Subject: Jakarta to open representative office in E. Timor

Straits Times February 27, 2000

Jakarta to open office in E. Timor


It will help develop trade ties between Dili and Jakarta

JAKARTA -- Nearly five months after the last Indonesian soldier withdrew from East Timor, President Abdurrahman Wahid said yesterday that he would open an Indonesian representative office there when he visits this week.

Mr Abdurrahman said the purpose of the office would be to bolster relations between Dili and Jakarta and to develop trade ties.

"All kinds of efforts that can be made by Indonesia to help the East Timorese to set up a state will be given," he said.

Indonesia withdrew from the territory last year after the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a United Nations-sponsored ballot.

Following the vote, militias went on a violent rampage, murdering hundreds of people and destroying most of the territory's buildings and other infrastructure.

The last Indonesian soldier left East Timor in October, after an Australian-led multi-national force landed in the territory and restored peace and security.

Mr Abdurrahman, scheduled to visit Dili on Tuesday , also said he wanted to improve cooperation on the border between East Timor and Indonesian West Timor.

"The East Timorese people would like to buy food and to trade for things with their Indonesian counterparts," he said. "This I would like to facilitate."

Meanwhile in Singapore, two pro-independence East Timorese groups huddled yesterday ahead of discussions with pro-Jakarta militias aimed at reconciliation.

Officials from the Falintil pro-independence guerilla group and the National Council for East Timor Resistance met as part of a conference organised by Sweden's Uppsala University.

But officials would not say what was discussed.

The two groups, along with officials from the pro-Jakarta Aitarak militia, will attend the conference today. Reconciliation between pro- and anti-independence fighters, the repatriation of East Timorese living in West Timor and the return of militia members to East Timor are on the agenda.

More than 100,000 people are still living as refugees in Indonesia-ruled West Timor where they fled during the campaign of violence.

Mr Eurico Gutteres and Mr Joao Tavares of Aitarak were expected to arrive in Singapore yesterday. Mr Gutteres and six other militia commanders were named by a Jakarta-appointed human rights investigation as being partly responsible for the violence.

The Indonesian government has given the refugees until March 31 to decide whether to remain in Indonesia or return to East Timor, now administered by the UN. -- AP

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