Subject: RT: Belo urges ET disarmament
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 21:36:11 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Nobel laureate Belo urges East Timor disarmament 01:57 a.m. Feb 23, 1999 Eastern

By Paul Tait

SYDNEY, Feb 23 (Reuters) - East Timorese Nobel Peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo said on Tuesday total disarmament on both sides was the only way to avoid a possible civil war as the troubled province moves towards independence.

Tension has risen steadily in East Timor since Indonesia announced last month it might give the province independence if a proposal on special autonomy was rejected by the Timorese people.

``Now, in my opinion, the most important thing to do is to disarm -- all sides, both sides, pro-independence groups and pro-integration paramilitary East Timorese,'' Belo said.

``Through the process of reconciliation between the opposite sides...it might be ended,'' Belo told a Catholic charity lunch at the New South Wales state parliament.

Belo's call for both sides to disarm echoed a similar willingness expressed by rebel leader Xanana Gusmao, whom Indonesia moved from prison to house arrest two weeks ago.

Belo said he was concerned that supporters of continued Indonesian rule and the Indonesian military stationed in the province would resist the independence movement.

``From the other side, on the ground, elements of the Indonesian military are arming East Timorese collaborators who are in a state of near panic over the prospect of an Indonesian withdrawal from the territory,'' Belo said.

Belo said Gusmao had been playing a key negotiating role since his move to house arrest.

Gusmao had been held in Jakarta's Cipinang jail since his capture in 1992, when he was sentenced to a 20-year jail term for leading a fight against the government.

Indonesian television reported on Monday that the 1996 Nobel laureate had said Gusmao should be allowed to go to East Timor to calm tensions, meet influential groups there and foster discipline and mutual respect.

Gusmao on Monday urged Indonesian President B.J. Habibie to put pressure on the armed forces to stop distributing weapons to civilian militias.

Belo called on Australia, Indonesia and East Timor's neighbour, for help in avoiding further violence in the territory and a descent into civil war.

``May I appeal for the Australian government and the public to support how to disarm these people in order to avoid a possible civil war,'' he said.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the province a year later in a move never recognised by the United Nations. Australia is the only Western nation to recognise the annexation.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Monday that East Timor would be his country's top foreign policy issue for the next two years. Australia has urged a period of autonomy for East Timor under Indonesia before full independence.

Back to February Menu
Main Postings Menu

Postings of Human Rights Violations in Timor