|Subject: JRH interview on CBC
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:43:03 -0400
From: Brian Dawson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Interview with José Ramos-Horta Friday, April 23, 9:40 AM
CBC Radio One: "This Morning"
AB: Avril Benoit; JRH: José Ramos-Horta
AB: The NATO intervention in Kosovo has a lot of people dumfounded, none more so than the people of East Timor. The very conditions NATO is citing for it's intervention in Kosovo -- to stop ethnic cleansing, genocide, rape, and murder -- are the same conditions that have existed on the disputed Indonesian-occupied island of East Timor for the past 23 years. Dr. José Ramos-Horta is vice-president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, and a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. He is in our New York studio.
Welcome Doctor. Thank you so much for joining us.
JRH: Good morning. It's a pleasure.
AB: Now many people are looking at the NATO intervention, the bombing of Yugoslavia, and saying why intervene in Kosovo, over Kosovo, and not in East Timor. What is the basis for this comparison?
JRH: Certainly, we are not calling on Canada and other NATO countries to bomb Indonesia, Jakarta, to the Stone Age, as they are doing with Serbia, but at least if they were to express equably their outrage over the behaviour of the Indonesian army in East Timor, if they were to follow certain measures such as stopping all arms supplies, military training, impose some economic sanctions, maybe I could say they are consistent with their proclamation that they are there to support human rights and prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
But I am really amazed, appalled at the statement issued by the Canadian Foreign Minister, who took a strong stand on Kosovo, even threatening Milovich and other senior Serbian officials with a war crimes tribunal. In the case of East Timor, where a genocide has been going on for 23 years, and where civilians were killed in a churchyard, children, women, the foreign minister has only the following to say: "I am deeply concerned about recent events in Dili and in Liquica." Recent events. That was a massacre, witnessed by a number of journalists, which Bishop Belo condemned, expressed his outrage; the Irish Foreign Minister, the European Union, even the US expressed their protest; and yet your courageous, valiant Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy has only the following to say: "I'm deeply concerned about recent events". It was an "event", not a massacre of women and children. And then he has the audacity to call on all parties to declare in immediate cease-fire. Cease-fire between whom? Between the children and women who are slaughtered in a churchyard and the Indonesian army? What does he mean when he calls on all parties to declare an immediate cease-fire? Doesn't he have any shame to pretend to be so vocal on Kosovo and to make this disgraceful statement on East Timor when children, women are slaughtered in a churchyard, in the capital, right under the nose, the eyes of everyone. What an audacity, what a hypocrisy.
AB: Even if our external affairs minister were to express outrage for a massacre, would you want him to also express interest in a military intervention in Indonesia on behalf of East Timor and of those people who were killed?
JRH: Well, at least they should put the matter to the Security Council. Canada is a member of the Security Council, not only for Kosovo, but it made itself elected to the Security Council for security problems, peace, human rights violations all over the world, and not only in Kosovo. And Canada can take initiatives on its own, such as freezing all loans to the Habibie government, working with the World Bank and the IMF to freeze aid to Indonesia, to stop all military sales, to expel Indonesian military officers if there are any that are still training in Canada. There are a number of things that they can do to send a strong signal to Indonesia short of sending smart bombs to bomb Jakarta.
AB: Perhaps other countries, members of the United Nations, who have in the past condemned what has gone on in East Timor, are concerned that should they be too aggressive now, at a time when East Timor seems to be closer to achieving self-determination, despite the recent violence, that perhaps they think it will not help you, hinder you, if they took a stand against Indonesia at a time when talks are going on.
JRH: This is the argument we have heard for 23 years, for 23 years that's what we heard, that we should not be too tough on Indonesia because it would impact upon the East Timorese themselves. Now people are being slaughtered all over the country. There was a farce of an agreement that was signed the other day, allegedly brokered by the Indonesian defense minister Wiranto, the same man who orchestrated the violence in East Timor, who paid for the paramilitaries, for the militias; he goes to East Timor and pretends that he's brokering peace. It's a bit like asking Milosovich, trusting Milosovich to broker peace between the Kosovars and his own army. Or it's like asking Jack the Ripper to mediate between the people in the community. This makes no sense; it is absurd, this kind of argument. Indonesia is dependent on the international community. Any small gesture they make, they make it because of pressure from the international community. 200,000 people have died in East Timor. This is a unique opportunity for the international community to show its resolve through sanctions -- economic, financial sanctions -- as this is the only way to persuade the Indonesian military to pull back.
AB: Tell me, what has happened in East Timor since President Suharto stepped down about a year ago. How have things changed for the people there during this time?
