Subject: IHT: Indonesia Shift Brings Risks for East Timor


The International Herald Tribune July 25, 2001 Wednesday

Indonesia Shift Brings Risks for East Timor Michael Richardson


East Timor, which is moving to full independence next year after a violent separation from Indonesia, could again face hostility and military harassment from its former ruler under the nationalist presidency of Megawati Sukarnoputri, some analysts and diplomats warned Tuesday.

"Megawati has close ties to the Indonesian military and has repeatedly expressed her disagreement with the process that led to East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence in 1999," said John Miller, speaking for the East Timor Action Network, a nongovernment organization based in New York that has close ties with pro-independence leaders in the former Indonesian territory.

East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia in a plebiscite organized by the United Nations. In reprisal, hardline elements in the Indonesian military and Timor -based militias that they supported unleashed a wave of violence and destruction in the territory, forcing tens of thousands of East Timorese to leave with them for the adjacent Indonesian province of West Timor and making it much more difficult for East Timor to achieve viable independence.

Mr. Miller said Mrs. Megawati's political party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, includes a notorious East Timorese militia chief, Eurico Guterres, as a leader of its youth wing.

"A recent meeting of the party also included representatives from East Timor, indicating the party did not recognize East Timor as a country separate from Indonesia," Mr. Miller said.

In Jakarta, a Western diplomat who asked not to be identified said that many countries would be watching Mrs. Megawati's approach to East Timor closely as a key sign of whether she would pursue a moderate foreign policy or one similar to that of her father, Sukarno, who was Indonesia's first president. He sought to divert attention from economic chaos at home in the 1960s by stirring up nationalist fervor and confronting neighboring countries.

Still, two of East Timor's most prominent independence leaders, Xanana Gusmao, who is widely expected to become the country's first president, and Jose Ramos-Horta, the foreign envoy of East Timor's interim administration, issued a joint statement late on Monday in which they congratulated Mrs. Megawati on being elected president by Indonesia's top legislature in place of Abdurrahman Wahid.

Although the two East Timorese leaders described Mrs. Megawati as "a friend of East Timor, " they said they regretted the departure of Mr. Wahid because he had done a lot to repair relations between Indonesia and East Timor.

While East Timor is holding out an olive branch to the Megawati administration and its military backers, UN officials, human rights activists and foreign aid workers are concerned that if the new Indonesian government pursues an irredentist policy it will complicate and possibly delay East Timor's independence.

The territory is in the midst of campaigning for constituent assembly elections on Aug. 30. Apart from drafting a constitution, the assembly is supposed to establish a Parliament and prepare for a presidential election and independence by the beginning of 2002.

Analysts said this timetable could be upset if the Indonesian military and its militia proxies, operating from bases in West Timor, sought to stir up trouble in East Timor in coming weeks.

Mr. Miller said that, in contrast to Mr. Wahid, Mrs. Megawati has refused to meet East Timorese independence leaders or UN officials from East Timor when they visited Jakarta.

"She must act now to dismantle the military-supported militia in West Timor and agree to an international tribunal on East Timor, " Mr. Miller said. "These steps would do a lot to reassure the international community and the people of East Timor that she does not bear ill-will toward Indonesia's neighbor."

The Indonesian military kept the Wahid government from prosecuting any soldiers for excesses in East Timor. Last year a jurists panel of the UN Commission on Human Rights recommended establishing an international human rights tribunal for East Timor. But Indonesia and a number of other countries have blocked such a move as unwarranted intervention in internal affairs.


New York, July 24 (ANTARA) - Some US-based non-governmental human rights organizations have called on newly-elected President Megawati Soekarnoputri to respect human rights in the country and shun military approaches in solving social problems.

In a statement received by ANTARA here Monday, the Indonesian Human Rights Network (IHRN) called on Megawati to use her power to end the tendency among the military and police to resort to violence in the performance of their duties.

The network asked Megawati to put the pursuit of justice and respect for human rights throughout the country on top of her list of priorities.

It also urged Indonesia's first woman president to stop the military's practice of threatening NGOs performing humanitarian missions in Indonesia's strife-town provinces like Aceh and Irian Jaya.

Another NGO, the East Timor Action Network (ETAN), requested President Megawati to pay more attention to the problems resulting from East Timor's sepration from Indonesia, especially the fate of East Timor refugees still living in the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara (West Timor) .

ETAN also urged Megawati to help the efforts of certain international organizations to bring to justice those guilty of human rights abuses in East Timor.

The recently-formed IHRN is a US-policy-focused organization aiming to promote US foreign policy in support of democracy, human rights and rule of law in Indonesia.

ETAN was founded in November 1999 (sic) to support the self-determination of East Timor, a former Indonesian province . It has 28 chapters throughout the US.

Megawati was sworn in by Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) as the country's fifth president on July 23 to replace Abdurrahman Wahid who lost his mandate because of incomptence and alleged involvement in two million-dollar financial scandals.

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