Subject: JP: Postponement of Gusmao's visit affects Indon diplomacy

The Jakarta Post May 30, 2002

Postponement of Gusmao's visit affects RI diplomacy

Kurniawan Hari and Annastashya Emmanuelle, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakarta's decision to postpone the planned visit of East Timor President Xanana Gusmao has indicated that there are still many narrow-minded Indonesian leaders who cannot accept the secession of the former 27th province.

Analyst on international affairs Soedjati Djiwandono said the move could affect the country's image in international diplomacy.

"I think it does not benefit our diplomacy," Soedjati told The Jakarta Post last night, adding that the move was a reflection of the narrow-mindedness of many leaders.

Legislator Djoko Susilo of House Commission I for foreign affairs thought the delay had been caused due to the lack of a blueprint on the part of the government concerning Indonesia-East Timor relations.

The postponement was announced on Tuesday by foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa, who said that Jakarta needed more time to make preparations and would seek a more suitable time.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received notification from East Timor on May 22 -- only two days after Dili's independence celebration -- of the request for an official visit of Gusmao to President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Gusmao was slated to arrive in Jakarta on Wednesday, May 29, for a two-day visit.

Soedjati said the request was a sign of good will from Gusmao to create neighborly relations.

Instead of considering the new state as an "enemy", Indonesia should cooperate with the UN, Portugal and Australia to help East Timor, he said.

"I think the international community will link it (the postponement) to many objections in the past to Megawati's visit to East Timor," Soedjati added.

Soedjati suggested that the postponement had been made in response to domestic pressure.

Separately, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda insisted that the postponement was due to scheduling technicalities and was not linked to House members signing a petition to summon Megawati over her East Timor visit.

"We appreciate president Xanana Gusmao's intention to prioritize his visit to Indonesia, but this (the postponement) is purely a matter of scheduling," Hassan told reporters.

Indonesia envisaged the possibility of rearranging Gusmao's visit after President Megawati had returned from her trip to Europe later this month, he said.

East Timor officially gained independence on the eve of May 20 at a modest ceremony led by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Gusmao was sworn in as the president of a nation that has a population of about 750,000 people.

At a hearing with House Commission 1, Hassan said that the country would build good relations with the new state of East Timor.

He emphasized that relations with East Timor would be put within a regional context, therefore involving the West and Southwest Pacific countries.


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