|UN Press Release July 2,1998 morning hearings on ET GA/COL/2984
COMMITTEE HEARS EAST TIMORESE PETITIONERS
The High Commissioner for Human Rights should develop a programme in East Timor
tailored to the protection of the human rights of women and children, the Special
Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the
Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was told as it continued its
hearing of petitioners this morning.
Eva Toth, representative of Amnesty International, said that the programme should have
a time-frame for implementation and include a United Nations system-wide approach to be
implemented in coordination with the world body's various agencies and with international
financial institutions. The new Indonesian Government must ensure that local human rights
monitors could carry out their work without fear or harassment and allow regular access to
international human rights organizations.
Carlos Alga, representative of REDE de Solidariedad Internacional, said that the
fascist Indonesian regime occupying East Timor was based on genocide and had survived by a
system of spies, and with the military and political support of Western Powers who
regarded Indonesia as a regional bulwark against communism. Those Western Powers
recognized the annexation of East Timor -- Australia formally, and the United States de
facto. Recent events in Indonesia and the weakening of the regime had revived the struggle
of the East Timorese and reopened the possibility of their achieving self-determination.
Since the integration with Indonesia, the people of East Timor recognized that
sustainable development was the only means of promoting the people's fundamental rights,
the representative of Forum Permuda Permudi Indonesia said. Those rights -- food, housing,
education, and health care -- were denied during the 450 years of colonial rule, a period
of plunder that had left East Timor without infrastructure.
Agostinho dos Santos Gonçalves, Chairman, National Committee of the Indonesia Youth of
East Timor, said it could not be denied that progress achieved since the end of Portuguese
rule reflected the Indonesian Government's determination to develop the Territory's people
who were left behind in all aspects of life due to 450 years of colonial rule. The
improved level of education had encouraged East Timorese youth to become more self-
reliant and had promoted a sense of community, nationhood and statehood.
Antonio Barbosa de Melo, Member of Parliament, Social Democratic Party of Portugal,
said East Timor was still suffering from the horrors of violence -- imprisonments,
arbitrary arrests, brutality, torture, extrajudiciary executions, disappearances, and the
violation of women were just some aspects of everyday life. Timorese were increasingly
requesting political asylum in foreign embassies. However, a change of attitude was
noticeable in the Indonesian political class, with opposition leaders recognizing the
possibility for a self-determination referendum in the Territory.
The Committee also heard petitions from a lawyer from Dili, East Timor; the
representative of the Committee of Peace and Development in East Timor; the Chairman of
the local Parliament's Economic Commission; Parliamentarians for East Timor; the
Indonesian American, Inc.; and Members of the Social Democratic Centre-Popular Party of
Portugal and the Socialist Party of Portugal.
The Committee will continue its hearing of petitions this afternoon at 3 o'clock.
Committee Work Programme
The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met this
morning to continue its hearing of petitioners on the question of East Timor. Before the
Committee were two Secretariat working papers on East Timor (documents A/AC.109/2111 and
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ-PARILLA (Cuba), Acting Chairman, said that the delegation of Colombia
had requested to join the proceedings. He then invited the first petitioner to make his
Petitions CARLOS ALGA, of the REDE de Solidariedad Internacional, said that the
"fascist Indonesian regime" that had invaded and occupied East Timor had been
based on genocide and survived by a system of spies, and with the military and political
support of Western Powers who regarded Indonesia as a regional bulwark against communism.
Those Western Powers recognized the annexation of East Timor -- Australia formally, and
the United States de facto.
He said recent events in Indonesia and the weakening of the regime that had led to a
change in the Government had revived the struggle of the East Timorese and reopened the
possibility of their achieving self-determination. The new position of President Habibie's
Government arose from the need to protect the bureaucracy, the military, and the interests
of multinational corporations and the national bourgeoisie.
CARLOS DE FATIMA said that, as a lawyer practising in Dili, he had been able to follow
closely the daily life of East Timorese who had considered themselves part of the
Indonesian nation since November 1975. Years of debate in the Special Committee had done
nothing but sow discord and confusion among the East Timorese people. A handful of parties
had deliberately abused that forum to launch their propaganda which threatened the
Committee's very credibility among the people in East Timor.
