|Subject: OBS: Rebel leader joins Timor peace talks
Date: Fri, 02 Jul 1999 09:00:24 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
The Observer [UK] Sunday June 27, 1999
Rebel leader joins Timor peace talks
An exiled campaigner for the independence of East Timor, Jose Ramos Horta, returned to Indonesia yesterday to join peace and reconciliation talks between the territory's warring factions.
An exiled campaigner for the independence of East Timor, Jose Ramos Horta, returned to Indonesia yesterday for the first time in 23 years to join peace and reconciliation talks between the territory's warring factions. Horta, who has been one of Indonesia's fiercest critics since it invaded his homeland in December 1975, was uncharacteristically conciliatory on his arrival in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.
He said his role was 'marginal and not terribly important' and he would endeavour 'to contribute towards a climate of stability, of peace and reconciliation in East Timor, now and in the future'.
Indonesia almost refused to grant a visa to Horta, who last saw East Timor three days before the Indonesian army arrived and has lived in self-exile ever since. The authorities feared he would return to East Timor and cause chaos in the pro-independence campaign ahead of the referendum on the territory's future.
In August, the East Timorese are to vote for either officially becoming part of Indonesia or for independence. The United Nations, which is organising the ballot, has never recognised Indonesia's annexation of the former Portuguese colony. All sides have agreed to abide by the result of the referendum.
Horta, who for many years waged an almost single-handed campaign to keep East Timor on the international agenda, shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with East Timorese Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo for their 'sustained efforts to hinder the repression of a small people'.
However, he stressed yesterday that he would not embark on a pro-independence crusade if he returned to East Timor now. 'I can assure Indonesia that allowing me to return to East Timor I will not engage in any public campaigning. I will be as discreet as they want me to be.'
This is in spite of the UN giving him carte blanche to campaign as he likes. 'There cannot be a free and fair ballot unless all the parties have the rights to campaign equally,' said Jamsheed Marker, special representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, yesterday, at the end of a three-day visit to Dili, the East Timorese capital.
Horta is one of 60 East Timorese joining the five days of peace talks organised by Belo and East Timor's other Catholic bishop, Basilio dos Nascimento. The talks are in Jakarta to enable Jose 'Xanana' Gusmao, the East Timorese resistance leader under house arrest in the Indonesian capital, to attend.
The bishops have imposed a news blackout on the meeting. Their spokesman, Domingos Sequeira, said at the end of the first day of talks on Friday: 'The conclusion from this day's meeting is that there will be no third way. The only choices are integration into the rest of Indonesia or independence.'
Even if the talks reach agreement, there is no guarantee the UN will be able to hold the ballot as scheduled. For the last eight months the Indonesian army has waged a campaign of terror in the territory through pro-Indonesia militias that have killed dozens of civilians and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
Marker admitted yesterday that the security situation was still not conducive to holding a free and fair ballot.