Subject: AN: Habibie discusses ET vote

Antara - The Indonesian National News Agency

December 12, 2001


Hamburg, Dec 12 (ANTARA)- Instead of commenting on Bulog scandal, former president BJ Habibie reminisced his decision to let East Timorese people decide their own fate through a UN-organised popular consultation, which led East Timor to its secession from Indonesia in 1999.

"I made the decision because I had a good will over freedom in Indonesia," he said here Tuesday.

Speaking to newsmen after attending the second questioning session regarding the financial scandal of National Logistics Agency (Bulog)'s Rp54.6-billion fund, Habibie again defended his policy over the territory.

He said the 1945 Constitution has explicitly and implicitly pointed out that the Indonesian nation refers to a nation, living in an area formerly known as "Nederland Indische" (ex-Dutch colony).

"Basically, there is no East Timor in the Constituion," he said.

Habibie further said he decided to offer two options to the East Timorese because the United Nations had never recognised East Timor as an integrated part of the republic.

"This is the difference between East Timor and Aceh. I don't want to have a double-standard policy. That was why, I could not provide other provinces with the same freedom (of self determination)," he said.

"I fully respect human rights values, then I conclude that if East Timor should decide whether to remain integrated-part of Indonesia or separate. If (most of its people) chose the first option, he should respect Indonesia's rules and the UN must officially recognise. But if it wanted to be independent, we had to respect it and we could live side by side in harmony," he said.

In a UN-sponsored ballot, majority East Timorese rejected the wide-ranging autonomy Jakarta offered. The pro-independence camp's victory in the UN-supervised vote led the territory to its secession from Indonesia.

The former Indonesian province is officiallyy under the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet) since October 1999. It is expected to have its full independence (from the UN) in May 2002.

For Indonesia, the secession of East Timor, which declared its integration into Indonesia in 1976 after being colonized by Portugal for more than 400 years, still leaves unsettled problems of refugees.

About 100,000 East Timorese still live in many parts of the eastern Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara, which lies on the western half of Timor island.

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