Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 17:01:58 -0000
From: "Paula Pinto" <>

Wednesday, January 27, 1999



Jakarta, Jan 27 (ANTARA) - If the East Timorese people reject the Indonesian government's wide autonomy proposal, it will ask the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) session later this year to consider letting East Timor secede, a government spokesman said here Wednesday.

The idea to refer the East Timor question to the MPR in case the wide autonomy offer failed to carry the East Timorese people's favour was approved at a limited cabinet meeting led by President BJ Habibie, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas told the press following the five-hour meeting.

According to the government's political agenda, the next MPR general session will take place shortly after a general election next June. The MPR is Indonesia's supreme policy- and law-making body.

The next MPR session had the power to decide whether or not East Timor should remain part of the Republic of Indonesia, Alatas said.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Yunus Yosfiah said on the same occasion, the governement was planning to move jailed East Timorese Fretilin leader Xanana Gusmao from the Cipinang state penitentiary to a special prison. The measure would be in response to a request by UN Secretary General that Xanana be allowed to serve his sentence in a house.

Xanana would be moved to a special prison because under Indonesian law, someone sentenced to a jail term cannot be put under house arrest, Yunus said.

Response to Howard's Letter Alatas explained, the government's new approach to the East Timor issue stemmed from President BJ Habibie's response to , amongst others, a letter from Australian Prime Minister John Howard and based on "various inputs and considerations." Indonesia's proposal to grant wide autonomy to East Timor as the final solution to the long-standing East Timor issue was currently being discussed with the UN Secretary General and Portugal and was also to be presented to East Timor community figures, he said.

But if Indonesia's offer eventually proved to be unacceptable to the East Timorese, an alternative course of action open to the Indonesian government was to propose to the Indonesian people's representatives in the MPR "to let East Timor detach itself from Indonesia in a civil and honorable manner," he said.

"In other words, in case the current talks end in deadlock, and if 22 years of being part of Indonesia has not made them want to remain within the fold , it would be only fair, wise , democratic and constitutional to propose to the Indonesian people's representatives to be elected in the forthcoming general election to let East Timor secede in an honorable and civil manner," Alatas said.

But although Wednesday's cabinet session had decided to pursue the option, it did not necessarily mean that "things will actually evolve in that direction." "The cabinet's decision was only an option,a choice," he said.

"We will continue to negotiate on the basis of our wide autonomy proposal because we are convinced it is the most realistic, just , practical and most peace-guaranteeing solution to the East Timor question," the foreign minister said.

Referendum unacceptable The minister said Indonesia could not accept the proposal that after enjoying wide autonomy after five or 10 years, the East Timorese should be allowed to hold a referendum or ,as forwarded by Australia, to exercise something like the right of self-determination.

Indonesia was certain that if the referedum was held after five or ten years of wide autonomy, the different acivist groups in East Timor would eventually fight among themselves. "In the fifth year of the wide autonomy period, they will each jockey for power to win the referendum," he said.

"A referendum will thus not be the best solution because it could again trigger a conflict among the East Timorese , a civil war like the one that once raged in the province," he said.

If developments eventually did lead to East Timor's secession, the Indonesian government would not shirk its responsibility for those East Timorese people who once fought for integration with Indonesia and were living either in or outside East Timor.

The Indonesian government would be morally, legally and politically duty-bound to ensure that they are not left to their own fate. If they choose to remain Indonesian citizens, their safety and livelihood would be guaranteed . But if they wished to live in East Timor , they would be free to do so while the Indonesian government would ask the UN to take care of their safety, Alatas said.(T.PU05/OK03/KH1/EN01/INT-AJM-22:00/ri2/22:39) 2701992241

Modified Time: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 22:40:36 +0700 Copyright © 1998 : LKBN ANTARA & RADNET

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