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Subject: Ramos-Horta commends Bishop Belo
Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 11:55:25 +1100
From: East Timor Relief Association <>

Ramos-Horta commends Bishop Belo on his firm stance with President Habibie

Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, the 1996 Nobel Peace Laureate, must be warmly commended for his courage and firmness in declining an invitation for a meeting with President B.J. Habibie because grounds the Indonesian Government has completed failed to honour commitments made by President Habibie to Bishop Belo to improve the situation in East Timor.

Bishop Belo met with President Habibie in June 1998 in Jakarta. In the course of the meeting President Habibie was presented with a 13-point memorandum aiming at improving the overall situation in East Timor, including a credible reduction of Indonesian troops.

Following the discussions Bishop Belo publicly praised President Habibie. The Indonesian President also praised Bishop Belo as a man of "God" and promised to implement all 13 measures.

In August this year Indonesian propaganda machinery staged an alleged withdrawal of 400 troops.

This was an extraordinary display of cynicism as in fact this alleged withdrawal was part of a normal rotation of troops. By mid-September at least seven new battalions were brought into East Timor.

Indonesian military documents leaked to the BBC and Sydney Morning Herald, whose authenticity were confirmed by all western embassies in Jakarta, indicated that the Indonesian armed forces had more than 18,000 troops in the territory.

This whilst both the Indonesian Foreign Minister Alatas and ABRI commander General Wirianto stated that there were no more than six non-combat battalions in East Timor. Indonesia's standard claim has been that these so called territorial troops engaged in "civic" duties and not in military operations.

The documents also confirmed that thousands of paramilitary thugs were under Indonesian military command structure and on its payroll.

Human rights abuses have continued since the fall of Suharto. In at least one occasion Indonesian armed forces perpetrated a massacre of civilians in November in the town of Alas. Two separate missions sent to the area, one by a UN Secretary General personal envoy, and the other a joint Timorese church and the local provincial government were denied access to Alas by the military. The latter was fired on by Indonesian forces as it attempted to reach the town of Alas. The extent of the massacre in Alas remains to be fully uncovered but it is feared that the number of people killed must be indeed very high. An initial church report indicated more than 40 people killed. Dozens of houses were destroyed.

At the United Nations sponsored talks the Indonesian Government is back-peddling on the promises made in August 1998 by Foreign Minister Ali Alatas. In the Ministerial talks held in NY under the

auspices of the Secretary General, Foreign Minister Alatas was quoted as promising that as part of a settlement package of the East Timor problem even pro-independence East Timorese Parties could contest in elections in East Timor. These elections would be separate from the Indonesian general election, according to Foreign Minister Alatas. On the basis of the August statement by Foreign Minister Alatas the National Council of Timorese Resistance could enter election in East Timor on its current platform of self-determination. In subsequent UN sponsored meetings in New York the Indonesian delegation began to back-track.

These acts of bad faith, inflexibility, intolerance and violence in East Timor, lies and deceit that were part of the Suharto regime for 32 years in Indonesia and 23 years in East Timor have not changed.

It is in this context that we understand Bishop Belo's reported refusal to meet with President Habibie. All East Timorese must rally around Bishop Belo in his dignified and courageous stance that expose the policies of bad faith, cynicism and hypocrisy that form part of the political culture in Indonesia.

It is President Habibie's Government and the Indonesian army that have to prove to the East Timorese people and to the international community that the culture of lies and deceit, the institutions of repression and intolerance belong to the past. It is extraordinary that at a time when the Indonesian economy came crushing down under the weight of corruption and mismanagement and half of the entire population of more than 200 million are living below the poverty line, the country barely surviving, thanks to international good will and generosity, the Indonesian army continues to behave as if nothing has happened, and continues to waste the limited resources of the country in a futile war of colonial aggression.

Jose Ramos-Horta 1996 Nobel Peace Laureate

Matebian News

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