|Subject: AFP: UN special envoy feels civil war not a
fear for E Timor
Date: Sat, 06 Mar 1999 08:38:02 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo:
*UN special envoy feels civil war not a fear for East Timor
JAKARTA, March 1 (AFP) - The UN secretary general's special envoy on East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, Monday said he felt fears of a civil war erupting in East Timor over an independence offer from Indonesia were ill-founded.
"I don't think there will be a civil war as such, (despite) the very disquieting reports" of an increase in arms flowing into the troubled territory, Marker told CNN television in a live interview.
Marker said he based his confidence on the fact that people "of the highest calibre" were involved in determining the future of the former Portguese colony which has been under virtual military rule since being invaded by Indonesian troops in 1975.
He cited East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao, now under house detention in Jakarta, and Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, who announced on January 27 that Indonesia was prepared to consider letting East Timor become independent if its people rejected a Jakarta offer of broad autonomy.
Their influence, along with that of the "two bishops" -- Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Ximines Belo of Dili, and Basilio do Naciamento, bishop of Baucau --was key to a relatively peaceful transition, he said.
Indonesia, whose representatives Marker said would sit down with those of Portugal in New York March 10 to finalize an autonomy offer which if rejected would result in independence, has ruled out a referendum on self determination, citing civil war fears.
Marker said he was optimistic mass bloodshed would be avoided, despite what he calld the "very disturbing increase in the availability of arms in East Timor."
Instead of a referendum as a way of determining what the 800,000 people of the troubled territory want -- an option ruled out by Indonesia -- he said one option under consideration was a suggestion by Gusmao for a local election, the winners of which would decide on autonomy or independence.
"It is one of the options which we have," he said, adding whatever means was used to sound out the East Timorese people, it must be "credible."
In the CNN interview Marker also praised Habibie for what he called the Indonesian president's "tremendous foresight and statesmanship" in changing Jakarta's policy after 23 years.
The CNN interview came as 300 Indonesian school teachers in East Timor demanded Monday that Jakarta withdraw them from East Timor because they feared for their lives, and as settlers from Indonesian provinces were packing their bags for home.
The teachers' protest followed similar demands by Indonesian hospital workers last month, and raised the prospect of major civil service breakdowns in the former Portuguese colony, which Marker described as "very, very poor."
An estimated 200,000 East Timorese and possibly as many as 20,000 Indonesian troops died as result of the Indonesian occupation, according to historians.