More than 50,000 East Timorese recently held a peaceful demonstration in Dili to
reaffirm their wish that the Territory remain part of Indonesia, he said. That
demonstration was in response to the action by a small number of vocal and radical East
Timorese who always sought to impose their views on the majority, including on the
question of a referendum. That small group, without considering the interest of the
majority, had been trying to create a climate of confusion because East Timor was still on
the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
On the National Convention of the East Timorese in the Diaspora, held in Lisbon last
April, he said the event's organizers, including Portugal, wished to give the impression
that they represented the views of the East Timorese.
They represented no one but themselves, and their only claim to fame was their
rhetoric. But rhetoric did not heal the sick and offered no comfort to the unemployed. He
said the East Timorese not only welcomed the reform process now taking place in Indonesia,
but were also struggling hand in hand with other Indonesians to cope with the economic
crisis facing that country. The Committee should recommend that the General Assembly
remove East Timor from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Being the
twenty-seventh province of Indonesia, the East Timorese people already had their own
government and enjoyed the same rights and responsibilities as other Indonesians.
ABILIO SERENO, of the Committee of Peace and Development in East Timor, said fresh
perspectives and hopes had arisen from the new situation in Jakarta. A new concerted
effort was needed to achieve peace in East Timor. Recent meetings by various Timorese
factions had considered the merits of both the proposed referendum and the special status
for the Territory advocated by the Indonesian Government. Although Indonesia continued to
claim East Timor, it remained open to negotiation. The current situation in the island was
complex, and the society was not yet ready to deal with the anticipated post- referendum
environment. The recent demonstration during the European Union's Troika visit had shown
the current concern over the referendum. It was suicidal to consider such an approach now
for the future of East Timor.
He said it was imperative that the current situation of insufficient infrastructures
and scarce economic resources was addressed. There also needed to be a commitment in the
search for a solution that accommodated the many diverse positions and autonomies in the
Territory. That solution had to recognize, especially in schools, all the religious and
cultural heritages that existed in EasT Timor. Such an approach was the only way to avoid
the situation of winners and losers. He urged that agreements in the tripartite dialogue
be reached as soon as possible.
GIL ALVES, Member of Local Parliament and Chairman of its Economic Commission, said an
indisputable fact was that East Timor had exercised its right to self-determination
through integration with Indonesia. Integration had once again united the people of East
Timor following centuries of Portugal's deliberate policy of divide and rule. The
Territory had entered an important stage in its history with a comprehensive reform
process that had taken it to a more democratic climate, one marked by greater transparency
and accountability, as well as full participation in all sectors of life, including the
upholding of human rights and the rule of law.
As an integral part of Indonesia, he said the vibrant democratic process was also being
felt in East Timor. He was confident that the new democratic climate would open greater
opportunity for the people of East Timor to strengthen their unity and further improve
their living conditions through the development of an economy that was competitive, just
and equitable. He appealed to all East Timorese to step into a democratic dialogue,
supporting autonomy for the Territory within Indonesia.
FERNANDO NEVES (Portugal) said that like some petitioners yesterday, the previous
speaker was comparing Portuguese and Indonesian colonialism. Even if Portugal had done
nothing for East Timor in 450 years, as alleged by the petitioner, at least it had not
killed a quarter of the Territory's population as Indonesia had done.
R.M. MARTY NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said his delegation did not wish to comment on the
petitioner's remarks and had already made clear that it did consider the East Timor issue
to be relevant to the Special Committee's work. At the same time, the delegation could not
but refer to remarks made yesterday by the delegation of Portugal in reference to
unfounded allegations of genocide in East Timor. The Indonesian delegation would reply in
AGOSTINHO DOS SANTOS GONÇALVES, Chairman of National Committee of the Indonesia Youth
of East Timor, said the perpetuation of colonial rule and occupation by Portugal had
hardened the East Timorese character. The Territory's youth were essentially a humble,
peace-loving and law-abiding people, but, at the same time, they could not accept those
who violated their fundamental rights and freedoms. It could not be denied that the
progress achieved since the end of Portuguese rule reflected the determination and
goodwill of the Indonesian Government in developing the Territory and its people who were
left behind in all aspects of life as a result of 450 years of colonial rule.
