Subject: IO: Komnas HAM proposes peace commission  
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

12th February 1999 Front Page January 2000 set as deadline for Timor

JAKARTA (IO) — President BJ Habibie stated yesterday he wanted the issue of East Timor to be resolved by the start of next year, while the National Human Rights Commission added that whatever happens in East Timor there should be no human rights violations.

"From January 1, 2000, the East Timor question should be resolved. We don’t want to be burdened with the East Timor problem. We will concentrate on other 26 provinces," President Habibie told the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) executives at the Merdeka Palace here.

He was accompanied by Minister/State Secretary Akbar Tanjung during the meeting. "The East Timorese should choose. And as a friend, we will let them decide by themselves and we will say good bye if they decide on separation from Indonesia", President Habibie added.

In a surprise announcement last month, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas reversed Indonesia’s long held stand on East Timor, saying if the wide-ranging autonomy for the region is rejected, Indonesia would offer independence to East Timor’s 800,000 population.

President Habibie’ s comments come one day after he allowed East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao to move from prison to house arrest.

Meanwhile the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) in a meeting with President Habibie proposed the setting up of a peace commission tasked with facilitating dialog between all elements in East Timor, and preventing bloodshed prior to independence should the option be chosen.

The region saw bloody civil war in which thousands of people were killed when Portugal abruptly left its former colony in 1975 after some 400 years of colonization.

"The proposed peace commission will consist of public figures, both pro and anti integration, local administration, youth, religious leaders, the military and other groups leaders", Komnas HAM Secretary General Clementino Dos Reis Amaral told the press after the meeting with President Habibie.

Xanana Gusmao and Ramos Horta have been asked to join the commission, Amaral added.

"I believe Xanana and Horta would join the group because I have contacted them several times before", Amaral, himself an East Timorese, said in response to a question from the press.

On the region’s participation at the next elections, President Habibie said East Timor would still participate.

"They are still a province of Indonesia, and they can join the election. That is democratic. But if our autonomy proposal is rejected, we will propose to the MPR that independence be granted," he said.

The MPR, or People’s Consultative Assembly, is the country’s highest legislative assembly.

Some analysts say Gusmao and the territory’s religious leader Bishop Carlos Belo are the only East Timorese who have the credibility to lead the territory into independence.

Talks in New York earlier this week between Indonesia and Portugal on the future of East Timor made some progress though it remains unclear how the Timorese will be allowed to make their choice.

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