Subject: Transcript: Ramos-Horta discusses Wahid's visit

Newsgroups: reg.easttimor

Subject: Transcript: Ramos-Horta discusses Wahid's visit

Australian Broadcasting Corporation 7:30 PM News with Kerry O'BrienTranscript Feb 29, 2000

Ramos Horta welcomes Indonesian President's visit

KERRY O'BRIEN: As historic moments go, this one was a long time coming, with a lot of bloodshed along the way, but Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid's visit to East Timor today was full of hope and symbolism.

The landmark trip to the battered fledgling country comes as many of the Indonesian military leaders responsible for the scorched earth policy in East Timor are contemplating an end to their careers and, in some cases, charges of human rights violations.

While there was some anger directed at President Wahid in Dili today, the overwhelming mood was positive and forgiving.

Earlier tonight, just after the President's departure, I spoke with senior East Timorese independence movement official Jose Ramos Horta.

Jose Ramos Horta, how do you interpret the East Timorese welcome or reaction for President Wahid's visit today?

JOSE RAMOS HORTA, EAST TIMORESE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT: Well, 99 per cent of the people who came to the streets warmly welcomed the President.

We welcome Gus Dur, first, as a friend, a symbol of democracy, of courage, of dignity, a symbol of hope for Indonesia and for East Timor and we also welcome him as President of new Indonesia.

There was a minor incident, but that's part of the democratic process.

We handled it and it didn't last a few minutes.

Other than that, the visit itself is highly symbolic that Gus Dur, the President of Indonesia, is in East Timor after 24 years of war, of violence.

For both sides -- for the Indonesian side and for the Timorese side -- I believe we would say, I would dare to say, it was a tribute to the statesmanship of Gus Dur and a tribute to the statesmanship of Xanana Gusmao that so soon after the violence we are able to meet and Gus Dur be received so warmly by our people.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You say' courage'.

Why did it take courage for President Wahid to come?

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: Well, because the wounds of the war are still so fresh, the destruction is still there around us.

It is just exceptional, it's just outstanding that the leaders of the two countries, so soon after this devastating war, have the courage to meet halfway.

First, we went to Indonesia in November, to meet with Gus Dur and he reciprocate by coming here now in February.

This is just a remarkable achievement of the two sides.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And what message do you think he is sending to his own military by coming today?

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: As far as Indonesia is concerned, I believe that President Wahid will make sure that the militias in West Timor must cease to use Indonesian territory as a haven, as a jumping ground to destabilise East Timor.

Because this runs counter to Wahid's policies, to Indonesia's policies.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Do you think President Wahid is responsive to that?

Did he acknowledge today that he is responsive to that?

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: Yes, he acknowledges that.

He said he will call on the military to do their best, to continue to do their best, to stop the militias from destabilising East Timor, from carrying out attacks into East Timor.

No civilised country -- and particularly a country like Indonesia that one is a responsible party in this region -- can allow its territory to be the staging ground for an armed group to destabilise an a neighbour.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But has he also promised to assist in every way in the return of East Timorese who were forcibly removed from your country after the vote for independence?

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: Yes, he has given the pledge in meetings with Xanana Gusmao, as he did before.

We are working together with the Indonesian Government to explain to our people -- those who are afraid in returning -- that they can return safely, including those who collaborate with Indonesia.

Those thousands who might have voted for autonomy of Indonesia, those militias who collaborated with the Indonesian Army, that they are safe to return.

There are no reprisals against any of them.

This is their country, that's where they belong and all of us -- the resistance, the pro-autonomy -- we must walk halfway, bury the past, consolidate peace and rebuild this country.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And in the world of realpolitik, do you think that the people of East Timor -- those who have suffered personally or through the loss of relatives, in some instances, in the most brutal way -- understand that President Wahid has already, even before General Wiranto and other military leaders come to trial, potentially, for alleged violations of human rights and for war crimes -- that he has already indicated that he would pardon General Wiranto if he is found guilty of war crimes in East Timor?

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: The fact that thousands of our people went to the streets to welcome Wahid is very revealing of the determination, the maturity of our people in rebuilding relations with Indonesia.

And the same time, the fact that the President of Indonesia, our guest, is Gus Dur, make all the difference.

If it were any other president -- I don't know who -- if it were not Gus Dur, it would be much more difficult.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Jose Ramos Horta, thank you for talking with us.


KERRY O'BRIEN: In all the circumstances, remarkable expressions of hope for the future.

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