Highlighting the progress which had been achieved in the development of youth in East
Timor, he said that while the level of education was lower than other Indonesian
provinces, it was still strikingly better than it had been before integration. The
improvement in education had encouraged East Timorese youth to become more self-reliant in
their thinking, as well as in the political and economic fields. That, in turn, had
promoted a sense of community, nationhood and statehood. Timorese youth must be able to
anticipate the challenges and opportunities of the era of globalization and reform. The
reform process would enable youth to have greater participation in determining the future
of the country, as well as the province. That would further reaffirm that the Territory
was no longer non-self-governing.
RAMIDAN ALLAN PURBA, of Forum Permuda Permudi Indonesia, said that since the
integration with Indonesia, the people of East Timor, as elsewhere, recognized that
sustainable development was the only means to promote the fundamental rights of people.
Those rights -- food, housing, education, and health care -- were deprived during the
years of colonial rule. Following the irresponsible abandonment of the Territory by the
colonial Power, the East Timorese people faced the terrible plight of civil war. The
450-year plunder of East Timor had left it with no infrastructure. In the field of health,
there were only two hospitals and 14 clinics. Today, there were 11 hospitals and 332
village health centres. Likewise, in the educational sector, there were only two junior
high schools and one senior high school. Today, every East Timorese child had the
fundamental right to education and to attend school. In the "province of East
Timor", 715 elementary schools, 114 junior schools, 58 senior high schools and four
centres of higher education now existed. Illiteracy in the province at the end of colonial
rule was 90 per cent -- it was now 14 per cent.
He said that though East Timor, along with the rest of Indonesia, was facing economic
constraints, what was important to emphasize was that East Timor, as part of that country,
would benefit from the ongoing reform. Indonesians had achieved great success in
development efforts during the past three decades and would succeed in future endeavours
as well. Tenacity, courage and determination were in abundance in Indonesia, including
East Timor, and the people would move forward decisively into the next millenium.
JOHN MILLER, of Parliamentarians for East Timor, said that the people of East Timor had
never been allowed to exercise their right to self- determination. Since the adoption in
1960 of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,
the Special Committee had successfully promoted the independence of 60 countries
comprising 80 million people. Those nations were today Member States of the United
He said that on 24 June 1998, the Australian Senate called on the Indonesian Government
to, among other things, release Xanana Gusmao. The Committee should make the most of the
opportunity created by the resignation of President Suharto to make progress on the
question of East Timor. Last year, parliamentarians for East Timor urged the Committee to
call for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor.
The association looked forward in anticipation of the work the Committee would carry
out to facilitate the self-determination of the remaining Non- Self-Governing Territories,
SAMSU MAFUDI, of Indonesian American, Inc., appealed to his fellow Timorese -- East and
West -- to wake up and stay together. The Indonesians were in the midst of reforming the
country, and Timorese should join the fight to bring the Indonesian reformation, with its
new wind of justice and freedom, to a successful conclusion. If that failed, then the
top-down democracy, that was no democracy, would return. The end of the cold war had torn
down the Berlin Wall, why should the wall between East and West Timor not also be removed?
Globalization had made the reformation in Indonesia possible, he said. Now it was up to
the people to preserve freedom from the ravages of Government. He appealed to the East
Timorese to echo the late President Kennedy, and say "Ich bin ien Timoreser".
Indonesia was willing to provide the people of East Timor equal consideration, in the form
of principality or an autonomous region of East Timor.
