Subject: RT: Timorese want independence: Belo
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999 12:18:51 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Reuters July 23,1999

Timorese want independence: Belo

DILI — The people of East Timor want to be independent and are not afraid to face the future alone, the spiritual leader of the troubled territory said yesterday.

Nobel prize-winner Bishop Carlos Belo told CNN that the people of East Timor would choose to break away from Indonesia in the August ballot on independence.

"Over the previous months they are living under pressure and they are afraid, but they know what they are going to do, if we don’t have this pressure from the militias and the military side, the majority will choose to have their own identity," Belo said from Los Angeles.

East Timor has been engulfed by violence since January, when Jakarta reversed decades of adamant opposition to considering independence for what it regards as the country’s 27th province.

Some people have accused the Indonesian military, parts of which are known to be deeply unhappy at the prospect of independence for East Timor, of supporting the militias.

Belo said that he hoped that the process of registration, which started last Friday, would be peaceful.

"It will take two weeks and we hope that [during] these two weeks there will be a climate of peace, of tranquility, so that we can have a fair and free election," he said.

A final date for the ballot has not been set, but it is expected in late August or early September.

Belo said that he would not be giving advice on which way his fellow East Timorese should vote.

"My only role is to say let the people vote freely and...let the people decide for themselves," he said.

"I can’t tell the people vote for A or B, let them choose, but for me the important thing is that they vote according to their conscience."

He said that the first few years would be difficult if the voters decide to split from Jakarta, which has run the former Portuguese colony.

"From the beginning it will be difficult...a new country without the structure, the infrastructure, the human resources," he said.

"But we hope that the Timorese are able to learn how to build up a country and we hope the international community will show their solidarity to help this country."

He said that the people of East Timor were not afraid to go it alone.

"They tell me; ‘Bishop we are poor, we are illiterate but we prefer to be free and live without oppression’, so they are decided to face the future."

Back to July Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99