Subject: Freedom option decided democratically: Alatas

Indonesian Observer 6th January 2000

Freedom option decided democratically: Alatas

JAKARTA (IO) ó Former foreign affairs minister Ali Alatas said yesterday he had rejected an independence option offered for East Timor by then-President B.J. Habibie.

Alatas said the option was taken after having been discussed by all of the cabinet members, without him.

He added that the second option was discussed by the Habibie cabinet when he was in New York to negotiate the first option of wider autonomy for East Timor.

"The second option was decided democratically. At first I objected to it, but unfortunately my argument was rejected by the then president on grounds of logic, so I had to accept the majority decision to offer the independence option," he recalled.

Alatas was speaking to reporters in Jakarta after giving a testimony to the Commission of Inquiry for Human Rights Abuses (KPP HAM) in East Timor.

The former minister also denied claims that the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) didnít know that the UN-sponsored plebiscite result announcement was brought forward from September 7 to September 4.

The TNI, with other related institutions responsible for vote counting, coordinated their efforts ahead of the announcement, Alatas said.

He was responding to a statement by ex-East Timor martial law administrator Major General Kiki Syahnakri that the military was not aware of the speeding up of the ballot result announcement, which was followed by mayhem in East Timor

"That doesnít make sense," Alatas said.

"P3TT [the government task force responsible for the East Timor ballot] always communicated and coordinated with KPS [the Peace and Stability Commission], TNI and Police chiefs, on the latest developments in East Timor. So I think this decision had been thoroughly discussed by officers in Dili and Jakarta. I assumed all of them knew that. This was not a sudden decision," he said.

Syahnakri, after being questioned by KPP HAM, said that not knowing of the new result date meant that his troops were late arriving in East Timor to assist the police in anticipating the post-ballot riots, which had already been predicted.

He said that his troops were on their way to the strife torn territory when the atrocities occurred.

Alatas, during his evening visit to KPP HAM, was accompanied by former justice minister Muladi, who is also a member of the TNI advocates team.

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