Subject: IO - More figures support Timor independence
From: "Paula" <paularoque@mail.telepac.pt>

Indonesian Observer 1st February 1999 Front Page
More figures support Timor independence

JAKARTA (IO) — Amid heated debates over the best solution for the troubled province of East Timor, more and more public figures have stated their agreement with the government that independence is the best alternative to resolve the thorny issue.

"I think it’s an ideal, and realistic [solution]," Marzuki Darusman of the National Commission on Human Rights said in Manado, North Sulawesi over the weekend.

Darusman said one of the main factors triggering clashes and unrest in the former Portuguese colony in recent months, is uncertainty over the solution to the East Timor problem.

"Last year the situation in East Timor improved in terms of human rights. However the uncertainty remains a concern," Darusman said.

Sharing his opinion, Ryaas Rasyid, a director general at the Home Affairs Ministry, said independence for East Timor means a lessening of the burden for Indonesia.

"East Timor’s independence will lessen Indonesia’s burden. Immediate independence will be better," Rasyid said.

According to President BJ Habibie’s political adviser, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, the government’s decision to offer independence to East Timor was based on objective reasons.

"President Habibie has looked into the matter more objectively," Anwar told private television station RCTI yesterday, explaining the reasoning behind the offer.

Anwar, however, admitted that from the economic point of view, independence for East Timor ‘doesn’t make sense’.

No less than 93% of East Timor’s provincial budget come from Jakarta as the territory’s revenues can only contribute 3% to the budget.

Chairman of the National Mandate Party, Amien Rais, meanwhile said that the referendum is the best solution, rather than immediate independence.

"I don’t think this [immediate independence] is wise. I think the best solution is to conduct a referendum in two or three years time over the East Timor issue. This would enable the people to be mentally prepared," Rais said.

Diplomatic ties

In the meantime, diplomats from Indonesia and Portugal arrived in Lisbon and Jakarta over the weekend to establish the first diplomatic ties between the two countries in recent years. Ties were frozen over two decades ago because of the East Timor issue.

Reuters reported that two diplomats from each country are setting up interest sections under the auspices of embassies of friendly nations like the Thai embassy in Lisbon and the Dutch embassy in Jakarta.

Rzlan Ishar Jenie from Indonesia said in Lisbon as quoted by Reuters that Indonesia was determined to seek a ‘peaceful and lasting’ solution to the problem.

Interest sections constitute a form of diplomatic relations, but without the actual establishment of embassies.

Jenie said he hoped his presence in Portugal would contribute towards a climate of increased goodwill and understanding between the people of the two countries.

Portugal’s Ana Gomes, meanwhile, said she would visit East Timor as soon as possible and that she would have to be "very well prepared, as it could be the first of a series of regular visits".

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