Subject: LUSA: 1999 Violence the Cost of Independence Vote - Portuguese Diplomat

East Timor: 1999 Violence the Cost of Independence Vote - Portuguese Diplomat

The murderous wave of violence that swept over East Timor after its 1999 independence plebiscite was the "collateral cost" of the vote and accepted by Timorese as the tragic price of ensuring self- determination, Portugal`s ambassador in Indonesia has said.

Ana Gomes was closely involved in the diplomatic moves to set up the UN-organized independence ballot in August 1999, although not present herself at the negotiations in New York between Lisbon and Jakarta's foreign ministers which finalized the so-called "May 5 Accord" in 1999.

Gomes said that the possible violent consequences of a referendum had been implicitly understood by Timors` independence leaders.

"There was a conscious decision by all, in spite of all the risks and great anxieties, as it was understood that if there was to be a violent backlash, it was worth the risk", said Gomes.

The ambassador, who managed Portuguese interests in Jakarta during the freezing of bilateral relations, said that the timing of the 1999 negotiations with Indonesia had been a unique window of opportunity.

"I thought, and think today, that if there hadn't been that timing, there might not have been another chance for a political solution to the problem", said Gomes.

CJB/ASP -Lusa-


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