EVA TOTH, of Amnesty International, said the new Government in Jakarta must ensure that
local human rights monitors were able to carry out their work without fear or harassment
and must allow regular access to international human rights organizations, including
Amnesty International. It must also demonstrate that it was now genuine in its promises to
cooperate with the United Nations by implementing recommendations made following visits by
United Nations experts and by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to East Timor. The
Government must also act on the commitments contained in the negotiated statements by the
Chair of the Human Rights Commission.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights should develop a human rights programme, to be
agreed upon by all the parties in East Timor, with a time- frame for implementation. The
programme should include a United Nations system-wide approach to be implemented in
coordination with the various United Nations agencies and the international financial
institutions. The programme should identify key steps to be taken to create an environment
for human rights promotion and protection. That could include the memorandum of
understanding currently under discussion between the Indonesian Government and the United
Nations Centre for Human Rights.
A human rights programme for East Timor should specifically address the protection of
the human rights of women and children and, in cooperation with the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other relevant United Nations agencies and funds, ensure the
development of a comprehensive framework of protection for all. Amnesty International
believed that talks on the future of East Timor could succeed only within such a human
NUNO KRUS ABECASIS, Social Democratic Party Member of the Portuguese Parliament, said
that recent events in Indonesia resulting in the resignation of President Suharto, and in
profound political, economic and social crises, had brought to light the fragility of the
Indonesian institutions and economy, which had survived by an imposed silence, corruption
and disrespect for the most rudimentary human rights.
Among the voices that had joined in the cry for justice for East Timor were those of
South African President Nelson Mandela, who knew by experience the bitterness of an
imprisoned homeland, he said. Other voices included those of the United States Congress;
the European Council, which had sent a troikas of observers to East timor; the European
Parliament; the international mass media; numerous governments and parliaments throughout
the world; the community of Portuguese-speaking countries, comprising more than 200
million people; Amnesty International; and many university members, students, religious
leaders, union members and even Indonesian politicians. In the name of that growing
outcry, he called for the freedom of East Timor, the release of Xanana Gusmao and all
other political prisoners, and for the holding of a referendum under the auspices of the
United Nations, so that the people of East Timor could freely choose their own destiny.
ANTONIO BARBOSA DE MELO, Member of Parliament, Social Democratic Party, said the last
decade had shown that the most repressive regimes were usually the most fragile. History
had also shown that there were forces more powerful than the strongest armies. Civil
discontent with the Indonesian Government, youth activism and the current economic
situation were just some of the factors that had brought down the dictator Suharto and
seriously challenged a regime that was based on the denial of basic human rights and
political freedom. President Habibie was now faced with taking either clear decisions or
closing his eyes to the dynamism of history. East Timor was still suffering from the
horrors of violence and military occupation -- imprisonments, arbitrary arrests,
brutality, torture, extrajudiciary executions, disappearances, and the violation of women
were just some of the everyday aspects of life experienced there. More and more, Timorese
were requesting political asylum in embassies in Jakarta.
He said Indonesia continued to obfuscate the right to self-determination by the
Timorese people as stipulated by the United Nations. Exploitation was rife in the
territorial seas of the island. Indonesia seemed to have forgotten that peace could not
return to East Timor until self-determination was exercised by the Timorese. Until
political prisoners were freed, the situation in the Territory could not be normalized.
However, a change of attitude was noticeable in the Indonesian political class. Opposition
leaders there had recognized the possibility of holding a self-determination referendum in
East Timor. They had also begun to recognize the cultural, religious and political
identity of the East Timorese. The question to be asked was whether Indonesia could
finally return to a decolonizing position and erase a long history that implied the
CARLOS MANUEL LUIS, Socialist Party Member of the Portuguese Parliament, outlined the
series of events beginning on 7 December 1975, when the Government of Portugal sought an
urgent meeting of the Security Council to act on the Indonesian aggression launched
against the Territory of East Timor, of which Portugal was the administering Power.
Recalling the subsequent General Assembly and Security Council actions, as well as
Indonesian defiance of those United Nations resolutions in 1975 and 1976, he reminded the
Committee that many international bodies had declared their support for the
self-determination and independence of East Timor.
He said that following the resignation of President Suharto, new prospects were opening
up for a democratic Indonesia and for the people of East Timor to be consulted through a
referendum on their future.
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