|Subject: ETO : The two sides to the negotiations: in
New York, dialogue and promises
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:24:13 -0400
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <email@example.com>
Observatory / Observatório Timor Leste / Observatoire Timor-Oriental
All peoples have the right to self-determination... all armed action or repressive
measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable
them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence. (Declaration
on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples - UN Gen.Ass. Resolution
Subject: The two sides to the negotiations: in New York, dialogue and promises. (see
NEG03: The two sides to the negotiations: in East Timor, ABRI and militias)
Since the economic crisis and fall of President Suharto, the Jakarta authorities have
multiplied their promises of a negotiated settlement for East Timor, the former Portuguese
colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975. The proposal for autonomy within Indonesia, put
forward in June 1998, was followed in January 1999 by the promise that East Timor could
become independent if the Timorese rejected autonomy.
On 22 April, a further round of negotiations - thought to be crucial - take place in
New York. The Foreign Ministers of Portugal and Indonesia are expected to ratify the text
of the Autonomy Statute, drafted by the UN and amended by Indonesia, and to determine the
model for the "consultation", through which the East Timorese will have the
chance to express their acceptance or rejection of autonomy. The UN will then dispatch
teams to East Timor to conduct a census of the Timorese population and make other
preparations for the ballot, set to be held in July.
Twenty-three years after the invasion; after two Security Council resolutions and eight
UN General Assembly resolutions, followed by sixteen years of talks brokered by the UN
Secretary General, the settlement of the East Timor issue finally seems to be in sight. As
long as no fresh setback is staged, the meeting on 22 April and the UN presence in East
Timor, which should be agreed at that meeting, will constitute the most determinant
progress made in the past 23 years towards resolving the problem.
- In May 1998, President Suharto is toppled by the economic crisis. In June, the new
President, Yusuf Habibie, distances himself from his predecessors position by
pledging a gradual withdrawal Indonesian Armed Forces from East Timor.
- In August, President Habibie reiterates this promise before the UN Secretary General in
the context of the negotiations with Portugal on the territorys future.
- The negotiations were initiated following the adoption by the General Assembly of
resolution 37/30 from 1982, which reaffirmed the "right of all peoples to
self-determination and independence". The Secretary General was requested to initiate
consultations with the parties concerned with a view to achieving a "comprehensive
settlement" of the problem. Indonesias intransigence and the international
communitys lack of determination were to blame for the absence of any significant
results until the fall of President Suharto.
- 1. At the negotiations on 5 August 1998, the first round after the fall of Suharto,
Indonesia reiterates its promise to withdraw its troops from East Timor and proposes
"autonomy" within Indonesia for the former Portuguese colony. Although the
content is as yet undefined, autonomy is presented by Jakarta as an "offer"
conditional upon Portugals and the UNs acceptance of integration.
- 2. Portugal agrees to the proposal as a starting point for negotiations, making it clear
that its willingness to negotiate does not imply its recognition of integration. The
Timorese would have to be given the opportunity to say whether they accept or reject
autonomy: this is reaffirmation of the right to self-determination enshrined in UN
- 3. Timorese leaders suggest that the proposed autonomy could serve as a transition
period. This would allow Indonesia an "honourable" departure, as well as provide
time to prepare the Timorese for a final choice between autonomy within Indonesia and
- 4. The UN has to draft an autonomy statute, which will have to be approved by both
Indonesia and Portugal before being submitted to the Timorese.
- 5. Portugal, which had cut off diplomatic relations with Indonesia following the
invasion in 1975, goes some way towards restoring diplomatic ties by agreeing to interest
- 6. On 27 January 1999, just before a further round of negotiations, the Indonesian
government announces that, if the East Timorese reject autonomy, it could be released from
Indonesia and return to its former status prior to annexation. The Indonesian parliament,
that had decreed integration in 1976, would be called upon to decide on de-annexation.
President Habibie promises that the government would recommend to the new parliament
elected in June, to vote in favour of de-annexation. He refers to January 2000 as the date
for independence. The Timorese would be consulted before the new Parliaments session
in August 1999. The form which the consultation would take is not specified; Indonesia is
opposed to a referendum on self-determination, the form favoured by Portugal and the
- 7. In March, just hours before a new round of negotiations, from which a final agreement
on the UN-drafted autonomy statute was expected to emerge, the Indonesian Government
announces that the autonomy plan is still under review. The negotiators then focus their
attention on the various methods of consulting the Timorese. In spite of all
Indonesias reticence about a direct and generalised consultation, consensus is
reached on this very option. The UN could hardly agree to anything less than a one-person
one-vote solution. One concession is made to Indonesia: the vote would not be referred to
as a "referendum" but rather a "consultation". The choice put to the
Timorese would not be between autonomy and independence but rather acceptance or rejection
of autonomy (the fact that rejection of autonomy implies support for independence is
- 8. A UN commission, in touch with Portugal, Indonesia and the Timorese, looks into the
practical implications of the ballot and drafts proposals which should be approved on 22
April, to allow enough time, before July, in which to prepare for the vote.
- 1. Since the fall of Suharto, concern and effort on the part of the UN, Portugal and the
Timorese resistance were put into making the concessions that were necessary to bring
about the changes in Indonesias position. A "step-by-step" strategy was
adopted. Indonesia was allowed to take the initiative: it was Indonesia that promised the
gradual withdrawal of its troops and the release of political prisoners; it was Indonesia
that announced the autonomy proposal and, eventually, the possibility of independence. By
settling this issue, the new government would be able not only to demonstrate that it was
different to the Suharto regime but also to disentangle itself from East Timor without
- 2. This strategy was based on good faith, but it emerged that there were contradictions
in what Indonesia was saying: in New York, Indonesia was being open to dialogue and
willing to promise everything; in East Timor it was breaking all its promises and
promoting violence (see NEG03).
- 3. The violence can abort the UNs efforts and the hopes raised by the Indonesian
Government itself. The "consultation" cannot go ahead in a climate of violence,
said Ambassador J. Marker, the UN Secretary Generals representative on East Timor
(APF, UN, 9-4-99).
- 4. The UN and the international community must shoulder their share of blame. By closing
their eyes to the fact that Indonesia was not honouring its promises, probably thinking
that this would overcome obstacles and avoid unnecessary confrontation, they were giving
the sectors opposed to change the time and strength they needed to organise militias and
- 5. Without the Jakarta Governments will to honour its commitments, international
hesitation, particularly with regard to sending observers, holding enquiries, placing
peace-keeping forces on the ground, can only be considered as acquiescence in excess
because, according to international law and UN resolutions, East Timor was never
legitimately part of Indonesia.
- 6. This hesitation is not only causing more suffering to the people of East Timor, but
will also make democratic transition in Indonesia itself that much more difficult.
We suggest ·
- you send a message to the UN Secretary General, urging him to send an international
force to East Timor, whatever the outcome of the negotiations on 22 April may be. Please
send your message to: Mr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, 1,United Nations Plaza, N.Y.
10017, USA FAX 1 212 963 48 79.
- you write to your government, urging it to support the efforts of the UN Secretary
Observatory for the monitoring of East Timors transition process a programme by
the Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere and the ecumenical group
A Paz é Possível em Timor Leste Coordinator: Cristina Cruz
----------------------- Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE - 1069-069 Lisboa - Portugal ph.: 351
1 317 28 60 - fax: 351 1 317 28 70 - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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