Subject: Indonesia urged to help Dili but not intervene

The Jakarta Post Saturday, June 17, 2006

Indonesia urged to help Dili but not intervene

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As the current condition of Timor Leste is to some extent a product of Indonesia's past actions, the country should help its tiny neighbor without being tempted to involve itself in internal politics, an expert said in Jakarta.

"Don't mess with the conflict in Timor Leste, because they should be left alone to solve their own problems. But staying out doesn't mean we don't give our neighbor a hand," the chief editor of the daily Sinar Harapan, Aristides Katoppo, told a seminar on Timor Leste organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Friday.

He said Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao realized that the bond between the two countries should not be broken, because Timor Leste needs Indonesia.

"Ever since Timor Leste separated from Indonesia, Xanana has always wanted to mend his country's relations with Indonesia. He always wants to meet with senior Indonesian generals and tell them that he and his people have no hard feelings toward them now," Aristides said.

He said besides sending humanitarian aid, Indonesia could actively create conducive conditions for a peaceful solution, or help indirectly through the United Nations.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will meet Xanana on Saturday in Bali to discuss bilateral issues.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and occupied it until 1999, when the United Nations organized a referendum on independence.

The East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for separation, which unleashed a violent campaign of murder, arson, and looting by pro-Indonesia militia members.

At least 1,400 people died and much of Timor Leste's infrastructure was destroyed.

The country plunged again into chaos after 600 soldiers, or nearly half the army, were fired in March after complaining they suffered discrimination because they came from the western part of the country.

The chairman of the Timor Leste Journalists Association, Virgilio Guterres, rejected reports from most media outlets that Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri fired the soldiers. He said it was the chief of Timor Leste's armed forces who fired them (not the defense minister as reported earlier), but that he acted with the consent of both Mari and Foreign Minister Ramos Horta (not President Xanana as reported earlier).

Twenty-one people died in May as sporadic battles between rival soldiers, and between soldiers and police, descended into gang clashes.

Indonesia has stated that it had nothing to do with the current conflict, and has vowed to stay away from it. Indonesia also announced that it would not send troops to Timor Leste, and it subsequently closed its border with Timor Leste.

Last week, Indonesia decided to send humanitarian aid, and is now considering opening the border to some traffic in order to improve the flow of assistance to the tiny nation.

"We will open our border for logistic transportation to help Timor Leste," Foreign Ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said on Friday.

Kristio Wahyono, former head of the Indonesian diplomatic mission in Timor Leste, said that the United Nations and foreign institutions who helped establish and train Timor Leste's armed forces should be held responsible for what is happening there now.

"They have failed to train and unite the Timor Leste armed forces, and with a huge amount of funds, it is questionable why Timor Leste soldiers earned a very low salary compared to the foreign instructors and trainers," he said.

Activist and Timor Leste observer Yeni Rosa Damayanti said the conflict was a product of unfinished past conflict resolution between people who fought for the country's independence and people who were accused of helping Indonesia during its occupation.

She urged Timor Leste to determine who is responsible for what before attempting a national reconciliation.

"Without this, conflicts will continue to emerge. As for Indonesia, it should stay away from Timor Leste because most people still have fresh memories of what Indonesia did to them," Yeni said.

-------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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