Subject: LUSA: Amien Rais promises referendum in ET
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 07:32:28 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Sharon R.A. Scharfe" <>

28 SET 98 - 11:17 East Timor/Australia: Indonesian opposition leader promises East Timor referendum on independence

Sydney, Sept. 28 (Lusa) - Indonesia's prominent opposition leader Amien Rais promised in Sydney on Monday to hold a referendum on self-determination for the occupied territory of East Timor if he was elected president next year.

Rais said that a referendum was the ''only solution'' to East Timor's protracted conflict. ''A referendum is the only solution to solve the problem, however I believe a referendum must not be given as a quick fix, because there are two conflicting groups in East Timor and we have to ask them to sit down together... they have really promise that whatever the result of the referendum, they will respect it,'' Rais said, who used the word ''swear'' when referring to East Timor's two conflicting sides' ''promise'' to respect the result of a referendum in the occupied territory.

''So after they come to such consensus, then a referendum can be given to the East Timorese people and it must be supervised by United Nations bodies,'' said Rais, who was in Sydney to give lecture on Indonesia's political reform movement. Rais has said he will stand as a candidate for president next year.

Rais is a former leader of Indonesia's second largest Muslim organisation who has launched his own National Mandate Party that he says will be based on a ''broad political base.'' Rais told reporters in Sydney he was not advocating the establishment of an Islamic state, insisting that Indonesia's separation of religion and state was the best political solution possible.

'' I don't believe religion can be the basis of the state unless 99.9 per cent of the people have the same belief,'' Rais said. Indonesia's population of 200 million is about 87 per cent Muslim. About three quarters of East Timor's 800,000 inhabitants are Riman-Catholic.

Indonesia invaded East Timor, a half-island off northern Australia, in December 1975 and annexed it in the following year in a move never recognised by the United Nations and most countries.

Portugal demands that East Timor be given the right of self-determination through an internationally supervised referendum on possible independence.-Lusa nnnn

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