|Subject: USGOV: Stanley Roth April 16 press
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:23:16 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
USIS Singapore <firstname.lastname@example.org> ROTH APRIL 16 MEDIA AVAILABILITY IN INDONESIA
*EPF502 04/16/99 TRANSCRIPT: ROTH APRIL 16 MEDIA AVAILABILITY IN INDONESIA (Peace council, E. Timor autonomy plan encouraging signs) (1480)
Jakarta, Indonesia -- Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Stanley Roth told reporters in an April 16 media availability that his trip to Indonesia was intended primarily to assess the state of preparations for Indonesia's elections June 7 and to obtain an update on the situation in East Timor.
Roth called the recent proposal to set up a broad-based "peace and reconciliation council" in East Timor a positive sign.
"I met earlier today with (East Timorese activist) Xanana Gusmao, who indicated that his organization would participate with such an operation, and he thought it was a positive development," he said. "He also made it clear that he was favoring peace and reconciliation and that he would instruct his commanders once again to cease any military operations."
Roth added that plans for Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas to present an autonomy plan for East Timor to the United Nations and Portugal next week "will be an important step forward on the political side."
Indonesia's plans to hold national elections June 7 are yet another step toward political reform, according to Roth.
"I have been struck by the consensus of everyone I have spoken to that the elections should go forward on June 7," Roth said. Although there remain several technical problems, including arranging for monitoring, "the overwhelming sentiment is that the election preparations are proceeding and that the elections should go forward as scheduled," he said.
Following is the official transcript of Roth's media availability:
Stanley O. Roth Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Media Availability Istana Merdeka Jakarta, Republic of Indonesia April 16, 1999
Assistant Secretary Roth: Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure for me to be back in Indonesia. I am here as part of the series of visits I have been making since assuming the office of assistant secretary. Given the fast pace of developments in this country, I have two primary purposes in coming this time: first, to get an assessment for myself of the preparations for the elections on June 7; and, second, to get an update on the situation in East Timor in light of the many developments that have taken place there recently.
In the three days that I have been here, I have met -- of course, just now -- with President Habibie, with many of the ministers in the cabinet including, of course, Foreign Minister Alatas, Defense Minister Wiranto, and several others. I have had a lot of talks with organizations about NGOs and election-monitoring organizations, about the elections, as well as with the KPU [the election commission], with people involved in the implementation of the elections, the Minister of Home Affairs, and I have been meeting with some of the opposition political parties running in the elections to get their assessments of the elections.
I think first, on the issue of the elections, that I have been struck by the consensus of everyone I have spoken to that the elections should go forward on June 7, that people are competing vigorously, that although there are technical problems still remaining to be worked out, including completing the issuance of regulations, proceeding with voter education, and arranging for monitoring, that nevertheless the overwhelming sentiment is that the election preparations are proceeding and that the elections should go forward as scheduled. I think, it should be feasible to do this.
On the question of East Timor, I think there have been several positive developments since I have been here, one of which, of course, was the announcement that... the proposal that the Human Rights Commission should set up an operation on East Timor, for essentially a peace and reconciliation council which would be very broad based. I met earlier today with Xanana Gusmao, who indicated that his organization would participate with such an operation, and he thought it was a positive development. He also made it clear that he was favoring peace and reconciliation and that he would instruct his commanders once again to cease any military operations. In other words, if there was no state of hostilities that they would participate in the peace and reconciliation process, which I believe is a major step forward and should enable the political process to proceed on the ground. The other development is that, I believe, Foreign Minister Alatas is getting ready to go to New York next week to present an autonomy plan to the United Nations and to Portugal. I think that if this could go ahead as scheduled toward completion, that that will be an important step forward on the political side.
Why don't I stop at that point and take your questions.
Q: As you talked with the ministers and the president, how great is the sense that there is an increasing concern with the Balkanization of Indonesia? That East Timor could be a trigger point for greater demands for autonomy or Balkanization?
Roth: Certainly nothing to that kind of degree of alarm. To be explicit, no minister has raised the phrase "Balkanization," nor was there any reference to Kosovo at any point in my talks. I think what there is is a recognition that how the East Timor situation is resolved does have an effect for the rest of Indonesia. I think that is reflected in the provisions of the autonomy proposals that are being considered -- on which I can't comment since I haven't seen it.
Q: Do you believe that the international community should be more active, proactive, in finding a peaceful solution to the East Timor issue? And if so, what sort of measures should they be taking and which country should be leading them?
Roth: Well, I think it is almost by definition that the international community has been proactive, since the negotiations are headed by the United Nations, which is the cumulative representative of the international community. I think it is widely assumed that if an agreement is reached in New York that the UN will then have the lead role in implementing the consultation process on East Timor, so that the people of East Timor can have a say in determining their fate in the future. So, I think, the international community, by definition, is heavily involved, and will continue to be heavily involved, through the consultation process. Beyond that, I think it is premature to speculate about the exact role for which countries.
Q: What type of information did you receive about the arming of militias in East Timor?
Roth: As you know, it's exceedingly difficult to get direct answers to those questions. What I can say is that I have been told repeatedly by many different officials in the Indonesian Government that it is definitely not the policy of the government to supply troops, to supply equipment -- arms -- to paramilitary groups. They distinguish between the (inaudible) militia, which exists outside of East Timor as well as in East Timor, and the various paramilitary groups about which we've all seen the reports. Nevertheless, the fact remains that many of these paramilitary groups do have arms. And the question is where do they get these arms? The point that I emphasized in my discussions with officials is that Indonesia asserts directly that it has the obligation to provide security to East Timor while it is part of Indonesia. Therefore, part of that obligation is to ensure that paramilitary groups are not allowed to conduct acts of violence, kill or intimidate people. It is their obligation to make sure that this ceases.
Q: Did you get a sense from the president as to whether he recognizes Xanana Gusmao as possibly being an official player in the talks, because you said he is on the panel of the National Commission on Human Rights, but did the president elaborate at all on how he sees Gusmao's role?
Roth: We did not specifically discuss Gusmao's role. I indicated some of the things that Mr. Gusmao had told me today -- things which I specifically asked him if it would be okay to discuss with the president. He said, certainly. So we discussed that, mainly, what I just stated before -- concerning the order not to engage in further hostilities -- but we did not discuss the future role of Mr. Gusmao.
Q: Did you meet with the Portuguese representative here? What exactly did you discuss?
Roth: Not surprisingly, the focus of our conversation was the situation in East Timor, the status of the negotiations on the autonomy agreement, the situation on the ground, the question of what can be done to control violence.
Thank you very much.