Subject: Ramos-Horta to announce plans to end E. Timor military crisis

Ramos-Horta to announce plans to end E. Timor military crisis

By Antonio Mali

JAKARTA, June 6 (Kyodo News) -- East Timor's newly elected President Jose Ramos-Horta said he will announce a proposal next month in order to put an end to violence stemming from divisions in the troubled country's security forces.

In an interview with Kyodo News on Tuesday in Jakarta, the 1996 Nobel peace prize laureate said he has drafted ''a constructive proposal'' to establish a dialogue between the defense force and 600 soldiers sacked in March last year by then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

The sacking of the rebellious soldiers, known as ''petitioners,'' triggered violence in East Timor that claimed at least 37 lives.

Ramos-Horta declined to elaborate on the proposed plan but said it was accepted by both sides and supported by the church, stressing the defense force is ready to engage in dialogue with the petitioners.

''All I can say is that my ideas are generally well-accepted and I have the trust of the petitioners. They trust me. And I have the trust of the defense force,'' Ramos-Horta said.

Ramos-Horta, in Jakarta for a three-day visit from Monday, said there is a possibility that the petitioners will regain their status as soldiers.

''That's one of possibilities, but not as a group. The petitioners are not an alternative army, they are individuals. And individually, if they want to go back to the army, they have to reapply,'' he explained.

In regards to Alfredo Reinado, a fugitive army renegade, Ramos-Horta said Reinado has agreed to surrender to the authorities with his men and weapons.

''We have accepted that the church will make contact with him to arrange for him to surrender,'' he said.

Reinado, who is being hunted by Australian forces, sent through his lawyer a letter to the president, stating his willingness to surrender under the conditions that the state must decide to end the operations against him, a demand that was also made by the petitioners.

Alkatiri was forced to resign following violence that erupted after the soldiers were sacked. Order was only restored after international troops and police were redeployed to the half-island country that shares a land border with Indonesia's West Timor.

Also in the interview, Ramos-Horta elaborated on his plan to make Indonesia's national language, Bahasa Indonesian, East Timor's working language and possible official language in the future.

''Well, 30 to 40 percent of the population speaks Indonesian. Thirty to 40 percent is a very significant percentage. It is an absurdity that a language that is spoken by such a large percentage of population is not more encouraged in use,'' he said.

At his swearing-in ceremony last month, Ramos-Horta delivered a speech in four languages -- East Timor's national language Tetum, Portuguese, English and Indonesian.

He said he used Indonesian ''to signal to everyone that I intend to push for greater use of Bahasa Indonesian in public administration.''

Although most East Timorese currently use Tetum or Portuguese, he said they should use Bahasa Indonesian in official communications. ''Slowly, gradually, I will push for it to be used more and more,'' he said.

''I just believe that Bahasa Indonesian and English are a priority for us to promote for the sake of the future of the country,'' he added.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1974 and annexed it the following year after it had been under Portuguese colonial rule for about 400 years. It officially gained independence in 2002 after two-and-a-half years under U.N. administration following a vote for independence in 1999.

---------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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