Subject: IPS: Indonesia-Australia Summit Pleases No One
Date: Sat, 01 May 1999 08:49:24 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Indonesia-Australia Summit Pleases No One

By Andrew Nette

MELBOURNE, Apr 28 (IPS) - It was billed as a high-stakes diplomatic event, but Tuesday's emergency summit between Indonesian and Australian leaders on East Timor's future has been almost unanimously criticised by as producing virtually nothing new.

Most importantly, Indonesian President Bacharuddin J Habibie's refusal to give a public commitment to disarm the Indonesian military-backed paramilitary groups, is viewed as totally undermining his commitment to uphold a United Nations peace plan for East Timor.

Under this plan, the troubled territory will vote on Aug 8 on whether to accept an autonomy offer from Jakarta or opt for independence.

Emerging from four hours of talks with his Australian counterpart Prime Minister John Howard on the Indonesian Island of Bali, Habibie pledged that the UN-negotiated autonomy package would be fully implemented with a formal signing on May 5.

Prime Minister John Howard announced that Australia would contribute almost half the cost of conducting the UN-sponsored ballot, around 20 million dollars, as well as provide a range of civilian and police personnel tasked to ensure the process is free and fair.

''Australians should be asking Mr Howard what he got for the 20 million he promised to inject into the East Timor referendum process,'' Timorese Democratic Union President, Joao Carrascalao, said in a statement. ''The answer is very little - in fact, probably nothing.''

''It is to be paid so John Howard and (Australian Foreign Minister) Alexander Downer can pretend to the world that the people of East Timor have a genuine chance to express their will about their future,'' he said.

''But without the proper security environment, that money will be wasted because the people of East Timor will be forced to vote for integration with Indonesia or be murdered,'' he argued.

Carrascalao was among a number of East Timorese and their supporters who maintain several crucial steps need to be taken before the August vote on independence, previously scheduled for July, could succeed.

These include an immediate reduction of the Indonesian army presence on the ground in East Timor, complete disarming of the anti-independence militias, and the deployment of peacekeeping forces.

On Tuesday, detained East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao said he is more concerned about ongoing violence in the territory than about the August vote.

''What worries Gusmao is that people will continue to die in East Timor before May 5,'' a spokesperson told Portugal's Lusa news agency.

Meanwhile, resistance leaders on the ground in East Timor responded to Tuesday's announcement by warning that August was too late for a referendum on autonomy and would merely give pro- Indonesian militias months to consolidate their campaign of intimidation.

Indeed, the outcome of Tuesday's meeting appears to have appeased neither side in East Timor. Indonesia's envoy for the province said pro-Jakarta loyalists would attack any UN peacekeeping force deployed in the territory ahead of an August vote on independence.

A prominent pro-Jakarta militia leader, Enrico Guterres, said on Sunday he could never accept independence for East Timor and called for the territory to be split if the upcoming vote favours independence.

Guterres, the 24 year-old chief of the Aitarak (Thorn) militia, said independence could spark a civil war worse than the violence that erupted after Portugal quit the colony in 1975.

Pro-Jakarta militia are already engaged in a systematic campaign of violence and intimidation against pro-independence supporters, which church and resistance sources on the island claim is resulting in the deaths of as many as 20 to 80 people everyday.

Howard has also been criticised for failing what many analysts viewed as a key test of his resolve to tackle Indonesia regarding the declining security situation on East Timor.

''Prime Minister John Howard has failed to secure Indonesian government agreement on the concrete measures required to ensure that the East Timorese people will be able to decide their future free from fear and intimidation,'' said opposition foreign affairs spokesman Laurie Brereton.

''Prime Minister Howard's 'achievement' in Bali appears to have been little more than to provide a forum in which President Habibie could announce his agreement to the arrangements for the planned ballot which had already been accepted by (Indonesian Foreign Minister) Alatas in New York last week,'' Brereton added.

Rob Wesley-Smith, spokesperson for Australians for a Fee East Timor, called the summit ''totally worthless''.

''There is no point in allocating money for the machinery of an election if the voters are slaughtered or too intimidated to vote or hiding in the mountains or overseas,'' he said.

Some Australian analysts have questioned what hope a handful of police and civilian observers have of preventing more violence between pro and anti-independence supporters.

''The real problem is that a lot of sections of the Indonesian military are not responding to Habibie's attempts to achieve a political solution for East Timor,'' said Gerry Van Klinken, editor of the 'Inside Indonesia' magazine.

''The Indonesian military, right up to the top level, are behind this destabilisation,'' he said. ''This is not rogue elements.''

In particular, observers point to the activities of the regional commander currently responsible for East Timor, Brig Gen Mahidin Simbolan, who captured Gusmao in 1992.

Simbolan was head of intelligence for the Indonesian special Forces before being appointed Dili commander in 1995-6, and is one of a number of senior Indonesian military personnel implicated in stirring up recent violence in East Timor.

They add that Indonesian Armed Forces chief Wiranto, if not actively supporting the arming of pro-integration militias, gave the move his tacit agreement.

''For these (military) people, East Timor is their lives' work and they don't want to see it slip away,'' said Andrew McNaughton, convenor of the Australian East Timor Association.

Observed the activist: ''They have a huge interest in destabilising the process because a peaceful transition to a democratic society in East Timor would show that everything that happened in the last 23 years was unnecessary.'' (END/IPS/ap-ip- hd/awn/js/99

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