Subject: UPDATE # 5 - Belo welcomes autonomy offer, but calls for referendum
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 13:32:50 -0000
From: "Paula Pinto" <paularoque@mail.telepac.pt>

9:01 pm (Jkt local time)

Nobel Laureate Belo welcomes autonomy offer, but calls for referendum

JAKARTA, Jan 27 (AFP) - East Timorese Nobel Laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo said Wednesday he welcomed the Indonesian government's latest offer of autonomy or independence but said he still wanted a referendum for East Timorese.

"Yes, I will be happy if the offer is put into practice. But as I have said for the past 10-15 years, the offer for wide ranging autonomy should be accompanied with a referendum to decide whether it is what the people want."

Belo, who won the 1996 Peace prize with self-exiled independentist Jose Ramos Horta for his humanitarian work in East Timor, was speaking to AFP by phone from the East Timorese provincial capital of Dili.

"Let me stress that wide ranging autonomy is not something final but only transitional. It is final only when the people say so," the bishop said.

Ministers of Information Yunus Yosfiah and Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas Wednesday announced here the government would take the matter of East Timor's independence to the next elected parliament to be elected in June.

If the autonomy proposal ends in a deadlock or is unaccepted by the East Timor people, the government would suggest that Indonesia "let Timor go" they said.

"If this is not accepted by the mass in East Timor, we will suggest to the new membership of the People's Consultative Assembly formed as the result of the next elections, to release East Timor from Indonesia," Yosfiah said.

If the proposal was rejected "it is only fair and wise and even democratic and constitutional to suggest to the upcoming elected people's representatives to allow East Timor to separate from Indonesia in a dignified and good manner," Alatas said

Belo said he viewed the option as a "legal and acceptable" measure.

"Because if we recall, the decision to annex (East Timor) also came from the MPR," he said referring to Indonesia's highest legislative council, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR.)

"It would be a solution through a political diplomatic way and not through military violence. The diplomatic solution is more peaceful compared to military force that only ends in more bloodshed," he added.

But Horta Wednesday rejected the proposal as a "stunt."

"My response is scepticism. I don't trust the Indonesian side. They never deliver what they promise," he told AFP.

"I believe it is no more than a smokescreen, a diplomatic stunt. Their aim is to win the good favour of the international community, while at the same time, they create terror in East Timor," he said.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 and unilaterally annexed it, turning it into its 27th province, in 1976. The United Nations and most other countries have never recognized the annexation.

©AFP 1999

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