Subject: RDP: Bishop Belo says 2001 too early for independence

BBC Summary of World Broadcasts September 05, 2000, Tuesday

Bishop Belo says 2001 too early for independence

Source: RDP Antena 1 radio, Lisbon, in Portuguese 0800 gmt 4 Sep 00

Excerpts from report by Portuguese radio on 4th September

Dom Ximenes Belo [bishop of Dili and Nobel Peace laureate in 1996] believes that 2001 is too early for East Timor to become independent. The bishop, speaking from Dili, said that the declaration of independence should be postponed by two years. He added that during this period, UNTAET [UN Transitional Administration in East Timor] should be reinforced but with greater Timorese participation. Ximenes Belo was interviewed by Jose Manuel Rosendo:

[Belo] For me it is still too early. I have spoken to ambassadors who came to see me and my personal opinion is that it is too early because there are great delays in building the infrastructures. We do not yet have a constitution. We do not yet have the financial side properly in place, the economic system, and above all there is the security situation on the border. So we will have to wait another two to two and half years.

[Rosendo] But that is not what the political parties want.

[A] No, you ask them about their wishes. This is my personal opinion. I say what I think.

[Q] Is security your greatest concern?

[A] Undoubtedly, because the border is very long. [Indistinct sentence omitted]. I do not know how we can become independent with the borders open like this and without our own means to defend them.

[Q] Are you worried that some of those who are seen as responsible for the events after the referendum are not on the list of people to be tried, for example Eurico -

[A] [interrupting] I have my doubts. The announced list is very incomplete. And the reasons why it was announced, only in connection with the church [as heard] - but for me this is secondary. For me the most important thing are the people who have suffered, from Los Palos to Oecussi. When they all receive compensation, and all those who committed crimes are tried, then justice will be complete. This is just a third of what is expected.

[Q] But you also say the people are willing to forgive. However, this does not include the names which should be on the list.

[A] Well, reconciliation and forgiveness will be complete when, in terms of the civil society, there are mechanisms to prevent future violations. Therefore this undoubtedly includes the trial of those involved in the more major crimes, such as assassinations and rapes.

[Q] Would you like to see Gen Wiranto and Eurico Guterres [militia leader] on that list?

[A] Of course, but not just him. There are many other military commanders of the 13 districts, some militia commanders and some council administrators who were involved and are also not on the list. As I said, this is only a third of what is expected.

[Q] In your opinion, is the militia activity due to poor vigilance on the borders?

[A] Well, I say that on the border there are contingents from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Kenya and Fiji, but the militias come into East Timor undiscovered, not even by radar. This is the main reason why I say it is necessary to involve Falintil [East Timor National Liberation Armed Forces] fighters more. They should be there, preventing these men from coming in.

[Q] This involvement may also include the East Timorese people if independence is declared next year. Do you think this is a good thing?

[A] As I said, I have my reservations about independence by next year. I don't know how that will work. It is a good thing but it is necessary to think it through and plan it properly...

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