs) minister, Lloyd Axworthy, today, Indonesia is the last country in the world to lecture anyone about how to manage our respective economies. Indonesi often says that if there is a referendum there could be a civil war. Our response, and I clarified it to the Minister as well to rebuff that kind of argument. First, a hypothetical civil war that might happen in five-ten years cannot be the basis of a decision on the fate of a people. And if civil war were enough to deny the existence of a people as such, how many countries (are legitimate)?

If there were a referendum today, and that's what Indonesia fears, 100 percent of the people would vote in a block against the occupation, against the Indonesian invasion. So there is no possibility of Civil War because there'll be no losers in such a referendum. Everyone would vote against the Indonesian occupation. It is a simple answer. It would not be like 51 percent voting for independence and 49 percent voting to join with Indonesia. So there is no reason whatsoever for Canada not to fully support us and trying with us in building a future democratic East Timor.

(Questioned on the situation in East Timor)

As (Msgr. Peter Schonenbach) has indicated, we wonder how long we are able to calm down our people. Responsibility rests with countries like Canada, the U.S., to put pressure on Indonesia to get its troops out of East Timor completely and support a referendum there. Yes, we are appreciative of every >effort, small as they may be, in training our people in the human rights field, in helping to build civil society in East Timor, agricultural development, etc., but that has to be put in the context of pushing the agenda of self-determination. Otherwise everything you do today, piecemeal, will blow up in six months, in one year, because our people -- let me tell you -- are not stupid. Any attempt to lure the people into accepting integration into Indonesia will backfire.

(Asked about his meeting with Axworthy)

I was very emphatic in telling the minister that the only viable alternative, and that it is irreversible, is independence of East Timor. And I pleaded with him to use his personal influence, prestige, the influence of Canada, to work towards that end. The only thing that the Minister assured me was that he would use Canada's membership in the Security Council to push, to support, the current talks sponsored by the U.N. and for a greater U.N. human rights presence in East Timor. I didn't hear any word from the Minister regarding: "Yes we do support self-determination." That was not said. I can understand if they want to reflect about it and think about it but time is of the essence and we hope that they will do it in the next few weeks or few days.

(Questioned about Canada's apology to President Suharto for demonstrations prior to the APEC Summit)

If anyone was excessive it was the Canadian police. And if anyone is excessive a thousand times -- a million time -- it was the Indonesian dictator. These people, (ETAN protesters ) they reflect the best of this country. Canada doesn't have to apologize at all. What for? Apologize for the demonstrations? for the protests? for democracy? for the free press? Frankly, sometimes what I don't understand about people who run foreign policy -- the Western countries in general -- is, that year after year, dictator after dictator, they make mistake after mistake. In May 96, I gave an interview to CNN in New York. In that interview a dared to challenge all those experts at the IMF, at the World Bank, that Suharto is going to fall within two to three years. And I elaborated on my argument. Corruption, nepotism, cronyism is increasing the illegitimacy of the regime enough to bring it down. That was in May 96. In May 98, exactly two years later, Suharto was down. But that didn't require a genius, only some common sense, to see the nature of a system that was rotten inside. Why didn't they see that in November (1997) or in the two months preceding the APEC meeting in Vancouver that Suharto was going to fall? By then, by October, the crisis was already hitting Indonesia as well. I tell you frankly I couldn't believe it when, in April of this year, the World Bank still came up with a report very optimistic about Indonesia's economic performance. It is this kind of miscalculation, obsessions, that lead countries like Canada to find themselves in this embarrassing situation.

If after 23 years of failed policies, really failed policies, Canada or the U.S. change their policies, then we will be eternally grateful and we're prepared to forget everything nasty that was done in the past. If they

>don't, I would say again, no hard feelings, but we are going to win anyway, >without Canada, without Australia, without the U.S. We have survived this long. We are the ones who defeated Suharto. We are not going to give up now. Canada has a chance now to come clean, to support -- and as I say, this is a great country and we would love to have Canadians working in East Timor, development workers, Canadian business there, we need Canada and the other countries. But if they don't want to change, well then, too bad, but we're going to win anyway. I hope they don't get to upset when we win. We don't want to upset anyone but we're going to win. We've survived five American presidents come from Gerald Ford, to Jimmy Carter, to Reagan, to Bush to Clinton, we survived three French Presidents from the time of Giscard D'Estaing to Francois Mitterrand to Jacques Chirac. We survived I don't know how many British Prime Ministers, John Major and Margaret Thatcher -- and it is not easy to survive Margaret Thatcher. We've survived all of them.

I have met with those who provided weapons for Indonesia -- aircraft, helicopters, napalm was used on us -- and yet it is Indonesia that is collapsing around us. It is poverty stricken, begging for money all over the world. And they are the ones who tell us that we need Indonesia? I asked the minister today, "Why can't anyone convincingly tell me why we, in East Timor, need Indonesia economically? They need to come to you, Mr. Minister to ask for money. They need to go to the World Bank. Why don't we do it directly. We don't need them at all. We have our resources.

(Asked about police action at the APEC Summit)

As much as I fully support Canada's right to speak out on human rights abuses anywhere in the world, any other country, any other individual, can also criticize Canada when it deals with students in the manner they did at the APEC Summit. It was totally abominable.

Art Babych Box 1233, Station B. Ottawa, ON, K1P 5R3 ph and fax 613-831-6014 (home office) ph 613-992-4511 (press gallery) e-mail: art@storm.ca

Back to October Menu
Back to Main Postings Menu & Site Search Engine