JRH: For the worst. In fact, violence has increased. And it is not a civil war as some media talks about. Sometimes I loose patience, I'm totally outraged when I hear some media talk about a fight between pro-independence and pro-integration. The resistance forces who are in the mountains, they have not fired a single shot for several months. They are under orders from Xanana Gusmao -- the resistance leader -- not to take an aggressive, active, proactive stance. So they have been on the defensive only. The violence has been orchestrated entirely, exclusively against villages in the country. Hundreds of people have been displaced. We lost count of how many have been killed in the last few months. In the last few days, well over 100 people have been killed, in Liquica, in Dili, in other parts of the territory.
AB: Why do you think the violence has escalated?
JRH: The Indonesian military, the hard-liners, the same ones who kept Suharto in power for 32 years, the same ones who had exclusive privileges in running the country, as they see that East Timor is slipping away, they don't like it. For them, it is a loss of face, loss of prestige. So what do they do? They orchestrate violence; they arm thugs. And a lot of these thugs are not even East Timorese; a lot of these people are coming from Atambua, the Indonesian territory in West Timor. And some of the gang leaders, one of the leaders of the paramilitaries, he in fact was a gang leader for many years of a racketeering group, a group that extorted money from people, working with some Indonesians. And he is now the so-called freedom fighter of the Indonesians in East Timor.
AB: And do you say these people, most of those who are fighting for integration with Indonesia, are outsiders, are not even historically from East Timor?
JRH: No, I am not saying all of them. Now quite a few of them who have been recently recruited as part of the militia, they are from West Timor, from Atambua.
AB: But tell me then, Jakarta was for all these years of occupation, 23 years, never interested in talking about East Timor's right to self-determination. But in January President Habibie seemed to be reversing that position and it looked very hopeful for autonomy or some kind of independence, and even the possibility of allowing some monitors from the United Nations to come in. What happened to that feeling that perhaps things could be resolved peacefully in East Timor, finally?
JRH: Well, they might have changed their public discourse, but not their actions on the ground. From the very beginning, when President Habibie said that Indonesia is prepared to pull out if the people of East Timor reject the autonomy package that they are offering, I stated, constantly, I don not trust them one bit. I judge them by their actions on the ground, and not by their promises. Promises have been made and broken over the past 23 years.
AB: Those promises, though, are keeping the west on a consistent course of doing business with Indonesia though.
JRH: Yes, these promises, such as this cosmetic change right now, essentially have to do with trying to buy time so that the money can flow back into Indonesia. The issue of East Timor is a major issue in the US congress, in the European Union, in Australia, and they realize that even though the issue is small -- a small territory, a small nation -- their behaviour in East Timor over the years is costing them their international reputation, and with the world becoming more aware of the issue, it would be very difficult for countries of the European Union, for Australia, for the World Bank, to release funds. And Indonesia is thoroughly bankrupt. So they changed their speech, hoping to buy time, and at the same time, on the ground, they orchestrate the violence, to create a scenario of civil war, when in fact they are the ones who are orchestrating the violence; they are creating a scenario of civil war that would then fulfill their prophesy. Their prophesy has been that well, if we leave now, the people of East Timor will fight each other. So we might as well stay on. And that is what they are doing. I don't believe at all that there is going to be a proper, fair consultation with the people about their future.
AB: This is a change for you, isn't it. Last year on the program you said that you were much more confident that Indonesia would leave East Timor. You were much more hopeful that it would come to pass in short order. What has changed then in your opinion, of the hopes for peace talks?
JRH: Well, I remain confident; of course I do not trust the Indonesians as I said from the very beginning, but I am confident that we are going to prevail, we are going to succeed. There is no turning back. I have said to Indonesians whom I met recently in London, if the process of a vote that is scheduled by the UN for the end of July turns out to be a farce, they will have to deal with this problem of East Timor for another 23 years. And we are going to fight even harder, with more determination. So it is in their own interest, right now, to come out clean, to withdraw their forces, to recognize the inevitability, and that is that East Timor is going to be independent.
AB: But what if the United Nations does vote in favour of East Timor's self-determination. What would that do for the hopes for the people there?
JRH: If the United Nations organizes a poll, a vote in East Timor, in conditions of total freedom -- no coercion, to terror -- with UN observers there, and only East Timorese voting, if the people of East Timor under those circumstances vote for joining with Indonesia, then we, the resistance side, we would honour it, we would abide by it. However, if the majority of the people vote for independence, if they reject Autonomy, that means independence, we hope that Indonesia will honour it as well. Otherwise, we are going to continue to see this problem dragging on for another 20 years with unpredictable cost to Indonesia and it's relations with countries in the world, in particular with Australia, with the European Union, the U.S. Congress.
AB: I do thank you very much for the time this morning
JRH: Thank you.
AB: Bye bye.
Nobel Prize Lauriete José Ramos-Horta is vice-president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance. He was in New York.