Subject: The Age: Official's view on Timor dismissed as `crazy'

The Age Tuesday 19 September 2000

Official's view on Timor dismissed as `crazy'


East Timorese have greeted with disbelief comments by Indonesian Defence Minister Mohamed Mahfud that most of the population of the soon-to-be-independent country want reintegration with Jakarta.

"He must be crazy - that's impossible. I think Indonesia wants to come back to East Timor but the East Timorese don't want Indonesia back," said Julio Sousa, a delivery man based in Dili.

More than 78 per cent of the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia in a referendum organised by the United Nations on August 30 last year.

At the weekend Mr Mahfud said the East Timorese were beginning to tire of conditions in the territory "and desire to integrate with Indonesia again".

Ricardo Ribeiro, 32, an Indonesian-trained accountant working in Dili, was equally stunned to hear of the Indonesian minister's remarks.

"That's impossible to talk like that. The entire world knows we voted to be an independent country," Mr Ribeiro said.

"Is this man trying to be funny or is he crazy? Has he talked recently to any East Timorese? For me, East Timor would like good relations with Indonesia but they can never come back to take over again."

The head of the United Nations political department in East Timor, Peter Galbraith, was quick to dismiss any suggestion that the East Timorese wanted to reverse the outcome of the ballot.

"The people of East Timor made their views on being part of Indonesia abundantly clear in a referendum one year ago," he said.

"It is hardly believable that, given the actions of the army and militias in the final weeks of Indonesian rule here, the people have changed their minds on the referendum," Mr Galbraith said.

"The larger issue is the continuing lawlessness in West Timor that is a greater threat to Indonesia.

"The Defence Minister ought to focus on getting his own house in order."

Pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the army, went on a rampage of murder, looting and arson after the landslide vote for independence was announced on September 4 last year.

It took the arrival of an Australian-led international force on September 20 to restore order. The Indonesian military retreated from East Timor soon after, ending 24 years of brutal occupation.

East Timor is now under UN transitional rule, with full independence expected next year.

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