Subject: Xanana's Address on "Autonomy: An International Commitment or Merely an Internal Option"
Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 08:01:33 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Xanana Gusmão CNRT Timor-Leste

SEMINAR ON "SOCIALISATION" OF THE AUTONOMY QUESTION Organised by: Solidamor Hotel Sari Pan Pacific, Jakarta 31 March 1999

"Autonomy: An International Commitment or Merely an Internal Option"


I believe that everyone present here today has a general understanding of the draft autonomy plan offered by Indonesia. According to that draft plan, a number of areas of government would remain under the control of Indonesia's central government, i.e. Foreign Affairs, Security, Finance, Currency and Taxation and the Judiciary.

Apart from the above areas, full responsibility would be handed over to the East Timorese, including the possibility of a Timorese national flag and anthem being created, a proposal put forward by Dr Abilio Araujo and of which he is extremely proud.

Autonomy status would not concede to the East Timorese full rights to exploitation of our natural resources which is considered too strategic an area to be released from central government control. Autonomy status would also not permit the East Timorese to request direct loans from abroad other than for small-scale projects.

Moreover, under autonomy, East Timor would continue to be obliged to pay tax to the central government and the people would have no right to reject the presence of ABRI and its dual-function, from the level of regional military command (Danrem) to the law enforcement officers at village level. As is the case in Indonesia, the socio-political mission of the Armed Forces would permit ABRI to "enter the villages" in East Timor.


In theory, under autonomy native East Timorese would be given priority in terms of employment opportunity. East Timor's budget would be granted from the Centre to be independently administered by the East Timorese as a privilege of "broad-ranging" autonomy status.

In legal questions, cases which cannot be settled within East Timor itself would continue to be referred to the courts at the central level.

The East Timorese are expected to feel satisfied with the fact that the most important government posts such as the governor, vice-governor, chairman and members of parliament, head of government departments, civil servants, business leaders and police would be filled by native East Timorese. East Timorese would continue to hold an Indonesian identity card, would have limited control over their natural resources, would be dependent on an annual budget granted from the central government, be permitted to speak Tetum, to honour the flag of autonomy, but continue to be obliged to honour the Red and White flag and read the text of the Pancasila and the Indonesian Constitution on the 17th of every month.

The lawyers, graduates, doctors, engineers, teachers, drivers, traders and transmigrants would all be replaced with native East Timorese. The National Development Planning Board would be replaced with the Regional Development Planning Board. All of this is what is understood by broad-ranging autonomy.


Now, everyone is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the next round of tripartite talks in New York scheduled for the end of April. Perhaps the draft autonomy plan which is currently being revised by a team consisting of ministers of the reform cabinet will broaden further the scope of this broad-ranging autonomy.

Hopefully this will be the case so that the Timorese people may be convinced that there is something which sets this "special" autonomy apart from the normal autonomy offered to some provinces of Indonesia, in order that it might enjoy the support of even the pro-Independence side.

The problem is that the revision of the autonomy proposal now leaves too short a time frame for the "socialisation" of the package. We are fully in agreement with the need for transparency in the information campaign on wide-ranging autonomy in order to ensure that what is implied by the term is well understood by both the Indonesian and Timorese people.

Those of us who have fought for complete independence are not at all interested in autonomy in the form it has been presented to us. However, we do approve of a consultation process whereby each citizen is granted the right to cast their vote as this concords with the principal of a referendum which we have always defended.

Thus, it is of vital importance that the people of East Timor understand what is meant by autonomy status. We strongly hope that open and democratic debate amongst political leaders and intellectuals on autonomy will be encouraged, with pro-integration factions promoting the benefits of autonomy over independence and with the pro-independence side pushing the opposite argument.

We realise that for the pro-integrationists the benefits of autonomy amount to removal of a potential threat of a second invasion from Indonesia in the event of independence being achieved. By the same token, the disadvantage of independence is that ABRI may refuse to recognise it, a hint of this likely eventuality being the specter of a civil war which ABRI is carefully engineering through its arming of civilian militias (it is currently organising a 2,000 strong armed militia front to defend integration).

It is interesting to note that from the time of the military annexation of our homeland in 1975 until September last year, the pro-integrationists never felt threatened by the civilian population. Dozens of ABRI batallions, backed up by thousands of intelligence operatives, the ABRI dual-function apparatus from the regional military command right down to the village-level law enforcement officers in addition to the "ABRI enters the village" program have represented an irrefutable guarantee of security.

However, since October last year, out of the blue the pro-integrationists have begun to feel such a serious threat to their physical security that they have required ABRI to directly supply their civilian militias with arms in order to intimidate and murder the people.

The message we are receiving loud and clear from the Indonesian government is: it is best to opt for autonomy in order to avoid blood-shed!

This message seems to indicate that the Indonesian government has forgotten that over the 23 year period of Indonesia's military annexation, over 250,000 East Timorese have lost their lives. And ABRI's argument that it cannot give East Timor up because too many lives have been lost in defending integration is weak and misleading as it was not the East Timorese people who requested that Indonesia invade our country so brutally.

Foreign Minister Ali Alatas stated in a seminar on 22 March that "Indonesia's position on East Timor has never been accepted by the international community or the United Nations" On the same occasion, the Foreign Minister explained that the process of consultation will be conducted according to international norms and as democratically as possible.

Therefore, we are surprised with ABRI's response which is one of preparing people to go to war, precisely at a time when we are appealing for reconciliation and peace.

The people of East Timor face a tremendous challenge. The above is concrete proof that whilst, on the one hand, Foreign Minister Alatas desires that a democratic consultation process take place in East Timor, on the other General Wiranto demonstrates his indifference to the blood spilt over 23 years and which has besmirched the reputation of Indonesia's armed forces in the eyes of the Timorese and Indonesian peoples, and in the eyes of the international community.

Broad-ranging autonomy acquires the following meaning:

- East Timor remains integrated or - The people of East Timor face the prospect of even greater blood-shed!

Is it threats of this kind which are expected to ameliorate Indonesia's reputation in the eyes of the world? Is it threats of this kind which form the basis of Indonesia's commitment to the international community to resolve the East Timor problem?

The answer lies with General Wiranto.

Salemba, 31 March 1999

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão
Commander of Falintil

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