Subject: Age: Indonesia's dilemma over East Timor

Also: Indonesia's dilemma over East Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Megawati urged to attend East Timor independence celebration

JAKARTA, April 12 (AFP) - Several Indonesian diplomats are urging President Megawati Sukarnoputri to attend independence day celebrations next month in Jakarta's former province of East Timor, a report said Friday.

"The Indonesian representatives in New York, Lisbon and Dili have agreed to suggest that President Megawati attend the May 20 (declaration)," the representative in East Timor's capital Dili, Kristio Wahyono, was quoted by Antara news agency as saying.

Megawati has stayed silent on whether she will go. A foreign ministry spokesman said Friday he had no information.

The United Nations has run the territory since October 1999, two months after its vote to break away from Indonesia triggered a bloody and destructive backlash by Jakarta-backed militias.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will proclaim independence at midnight on May 20 and representatives of more than 45 nations are expected to attend.

East Timor's leaders in February urged Megawati to attend as a mark of reconciliation after their tragic quarter-century relationship.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in December 1975. Between 100,000 and 200,000 East Timorese are estimated to have died in the early years of the occupation, many from starvation or disease, amid a protracted guerrilla war against Jakarta's forces.

The territory's separation from Indonesia was also bloody: before and after the independence vote, pro-Jakarta militias killed between 600 and 2,000 people, burned towns to the ground, and forced or led more than a quarter of a million people into Indonesian-ruled West Timor.

In March the Indonesian parliament's foreign affairs commission urged Megawati to boycott the event. Its leader Ibrahim Ambong said her presence "will only worsen the yet unhealed wounds of East Timorese refugees here."

The Age [Australia] April 10, 2002

Indonesia's dilemma over East Timor

By Tony Parkinson

Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid is planning to attend East Timor's independence celebrations next month, amid increasing doubts that his successor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, will accept her invitation to witness the emergence of the world's newest state.

Close friends of Mr Wahid say the logistics of his attendance at the ceremonies in Dili have still to be worked through, but they believe his presence could be an important symbolic gesture.

The leaders of 25 nations are scheduled to fly into East Timor for the festivities on May 20.

In Indonesia, there is political controversy over whether Mrs Megawati, as head of state, should take up her invitation.

Despite overtures from the new East Timor administration to bury old animosities, there is lingering resentment among hardliners in Jakarta over the loss of what Indonesia once called its 27th province.

Is is expected Mrs Megawati may send one of her cabinet ministers.

But it is understood Mr Wahid, a respected figure in East Timor, is interested in taking part.

Known popularly as Gus Dur, he made an historic visit to Dili in March, 2000, where, as president, he apologised for Indonesia's conduct during its 24-year occupation of the territory.

He has travelled extensively since being deposed as president in July last year. Although frail and blind, he has just completed a tour of Japan, and is due to arrive in Australia tomorrow, his first trip here since his successful visit as president a year ago.

He will spend Thursday in Melbourne, where he is to launch two books, one studying his career as Indonesia's leading Islamic scholar and democratic reformer, and the other examining his turbulent days in power.

At Melbourne University's Asia Centre, he will take part in a panel session with his former chief spokesman, Wimar Witoelar, and official biographer, Deakin University's Greg Barton.

He will then fly to Sydney on Friday to speak at the Foreign Correspondents Club.

An Indonesian court decided yesterday to proceed with a landmark trial into the orgy of violence surrounding East Timor's independence ballot in 1999, dismissing appeals from four defendants to drop the case.

The trial is widely seen by the international community as a test of whether Jakarta is serious about bringing to book those responsible for the carnage that erupted when the tiny territory voted to split from Indonesia.

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