Subject: Xanana welcomes Alatas statement on E Timor
From: tapol@gn.apc.org (TAPOL) (by way of "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>)

Java Pos and Media Indonesia, 30 January 1999 Abridged

The East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao welcomes the statement made by foreign Minister Ali Alatas on behalf of the Indonesian Government to seek a solution for East Timor to leave Indonesia. 'I very much hope that the proposal made by the Habibie Government can be speedily realised,' he told a press conference held in Cipinang Prison and attended by scores of journalists from home and abroad.

If East Timor separates from Indonesia, would he become the president, he was asked. He did not reply, but smiled and said the important thing at present was not whether he became president. 'The much more serious thing is preparing East Timor to advance towards independence.'

This was why he hoped that the government's statement expressing its readiness to let go of East Timor would quickly be realised. This was the best option for Timor, he said.

Even so, he said that for East Timor to become a separate state, a transitional period or preparatory period would be necessary. After this period has expired, there should be a referendum to determine the wishes of the people. 'The referendum would clearly take us in the direction of independence.

During the press conference, Xanana was accompanied by his legal team, Jhonson Panjaitan and Hendardi.

He went on to say that it would be necessary to draft a programme for Timor's future, covering the economy, the political system and the infra-structure. 'We must start preparing for this now,' he said.

He said he hoped that the Indonesian government, the Portuguese government and other countries would assist East Timor in becoming a separate state by peaceful means, without causing disturbances or still worse, a civil war. 'We very much hope that (these foreign governments and Indonesia) will help and to maintain good relations with East Timor,' he said.

He also spoke about the possibility of his being moved to a special detention place outside Cipinang Prison. The question is currently under discussion between his legal representatives and the government. Jhonson Panjaitan said that he would have to be given better facilities that what he now has. The purpose was to enable him to help achieve a peaceful settlement to the East Timor question, the lawyer said.

He would be able to meet anyone, national figures, state dignitaries, or ambassadors. 'Xanana is one of the keys to seeking a peaceful solution for East Timor,' said Panjaitan. 'He can exert great influence on the East Timorese population and on the international community,' he said.

He denied that Timor would become communist, and said that the outlook for the country, as Xanana had said was democratisation, upholding human rights and people's sovereignty.

Asked whether he would be able to unite the pro and anti integration forces in East Timor, Xanana said that he felt optimistic that the process of transforming East Timor into an independent country would tame place without the spilling of blood between East Timorese.

The chief of the Prisons Department who also attended the press conference said in response to a question that it was not yet clear when Xanana would leave Cipinang Prison because the decision of the Justice Minister has not yet been issued, but a place was being found for Xanana either in Jakarta or Bandung. He said that Xanana's status would still be that of a prisoner but he would be granted special facilities, more space to live and to receive visitors, relatives and friends. He would remain under guard and relatives would not be permitted to stay overnight.

Hendardi, one of his legal representatives, said that he would continue to press for his client to be released unconditionally.


TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: tapol@gn.apc.org Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

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