Subject: AFP: Ramos-Horta to visit Jakarta for first time in 24 years
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 17:42:24 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Ramos-Horta to visit Jakarta for first time in 24 years

WASHINGTON, June 1 (AFP) - East Timor rebel leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta says he will return to Jakarta this month for the first time in 24 years for meetings with other leaders of the Timorese resistance.

In an e-mail message received here Tuesday, Ramos-Horta -- currently en route from Lisbon to Sydney -- said he had received permission from Indonesian authorities to visit Jakarta after national elections there on June 7.

Whether Ramos-Horta would also be permitted to visit the troubled territory of East Timor was not immediately clear.

But he offered a conciliatory message ahead of his visit to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie and to critics who oppose his campaign to free the predominantly Catholic territory from Indonesian rule.

"It seems that the Indonesian government has given its approval for a trip by me to Indonesia for meetings with the resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, (and) bishops Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo and Basilio do Nascimento," he wrote in a message to AFP.

Belo, the bishop of Dili and spiritual leader of East Timor, shared the Nobel Prize for Peace with Ramos-Horta in 1996.

"We will then have a meeting with many other East Timorese, including those linked with the armed militia gangs," he said, adding that he planned his trip for mid-June after Indonesia's June 7 national elections.

"I can assure those who are always suspicious of me, those who resent me and even hate me that I respect the Indonesian people and admire what they are trying to do for their country," he said.

Habibie, protege and successor to former president Suharto, "deserves praise for his courage in trying to change the East Timor policy," Ramos-Horta said.

Ramos-Horta last visited Jakarta in April 1975 to meet Suharto's adviser General Ali Moertopo, whom the Nobel laureate described as "a sinister character" who assured Ramos-Horta that Jakarta would not interfere in the former Portuguese territory even as he planned its annexation.

"As for my own role in the reconciliation meeting I can only say that I'll do my best to ... assure the other side that they will have a place in an independent East Timor, that they should not fear the future," he wrote.

"I will be their best friend, the most loyal one because I would never condone reprisals and policies of exclusion," he said.

Ramos-Horta also vowed to apologize to Indonesians in East Timor for any "abuse, humiliation, and violence they suffered from the resistance side...I know some of our people behave in a manner that I condemn," he said.

"I would ask them to stay on in East Timor, not to fear. These are poor people, and if we want peace and prosperity for our country we must reconcile with Indonesia as well."

Jakarta in January said it could let East Timor go if its people rejected an offer of wide-ranging autonomy in balloting set for August 8.

Factional fighting between pro- and anti-Indonesian factions in East Timor has, however, continued to spiral and claimed dozens of lives, with much of the blame laid on Indonesian-army backed militia.

Under a UN-sponsored accord, the Indonesian military and police will be responsible for security ahead of and during the ballot, with help from some 200 unarmed UN civilian police.

The current UN strength in the territory, currently some 40 people, is expected to swell to 600 including UN poll monitors by July. East Timor has about 800,000 people, about half of whom are eligible to vote.

Some 200,000 East Timorese have died, mostly from starvation and disease, since Indonesia invaded the territory in 1975. Jakarta subsequently annexed East Timor, but the United Nations never recognized that move.

Back to June Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99