Subject: Joyo: East Timor and Megawati
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 17:42:54 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Joyo Exclusive

A highly regarded political analyst, who prefers to remain anonymous, provides Joyo with exclusive commentary on the election campaign

Report #1 June 1, 1999, Jakarta, Dili, Ambon [East Timor section only]

East Timor and PDI-Mega

The chartered plane carrying Megawati's entourage from Jakarta to Dili gathered at Halim airport at around 4 am for the 5 am departure. The plane held 70 and was fully booked with PDI leaders (Megawati, Laksamana Sukardi, Dimyati, Theo Sjafei, Arifin Panigoro, among others).

It was my first trip to East Timor, and I was interested not only in the political climate in Timor, but especially how Megawati was received. Her position on autonomy and independence has evolved considerably over the months since Habibie made his snap announcement promising an almost immediate referendum, but it was still mostly murky with clear leanings toward trying to keep ET as part of Indonesia (not because of Timor itself, but because centrifugal forces in the archipelago have increased dramatically since Suharto's fall and she and others fear that the precedent of Timor's independence could set in motion a domino effect that would balkanize the country). Thus Megawati's visit to ET had a great deal of significance both for gauging how well the people of the region accept her, but also for how the visit might refine her stance.

At the Dili airport, the evidence of tight security was immediately visible. She was swept immediately into a lounge where she sat with the governor, the commander for Timor (Tono), and the commander of the police. Pleasantries were exchanged and the local officials assured Megawati that all preparations had been made to ensure the visit would be secure and without incident.

After everyone loaded into vehicles, the ride to the stadium was underway. There was quite a long parade of cars and trucks, all waving the red symbols of the PDI-P. The supporters were vocal, though sedate by ordinary standards of a Megawati campaign visit. Most telling were the people along the route to the stadium. They came to their doors and windows to observe the passing of the trucks and all the fanfare. But very few came out to the side of the road to join in the festivities. There was very little cheering, waving, or flag showing. Although not hostile to Mega's visit (one could see smiles and signs of that excitement that attends the glimpsing of popular figures like Megawati), there was a clear reticence. It is likely that the recent waves of violence at the hands of the militia has made the Timorese very reluctant to venture forth. And Megawati's unwillingness to proclaim her support for independence for ET must surely be part of the equation also.

Before Mega arrived there were only about two or three hundred people in the stadium. But a somewhat larger crowd of maybe 2 or 3 thousand assembled by the time Megawati took her seat and the speeches began.

The singing of Indonesia's national anthem, "Indonesia Raya," was particularly awkward. As the announcer blared the song into the microphone, only a tiny core group of PDI-P supporters join in weakly. But hardly a mouth on the field or in the grandstands moved. Later I asked Megawati if she noticed this, and she said it was hard not to notice. When Mega herself spoke, she was received with applause and some yells of support. But even among the assembled members of the PDI-P in Dili, one could sense the contradictions of the moment.

I approached a group of about five young men pressed against a rail straining to catch a glimpse of Megawati and the whole show. "Are you pro-integration?" One made a "V" sign down around waist-level and said "independence." Then why are you here cheering on Megawati, I asked. "We're here to show our respect. But we want independence." The others nodded in agreement.

The entourage loaded back into the vehicles and the parade moved on to Bishop Belo's residence. The Bishop stood on his front steps to greet Megawati as she approached. It was a warm welcome. Inside the sitting area Megawati opened with "The people of East Timor must be given a chance to choose." Bishop Belo responded, "I agree fully."

Outside, a small group of young men painted in PDI-P's red peered through Bishop Belo's iron gate surrounding his compound.

"Are you PDI supporters?" "Yes," they responded. "Are you pro-integration?" "No, we want independence." "But Megawati has not spoken out in favor of independence. So why are you here supporting her?" "We're here to let her know how we feel and what we want."

The meeting with Bishop Belo finished after about 20 minutes and the busses and cars headed back to the airport. There was a brief period again in the VIP room where people milled about. I was approached by Prof. Dimyati, who has made several hardline statements on ET - statements which have been amended or rejected by others inside the PDI-P, and to an extent by Megawati herself.

"What's your impression?" he asked. I said that the reticence was palpable and that everyone I spoke to on the sidelines of the rally stated a firm determination to be independent.

"That's just one or two people," he said, adding he and others thought the split was 50-50 on integration. I responded that it was my impression that he was the one talking to only one or two people.

On the plane to Ambon Megawati spoke about ET. It was her most detailed description of her position on the situation to date. She began by emphasizing that the issue is not whether the Timorese should be given an opportunity for self determination, but rather the manner in which it is done, the timing, the schedule, and the context. Thanks to the sudden announcement by "Mr. Habibie," as she referred to him, everything in ET had been thrown into chaos. The climate was one of violence, mistrust, fear. In short, Habibie managed, together with the armed forces, to poison the situation.

"The point of a referendum is to express the wishes of the people of East Timor. Under the current circumstances, which are not normal and far from ideal, a referendum is ill-advised. The timetable has gone from being one of creating a favorable climate for self determination, spanning years, starting with a cessation of violence, demilitarization, and proper preparation, to being one of a vote without preparation, marred by violence and intimidation, and rushed. This matter is too important to be handled this way. And the people on the Indonesian side handling it are themselves a transitional government that is not even constitutional."

"We are going to have national elections on June 7th. And before we can even form a new MPR to determine the shape of the new government, there is going to be a referendum on August 7th in East Timor. A president that has no mandate and no legitimacy has set this process in motion. It is hard to imagine a worse way of doing this."

"In a spirit of good will, and involving all the parties to this issue, especially the recognized leaders of the Timorese themselves and the U.N., I would urge that the referendum be postponed until after we have a new MPR and a new government in place. At that point, a new schedule should be set that starts with creating a favorable climate for an act of self determination. I say this not because I want to block the people of East Timor from having their chance to vote, but rather because I want the outcome to have a chance of reflecting their genuine views."

"If in the end, after a proper interval and with proper preparation, the people of East Timor choose independence, can you accept that choice?" she was asked.

"The hope in my heart is that under a different Indonesian government, under conditions where they are not living in violence and fear, the people of East Timor will want to remain part of Indonesia. But if, ultimately, they choose a different path and future, the will of the people in East Timor must be respected. It is the only way."

Megawati commented also on the relationship between ET's possible independence and pressures in other parts of the archipelago for independence or autonomy. She said that a more deliberate timetable on ET would simultaneously allow Jakarta to forge a new relationship with the regions that, she felt, would go a long way toward addressing their concerns and greatly reduce calls for separation. Thus a slower pace on an ET referendum would allow a delinking of ET's future from the current concerns of a domino effect around the archipelago.

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