Subject: WP: E.Timorese Leader Encourages U.S. Role In Volatile Indonesia

Washington Post Friday, September 22, 2000

East Timorese Leader Encourages U.S. Role In Volatile Indonesia

By Nora Boustany

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, vice president of the National Council of the Timorese Resistance, discussed various scenarios that could unfold in Indonesia as it copes with separatist pressures in the provinces of Aceh and West Papua and as President Abdurrahman Wahid seeks to rein in military hard-liners with whom his relations are "pretty bad."

The "worst-case" situation for Indonesia, Ramos-Horta told Washington Post editors and reporters Wednesday, would be the breakup of the country under secessionist pressures, accompanied by a bloodbath. To help avert such an outcome, he said, the United States must maintain an active leadership role, as it has in recent weeks, first by means of a "very strong" letter from President Clinton to Wahid on the Timor situation, and second by a visit to Jakarta by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen. East Timor is transitioning to full independence under U.N. auspices, but the western part of the island is still under Indonesian rule and militia groups loyal to Jakarta have been blamed for the death of three U.N. workers on Sept. 6 despite military guarantees of the workers' safety. Cohen strongly warned that the militias in western Timor must be disarmed and brought to account. Both U.S. actions seem to be having the "desired effect of shaking up the military," Ramos-Horta said.

The resumption of U.S. military aid or training to Jakarta now would be a "disaster" in view of the chaos in Aceh and West Papua, Ramos-Horta warned. "It would be like jumping onto a sinking boat or into a house on fire," he said. He added, however, that the United States "cannot simply dump the Indonesian army altogether" and the engagement of "the better elements of the army in dialogue would be the best approach to prepare for the eventuality of military cooperation."

East Timor, which is hoping to declare full independence after elections at the end of next year, is calling for the creation of an international human rights tribunal to look into abuses by the Indonesian military and security agencies allied with it. "There is no alternative," Ramos-Horta said. "This would strengthen the hand of good elements in the army and [it] would be a signal to the hard-liners."

"We are also appealing to the United States to blacklist militia leaders" and have their names published with Interpol for the atrocities they committed in East Timor as it prepared last year to vote on independence, he added. "There is enough to categorize them as world-class terrorists. This would send a tremendous psychological signal to Indonesia."

When four athletes representing East Timor--a boxer, a weight lifter and two marathoners--marched into the arena for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Sydney last week, they got a standing ovation, Ramos-Horta said. None of them have won any competitions yet, but he said they were heros because they endured great hardship and survived. One was on a militia death list, living in a tent until last month; two runners trained practically barefoot, and three of the athletes had never been on a plane or off their tiny island.

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