Subject: JP: PDI Perjuangan shift stance, support Megawati's visit to East Timor

also: Mega's visit to E. Timor would show 'support for separatism'

Jakarta Post [online] April 30, 2002

PDI Perjuangan shift stance, support Megawati's visit to East Timor

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) on Tuesday threw their weight behind President Megawati Soekarnoputri's plan to visit East Timor to attend the territory's independence and swearing in of president-electXanana Gusmao on May 20, reports said.

The sudden change of stance took place after the party's weekly meeting at its headquarters in South Jakarta on Tuesday.

"The PDIP executive board has requested that its faction in the House of Representatives support President Megawati's plan to visit East Timor," PDIP deputy secretary general Pramono Anung said, as quoted by Antara.

Chairman of the PDI Perjuangan faction at the House Roy BB Janis, said earlier the faction maintained Megawati should not take up the invitation to attend the independence celebration of the former Indonesian province, citing the "abundance of problemswith East Timor that remain unsettled".

Megawati, in her capacity as PDI Perjuangan chairwoman, led Tuesday's meeting, which took place at the party headquarters in Lenteng Agung, South Jakarta.

Earlier on Sunday, the party's deputy chairman, Roy BB Janis, said the party had advised President Megawati to skip East Timor's independence celebration, citing numerous unresolved issues between the two governments.

However, Janis added that the party would not object if the President insisted on visiting East Timor.

Pramono said the President's visit to East Timor would be of significant strategic importance to Indonesia.

He also noted that East Timor is Indonesia's closest neighbor.

"Should the President push through with her plan to visit East Timor, past issues between the two governments will hopefully be resolved through dialog with Xanana Gusmao," he said.

Pramono said PDI Perjuangan was the only party that rejected the United Nations-administered ballot in East Timor in 1999.

However, he added, the East Timor issue is a problem of the past and PDI Perjuangan, "must adopt a statesman-like attitude in assessing the issue".

Indonesians have been divided over the President's plan to visit East Timor.

The House of Representatives and the People's Consultative Assembly have repeatedly urged Megawati not to travel to Dili,the capital of East Timor.

However, many prominent figures, including former president Abdurrahman Wahid and former foreign affairs minister Ali Alatas have spoken in favor of the plan.

Alatas said on Monday it would be better for Megawati to attend the great occasion.

"In my opinion, President Megawati should go to Dili. Her visit will demonstrate to the world that Indonesia whole-heartedly supports the independence of the people of East Timor," he said.

Meanwhile, Abdurrahman welcomed Megawati's plan to visit East Timor, despite strong criticism from some legislators. He said disapproval from the House should be considered part of the dynamism in a democratic society.

East Timor's breakaway from Indonesia took place after the majority of East Timorese voted for independence during a UN-administered ballot in August 1999.

Since then, the territory has been supervised under the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). East Timor is set to gain full independence on May 20. (edt)


Jakarta Post [online] April 30, 2002

Mega's visit to E. Timor would show 'support for separatism'

JAKARTA (JP): If President Megawati Soekarnoputri attends East Timor's independence celebration on May 20, it means she is giving moral support to separatist movements within Indonesia to secede from the country, a legislator said.

Golkar Party legislator Pinantun Hutasoit said on Tuesday that Megawati should be careful when considering her visit to East Timor.

"Because we have to keep in mind that East Timor was a former province of Indonesia, and that East Timor previously asked to become part of this country," Hutasoit said, as quoted by Antara.

"Our sovereignty and dignity as a nation have been torn apart. We have to deal with separatist issues in Aceh and Irian Jaya.. so we have to be careful and not jeopardize our future by doing things we may regret," he said.

Even if the government wants to show goodwill and attend East Timor's independence, the official making the visit does not necessarily have to be the president.

"A director general or any other senior official would be fine," he said. (edt)


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