Subject: AFP - Indonesian opposition leaders against independent East Timor
Date: Sat, 30 Jan 1999 12:30:37 -0000
From: "Paula Pinto" <paularoque@mail.telepac.pt>

30 Jan 99 Indonesian opposition leaders against independent East Timor

JAKARTA, Jan 30 (AFP) - Two prominent Indonesian opposition leaders have declared themselves against the government's idea of considering independence for East Timor, reports said Saturday.

Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party, was quoted by the Kompas daily as saying the government of President B.J. Habibie had no authority to make a decision on the disputed territory because his government was not democratically elected.

The daughter of Indonesia's first president Sukarno reminded Habibie in a statement issued Friday that his government was transitional and his ascent to power was due to an emergency situation.

"East Timor's integration into Indonesia is constitutionally and politically legal because it was a manifestation of the wish of the East Timorese accommodated by the (Indonesian) House of Representatives," she said.

Megawati said she feared relinquishing East Timor could result in a war and disputes among the East Timorese.

She was also quoted by the Indonesian Observer as saying dissatisfaction of the East Timorese people was due not to the political aspect of annexation but mismanagement.

"It is because of the mismanagement in matters of politics, economy, social issues, culture and security, which leads to social gaps and disharmony," the Observer quoted her as saying.

Megawati, whose party is a fusion of Catholic and nationalist parties, has shown herself in past elections to be a favorite of many of East Timorese despite her support for integration.

Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, the chairman of the 40-million strong Nahdlatul Ulama Moslem organization and strong backer of the popular and newly-founded National Awakening Party, said Indonesia had decided to include the troubled territory as part of the country.

"That (decision) must be respected. In my opinion, East Timor should remain part of Indonesia," Gus Dur was quoted by Kompas as saying.

However Wahid said it was his firm position that East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, now serving a 20-year jail term in Jakarta's Cipinang prison, should be released.

"I have said before that Xanana should be released. Don't confuse his case with the East Timor problem," he said.

East Timor Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, in an interview with Kompas, urged East Timorese to remain calm in their reaction to the issue.

"Let's start with the first alternative (wide autonomy), and live with it. If it doesn't work, then East Timorese should be ready for the second alternative (independence)," said Belo.

He said East Timor could have 10 or 15 years of a wide-ranging autonomy under Indonesia and after that decide themsleves whether to remain with Indonesia or be independent -- a position Jakarta flatly rejects.

The territory, he said, could not yet stand on its own feet because of lack of financial and human resources.

Indonesia, in a surprising shift of stance Wednesday, said it might grant independence to the troubled territory ending two decades of quasi-military rule if a majority of the people there reject the autonomy offer.

If plans for a "regional autonomy 'plus'" were rejected by most East Timorese Jakarta would 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.

Both Megawati's and Wahid's parties are expected to make a strong showing in the elections, scheduled for June of this year.

The announcement on the former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesian troops in 1975 took diplomats by surprise and came on the eve of a resumption of talks in New York between Indonesia and Portugal on the autonomy plan.

Jakarta also said it would shift Xanana from Cipinang to house detention in a compromise move in response to international appeals to either free him or put him under house arrest.

On Friday Xanana called for a ceasefire in East Timor, the disarming of pro-Indonesian militia in the territory and a stepped up withdrawal of Indonesian troops.

He also said he would spend the time in his new house of detention "preparing for independence."

©AFP 1999

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