Subject: RA: interview with Bishop Belo, June 2
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 1998 08:02:39 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Timor bishop on settlement prospects, Australia says "matter for Indonesia" Radio Australia external service 2 June 98
[Presenter Peter Mares] Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor says he is ready for talks with the new Indonesian administration of B.J. Habibie and suggests he could go to Jakarta next month for a meeting. In an interview with "Asia-Pacific" , Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Belo also called for confidence-building measures in East Timor, such as the immediate withdrawal of Indonesian troops and the freeing of all East Timorese political prisoners, including jailed resistance leader Xanana Gusmao. But Bishop Belo says it is too early to tell whether changes at the top in Jakarta will bring a new approach to East Timor. This report from Tom Fayle.
[Fayle] The bishop's co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, exiled East Timorese leader Jose Ramos Horta, has suggested on a number of occasions recently that Bishop Belo would be the ideal starting point for the Indonesian authorities to begin a dialogue on the future of the former Portuguese colony. And last week President Suharto's newly installed replacement, B.J. Habibie, was quoted as telling a visiting American congressman that he was prepared to meet the bishop as part of a drive to reach out to all quarters of Indonesian society.
So, since the fall of the Suharto regime, has there been contact between the new administration in Jakarta and Bishop Belo?
[Belo] Not yet, because, you know, I have just come back from Europe and have many things to do here, but maybe next month I will try how to go to Jakarta.
[Fayle, to Belo] President Habibie has apparently expressed a willingness to talk to you. Do you find that encouraging?
[A] Well, I don't know yet, but this is the first time I hear about this information. But I am ready to talk.
[Q] Speaking from Dili, Bishop Belo also said that he wanted the immediate introduction by the Indonesian authorities of a number of confidence-building measures, including a military withdrawal from the territory, which has been occupied since 1975.
[A] Immediately it is necessary to withdraw the battalions, the soldiers here. I only repeat this once, that the soldiers should be withdrawn from East Timor. Secondly, it is necessary to free, to release all the political prisoners. And third, to begin the intra-Timorese dialogue immediately, among all East Timor, those from the diaspora, from outside, those from in the forest and the jungle, those behind, in the government sectors.
[Q] And how important is the release of Xanana Gusmao? Can any meaningful dialogue occur without his participation?
[A] He is a Timorese. As an East Timorese he also should be involved. Why [should] we involve the Indonesians and we don't involve the Timorese? He is more important than Indonesians.
[Q] Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas has said that Xanana Gusmao does not come under the terms of the current amnesty. How much of a problem is that?
[A] Well, it is not a good idea for Mr Alatas. It is very sad that Mr Alatas said that. Maybe they like to have problems for the future.
[Q] Would you have any problem sitting in a delegation which included Xanana Gusmao?
[A] No problem. I am ready to talk with all Timorese, no problem.
[Q] You have been quoted recently as saying Indonesia should seek a dialogue with the Timorese to find a solution to the East Timor issue with neither victor nor vanquished. What do you mean by that?
[A] This is the only way to solve peacefully and democratically the solution for East Timor, so it's necessary to have dialogue with the East Timorese.
[Q] On the issue of an internationally supervised referendum to decide the fate of the territory, as demanded by the East Timorese resistance movement, Bishop Belo says ultimately such a vote will be necessary if the East Timor problem is ever to be solved, but an acceptable timetable for any possible move along these lines is still being debated within the East Timorese community. But optimism that there will be any real change in Indonesia's attitude towards its troublesome acquisition has been dampened this week by President Habibie's ambassador at large on the East Timor issue, who suggested that whoever was president, the policy on East Timor would remain the same. Rejecting that statement as very bad politics, Bishop Belo remains extremely cautious about the future despite last month's dramatic upheavals.
[A] Suharto stepped down but the old structure is still there. The army, the Golkar, these people who like promotions. They are still there. So since there is not any kind of reform about these two main structures, maybe we don't have a good solution for East Timor.
[Fayle, to Belo] When you go to Jakarta and you are able to meet President Habibie, what message will you be taking with you? [A] What I said to you today, to withdraw the armed forces here, to release the Timorese political prisoners and to talk with the Timorese.
[Peter Mares] The Australian government says it believes the new administration in Jakarta now has a good opportunity to lighten Indonesia's rule in East Timor. Responding to our interview with Bishop Belo, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia had long advocated that Indonesia reduce its military presence in the province, devolve more administrative responsibility and recognize the cultural distinctiveness of the East Timorese. He says both Coalition and Labor governments in Australia have recognized Indonesia's sovereignty over East Timor, but this in no way indicates approval for the manner of its incorporation. On the fate of Xanana Gusmao, Mr Downer says the release of the resistance leader is a matter for the Indonesian government.