|Subject: AFP - Amien Rais supports East Timor
Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 11:48:45 -0000
From: "Paula" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo:
Indonesian reformist leader supports East Timor referendum
JAKARTA, Jan 31 (AFP) - Popular Indonesian reformist politician Amien Rais on Sunday said he supported a referendum on self-determination for the troubled territory of East Timor.
"The only way to settle the East Timor issue is a referendum," Rais told some 40,000 supporters during a rally at a sports stadium here for his People's Mandate Party (PAN).
"But of course it cannot be done this month. It will take two or three years before East Timorese are ready," he added.
On Saturday two leading opposition figures, whose parties along with the PAN stand a good chance in the June general elections, said they opposed independence for East Timor.
Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party and daughter of former president Sukarno, and Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, the chairman of the 40-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama Moslem organization and backer of the National Awakening Party, said it should stay part of Indonesia.
Rais's comments came as a separatist group in the former Portuguese colony called for mass rallies in the East Timorese capital Dili in support of outright independence, according to a report Sunday.
Members of the National Front for the Defenders of Independence of the Timor Leste Nation had been handing out leaflets in Dili calling for peaceful rallies since Friday, the Antara news agency said.
Residents in Dili contacted Sunday said there had been no rallies so far and that the city was calm.
Jakarta on Wednesday proposed independence for East Timor, which it invaded in 1975 and annexed a year later in a move never recognised by the United Nations, if its offer of wide-ranging autonomy is turned down by a majority.
The leaflets also carried slogans in support of jailed rebel leader Xanana Gusmao, tipped by many to be the president of any future East Timorese state.
The government also announced in response to demands from UN chief Kofi Annan that it would move Xanana from a Jakarta jail to house arrest to serve the remaining 14 years of his 20-year sentence.
On Saturday, thousands of people took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Santa Cruz ceremony in Dili to commemorate a massacre of East Timorese in November 1991 when Indonesian soldiers opened fire on a peaceful protest.