Subject: SMH: Habibie wants Australia to play leading role in Timor peace process
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:29:50 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo:

Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, April 21, 1999

Revealed: our Timor role

By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta

Indonesia invited Australia yesterday to play a leading role in a vote for East Timorese to decide their future - and offered the territory a chance to "separate in peace".

Indonesia's President, Dr B.J. Habibie, revealed plans for Australia to join the United States, Japan, the Philippines and the European Union to co-ordinate preparations for a United Nations-supervised vote on the offer of autonomy for the territory, scheduled for July.

Dr Habibie will discuss his plans in Bali next Tuesday with the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, who had called the urgent summit after Saturday's massacre of at least 20 Timorese independence supporters by pro-Indonesian militiamen.

In a meeting with Australian editors in Jakarta yesterday, Dr Habibie promised new measures to deal with the violence but conceded he was powerless to disarm the militias.

But Dr Habibie said: "If the people of East Timor decide for separation, we will do everything to make it happen in peace. We will separate in peace and honor as friends and we will live as neighbours."

He promised in January that East Timor could break away from Indonesia and become independent if Timorese reject the offer of autonomy, but sources this week suggested he was retreating from this pledge.

Yesterday, he said the countries invited to help with the vote "should take care for [arranging] fair, clean, just, self-determination of the people of East Timor for their future".

"A final decision of the East Timorese is the most important thing ... they should be given a fair and democratic way to their own future. We should not interfere," Dr Habibie said.

At the same time yesterday:

• An East Timorese separatist leader pleaded for Australia to give urgent temporary shelter to as many as 100 people who survived the massacre of at least 12 independence supporters at his Dili home on Saturday. Mr Manuel Carrascalao, whose 18-year-old adopted son was among those killed, and other survivors have taken refuge at Dili's heavily guarded police headquarters.

• Indonesia's armed forces commander, General Wiranto, flew into Timor, vowing to crack down on the violence.

• East Timor's military commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, denied his soldiers took part in the weekend violence although witnesses, including Western journalists, said they saw army and police officials transporting militiamen and offering them food and drink.

• In Perth, Mr Howard said Australia would use whatever influence it had to persuade the Indonesian Government to exercise restraint over its armed forces. Dr Habibie told the editors he had ordered the armed forces to impose an immediate ceasefire and stop the killings, and stop criminal actions.

"People who are fighting for a vision are not criminals," he said. "Criminals are those who are burning houses and killing each other. This must be stopped immediately. I care only that the people should not suffer longer ... they should not be tortured and suffer too long." He said it was impossible to forcibly disarm rival groups in East Timor, but added: "Everybody without exception must lay down their arms. No double standards. Everybody."

But Dr Habibie said the role of foreign countries would not extend to security. He said internal security must remain Indonesia's responsibility.

He had asked the International Committee of the Red Cross and Indonesian human rights groups to "act in the shortest time possible" to co-ordinate with the UN and the other countries on the vote. Under his offer in January, 800,000 Timorese will vote to accept or reject autonomy.

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