Subject: JP: E. Timor independence option was 'premature decision': Ali Alatas

E. Timor independence option was 'premature decision': Ali Alatas

JAKARTA (JP): Former foreign minister Ali Alatas said on Wednesday that the offer of secession from Indonesia to the East Timorese in the UN-organized ballot in August 1999 was a "premature" decision of (former) president B.J.Habibie's government.

"The forwarding of this second option was a 'premature' decision," Ali, as a witness, told the East Timor human rights tribunal here where former chief of 164 Wira Dharma Regional Military Command Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman appeared as a defendant.

As quoted by Antara, Ali Alatas said the second option, which paved the way for East Timor to separate from Indonesia after a majority of the plebiscite's voters rejected Jakarta's offer of wide-ranging autonomy, should never have been offered.

Habibie, he said, had no right to issue the second option because he should first have obtained approval from the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). "I and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs disagreed with the second option but (my) department's view was a minority one in the Cabinet," he said.

He added he had suggested the government at the time remain consistent with the offered wide-ranging autonomy by making diplomatic efforts to convince the East Timorese people and world community.

In 1998, Indonesia was gripped by a political and economic crisis and was strongly pressured by the world community to quickly resolve the East Timor question.

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