Subject: AFP: UN aiming to address problem of armed groups in ETimor: official
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 09:37:03 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

UN aiming to address problem of armed groups in ETimor: official

JAKARTA, Feb 20 (AFP) - The United Nations is trying to address the problem of armed civilian groups in East Timor which are contributing to rising tensions in the troubled territory, a UN official said Saturday.

"There are problems to overcome, we are looking for ways to address the problems," Tamrat Samuel of the UN secretary's general office said after meeting East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao here.

Samuel said the issue of the armed civilian groups in East Timor had figured in his three hours' of talks with Gusmao, recently moved to house arrest from a Jakarta jail.

The armed groups, mostly pro-Indonesian, have been blamed for a string of violent incidents in the former Portuguese colony this year, with tensions rising since Jakarta made a surprise offer last month of possible independence for East Timor.

At least eight people have been killed in violence between supporters and opposers of a free East Timor in the territory in the past weeks, with the latest two victims falling on Sunday and Monday.

The Indonesian military has denied arming civilians, but said that weapons had long been distributed under strict regulations to a specific civilian militia group attached to assist the military in East Timor.

But military chief General Wiranto on Friday admitted that groups in East Timor had demanded that they be armed in anticipation of attacks by pro- independence groups.

The tension between separatist and pro-Indonesian groups in East Timor has seen both camps resorting to terror tactics and intimidation that has led to thousands of East Timorese fleeing their homes.

Jakarta last month announced that it may propose to the new Indonesian legislature to be formed following June 7 elections to relinquish East Timor, which it annexed in 1976, if an offer of autonomy is turned down by the territory's people.

The broad autonomy package is currently being finalized under UN auspices between Indonesia and Portugal.

Samuel said his visit here was intended to help the UN secretary general's special envoy on East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, in helping to reach a peaceful solution to the East Timor problem.

"I am conducting UN consultations with the East Timorese leaders," Samuel said.

He said that in his talks with Gusmao, he discussed all aspects of the questions of East Timor including latest developments in the peace process.

They also discussed how the UN "can improve conditions in East Timor and we discussed the method of consultation with East Timorese and various other aspects," he said.

"They (the East Timorese) have to work hard and the UN and the secretary general is ready to support the effort," Samuel added.

"I think there is a lot of goodwill to support the process of a peaceful transition by the international community."

Indonesia, which invaded East Timor in 1975, has said that East Timorese have to choose between autonomy or independence but that the choice should be final before January 1, 2000.

Although a method of consulting the East Timor population is currently still being discussed between Indonesia, Portugal and the UN, Jakarta has made it clear that it will not accept the holding of a referendum.

Many in East Timor favour straight independence from Indonesia, others would accept temporary autonomy ahead of later independence while others want autonomy under Indonesian rule.

The meeting between the UN official and Gusmao was held at the latter's new jail, a strongly guarded house in central Jakarta where he was moved from the Cipinang jail on February 10.

Back to February Menu
Main Postings Menu

Postings of Human Rights Violations in Timor