Subject: SMH: Let's be friends: East Timor invites Megawati to party

Also: RT: E.Timor asks Indonesian leader to independence bash

Sydney Morning Herald February 26, 2002

Let's be friends: East Timor invites Megawati to party

By Lindsay Murdoch, Herald Correspondent in Bali

East Timor invited Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri yesterday to attend its independence celebrations, signalling a desire to bury the hatchet with its giant neighbour.

The Chief Minister, Mari Alkatiri, told a high-level meeting of officials in Bali that East Timor, poised to become the world's newest country in May, wanted to develop a "special and very important relationship with Indonesia".

Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda, also made clear that his country did not want to dwell on the past, saying the landmark talks would "take up matters relating to the future".

Ms Megawati's acceptance of the invitation would be controversial among Indonesia's political elite, where there is lingering animosity over the loss in 1999 of what Indonesia claimed as its 27th province.

Ms Megawati, the daughter of Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno, is a staunch nationalist who strongly opposed a decision by then president B.J. Habibie to allow the United Nations to conduct a referendum on independence.

More than 25 world leaders, including Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, are expected to attend celebrations in the East Timorese capital, Dili, where a new government will take control of the UN-administered territory at midnight on May 20.

The head of the UN in East Timor, Sergio Viera de Mello, yesterday reinforced Mr Alkatiri's invitation to Ms Megawati, saying nothing would be a more "eloquent illustration" of how far relations between the two countries had advanced.

Serious issues remain unresolved between the two countries, including Indonesian claims to assets in East Timor, the return of Timorese artefacts, access to Timorese archives held in Indonesia and the payment of Indonesian pensions to former civil servants.

Mr Alkatiri said resolution of boundary issues were of crucial importance to "avoid further disputes".

Sea boundaries between Australia, East Timor and Indonesia are expected to be discussed at a meeting of foreign ministers and officials from the three countries in Bali today.

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

E.Timor asks Indonesian leader to independence bash

By Joanne Collins

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Feb 25 (Reuters) - East Timor urged Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri on Monday to attend its independence day celebrations to help heal the wounds of the tiny territory's violent transition to statehood.

East Timor, now under U.N. administration, is struggling to recover from a wave of destruction and bloodshed by pro-Indonesia militias triggered by an overwhelming vote to break from 24 years of Indonesian rule in August 1999.

But the reconciliation process, after almost a quarter of a century of often brutal Indonesian rule, has been slow and marred by lenient court rulings handed down to those behind the poll violence.

There is some speculation that staunchly nationalistic Megawati might snub the independence celebrations in May to which more than 185 heads of state have been invited.

"We would like to reiterate the secretary-general's invitation to your president, her excellency Megawati Sukarnoputri, to attend the independence day celebrations," head of the U.N. mission in East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said at the opening of high-level talks between Indonesia and East Timor.

"Nothing would be a more eloquent illustration of how far relations have come."

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told Reuters Megawati had not yet decided whether to attend the event.

"It is still being considered by the president and I hope it will eventually be a positive decision made on this issue, but we'll see," Wirajuda said on the sidelines of the talks.

On May 20, at one second past midnight, East Timor will officially become the first new nation of the millennium.

Dozens of delegates have gathered on the Indonesian resort island of Bali for talks aimed at resolving a number of issues from rupiah currency repatriation and postal links between East and West Timor to border-related affairs.

The reconciliation process will also be on the agenda and will likely include Indonesia's refusal to extradite 17 members of the military and militia gangs recently charged by international prosecutors in East Timor for crimes against humanity.

Wirajuda said Jakarta had not yet made any decision on whether to hand over the suspects, adding he did not want future relations with its former province to dwell on the past.

"We have bilateral, legal cooperation but not to the extent (on extradition)...," he told Reuters.

"Our meeting today should not be preoccupied with issues of the past but take up matters for the future. It is in this context we would like to see the reconciliation process with East Timor be further enhanced."

Australia is scheduled to join the talks on Tuesday. These discussions will be followed on Wednesday by a ministerial-level conference on transnational crime focusing on people smuggling and the war on terror.

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