|Subject: Ramos Horta Press Conference on UN
Date: Sat, 01 May 1999 08:42:24 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Press conference by José Ramos-Horta, April 23 1999 at UN Correspondents Association, New York, NY
Near verbatim transcript by Charlie Scheiner and John M. Miller, East Timor Action Network/U.S.
I would like to address two issues: 1) the agreement that has been made and 2) the situation on the ground in East Timor.
We certainly welcome the signing of this agreement, hoping by May 5 the two ministers upon returning to New York would finally formally sign the entire package, and immediately after, the UN will begin to deploy its personnel, observers and others, on the ground to begin implementation of the process. We certainly look forward to the date when the people of East Timor finally will be called upon without coercion, without threat, without violence to vote on their future. As you know the issue that will be put before the people of East Timor will be the so-called autonomy proposal put forward by Indonesia. In the last few months, as it has become clear to everybody, particularly the Indonesian side, that the overwhelming majority of the people of East Timor in a fair vote would reject any form of association with Indonesia, and as the Indonesian side realizes also that after all the UN Secretary-General and the rest of the international community were determined to push ahead with a democratic vote, they then set in motion a strategy aimed at derailing the peace process, provoking the resistance into counter-attack, into retaliation, so that they would have an excuse to say there is not going to be consultation because there is violence. They have been talking about the scenario of a civil war. They are doing everything possible to portray the situation in East Timor as one of civil war. As you know, a civil war is when you have two armed sides fighting each other to win the country, as they were in El Salvador and Lebanon, with more or less foreign indirect intervention. In East Timor, the Indonesians seem to want to convince the world community that Indonesian army has not been there for the past 23 years and that the tens of thousands of people killed were not their work.
General Wiranto went to Dili with an extraordinary display of cynicism to broker peace between "warring factions." Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I have dealt with crooks, with manipulators, with thugs in many parts of the world. Gen. Wiranto has exceeded these. He is the man responsible for orchestrating the violence in East Timor. There is abundant evidence of that. The South China Morning Post a few days ago had an editorial pointing the finger to Wiranto and two other generals who met in Jakarta and planned all the violence in Liquica and Dili.
For Wiranto to go to Dili and pretend to broker peace is like us expecting that Jack the Ripper would, in London, broker peace. Or it is like expecting Saddam Hussein to broker peace between his own troops and the Kurds. Or Milosevic to broker peace between the Serbians and the Kosovars. That tragically is the reality. When Xanana Gusmao called me the other day and said Bishop Belo had pleaded with him to sign the so-called peace agreement. I recommended to Xanana to sign it, even if the hope for peace to come from this agreement might be light years away. So we do it, as we don't want to be accused of not wanting peace. So we signed, and what has happened since: Militia continued to be armed, continue to terrorize the population. throughout the country. Indonesian armed forces have launched a series of armed attacks on the resistance around the country.
So as much as we welcome this agreement, it is the responsibility of the UN and the international community as a whole not to allow themselves to be dragged into a situation where the UN becomes an accomplice to one of the worst travesties of justice. The UN has had tragic involvements with Indonesia in the past. In the 60s the UN was dragged into a so-called Act of Free Choice for West Papua, sealing the fate of West Papua to this very day. Tens of thousands of West Papuans lost their lives, because of the UN's blessing for that so-called Act of Free Choice in 1969.
.I hope that the UN will be ever vigilant. We are not asking NATO countries, the U.S and others to bomb Jakarta into the Stone Age. We propose a milder form of military action by the western countries that they stop all supplies of weapons to Indonesia, stop all training of Indonesian military personnel. That is our version of military action. So we don't need smart bombs to bomb targets in Indonesia, that most often would miss the targets. We don't need sophisticated stealth aircraft. We just need the same people who are bombing Serbia into the stone age to and who are the main ones supplying weapons to Indonesia to stop them, freeze them. We have appealed to the World Bank, IMF to remember that by continuing to release funds to Indonesia, they become accomplices to the killings in East Timor. Indonesia is spending $1 million a day to make war on East Timor. Here is a country that is nearly bankrupt, that can't feed its own people, with millions unemployed, millions of children who can't go to school. They are dependent on the World Bank, IMF and other countries. We are appealing to the World Bank, the IMF, to the U.S. and other countries, to the U.S. Congress to freeze all funds to Indonesia. If the vote takes place by August, if it is free and democratic, then whatever the decision of the people, certainly all of this aid could be restored. Right now it would be immoral to provide billions of dollars in funds to Indonesia which waging a genocidal war on a defenseless, small country. Selected answers to correspondents questions:
Q: When will agreement be implemented?
Q: Is there any text of an agreement?
Q: How could Indonesia weaken the agreement?
There is no agreement about withdrawal or reduction of Indonesian troops, or their confinement to barracks. From what we understand the plan envisages that Indonesia troops will provide security during the consultation, during the vote. How can a vote take place in conditions of no fear, no pressure, no terror with the Indonesian army there? The same army that is responsible for the genocide in East Timor. This is the army that is to be used by the U.N. to guarantee peace and security.
Q: How long before Independence?
If the vote takes place in conditions of no terror, no pressure, I can assure you that over 90% of the people would vote to reject autonomy and then we would move toward of process of transition to independence.
Q: What about Xanana's appeal to the resistance a few weeks ago.
Q: You met Indonesian officials last month?
I turned to the Indonesian military and asked"Do you remember Charles de Gaulle? No man is more patriotic than de Gaulle. Yet it was he who pulled the French out of Algeria. Was he weak? Did he betray France? Did he lose face? No he was a courageous man to end the Algerian war for the sake of the good name of France. So there is this strange notion of losing face. We should honor those men and women in Indonesia who have the courage to pull out of East Timor. But the military is still is not convinced by that. We do not wish to generalize or demonize everybody, as often happens in a conflict. There are forces of reason in Indonesia, not only in the democracy movement but within the government itself. These are the people who need all the help from the US, Australia, etc. Not to support their decisions to solve the problem of East Timor is to undermine the democratic process in Indonesia.
Q: Will Indonesia abide by the vote result?
A: Autonomy makes no sense for us. We have been asked time and again why we don't we join Indonesia. I answer why don't we join Mongolia for instance. I would prefer to join Mongolia. At least Mongolia never invaded us.
My point is there is no historical relationship beween East Timor and Indonesian. This option of autonomy is there only because someone came in 1975 with its weapons and killed 200,000 and 23 years later and said you can chose a better situation with us. My conscience tells me (although I know the people in East Timor know better, they don't need me to tell them, I've been abroad) the vote will be overwhelming against so-called autonomy with Indonesia.
Q: What is your future role in a free East Timor?
Q: Who in Indonesia don't want to solve the problem of the East Timor?