Subject: USGOV: Roth testimony on Indonesia (ET excerpts)
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 09:23:18 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

[ET excerpts only]

*EPF404 03/18/99 TEXT: ROTH MAR. 18 TESTIMONY ON INDONESIA (Roth: Elections critical for Indonesia) (3260)

... Negotiations on East Timor also garnered positive comment from Roth, who cited Indonesian President Habibie's announcement that he will recommend independence for the territory if the East Timorese reject Indonesia's offer of wide-ranging autonomy.

Following is the text of Roth's remarks, as prepared for delivery:



... ABRI, Indonesia's military, one of the pillars of the Suharto regime, is also changing. The Indonesian people have made it clear that military dominance of the state is no longer acceptable. The number of ABRI representatives in Parliament has been halved. Many opposition parties have placed a diminution of the military's socio-political role high on their agendas.

The armed forces leadership appears to be getting the message. Under the leadership of General Wiranto, ABRI has committed to a number of key structural reforms aimed at reducing the military's political role in the state, including withdrawing support from the ruling party and pledging neutrality in the upcoming elections; scheduling the separation of the police from the military; requiring ABRI personnel who accept jobs as civilian administrators to resign from active service; and eliminating the position of Chief of Staff for Social and Political Affairs -- the very embodiment of the military's political role.

Negotiations on East Timor's future have seen dramatic progress in recent months since President Habibie's announcement that he will recommend independence for the troubled territory if the East Timorese reject Indonesia's offer of wide-ranging autonomy. Just last week, Indonesia agreed to a direct ballot "democratic consultation" mechanism by which the East Timorese will be able to consider the Indonesian autonomy offer. As things stand now, the UN, Portugal, and Indonesia plan to finalize the autonomy proposal by late April and then put the package to the East Timorese for a direct vote no later than July.


East Timor has not been spared this violence. In fact, a cycle of violence may be intensifying in East Timor between pro-independence and pro-integration factions. There are persistent, credible reports that elements of the Indonesian military are arming pro-integration civilian groups, and we have repeatedly made it clear to the Indonesians that such actions must be stopped.

... East Timor --

The situation in East Timor is unique in Indonesia. East Timor did not share the experience of Dutch colonialism and was forcefully incorporated into Indonesia just 23 years ago. Many in the erstwhile Portuguese colony, primarily Christian and ethnically Melanesian, have resisted Indonesia's incursion ever since. The associated, often-times brutal, military repression has not engendered support or sympathy for Jakarta in this province.

In an unprecedented and unexpected announcement on January 27, the Indonesian government stated that, if the East Timorese rejected Indonesia's autonomy offer, it would recommend to the incoming People's Consultative Assembly -- the MPR -- to consider "letting go of East Timor" on January 1, 2000. This announcement constituted a dramatic reversal of long-standing policy, a reversal for which the Habibie government deserves credit.

A window of opportunity exists in East Timor from now until the July autonomy "consultation" to establish some of the fundamental components of democracy. How to register voters, where and how to establish polling stations, what kind of voter education to provide and by what means, are only a sample of the many practical issues that will have to be resolved in the near future. The U.S. intends to be actively involved with this process. Furthermore, we believe that the systems established will provide a foundation for East Timor's democracy no matter what the outcome of this particular vote.

However, no electoral system will be successful in the atmosphere of increasing tension in East Timor. The Indonesian government must, therefore, put high priority on restoring a sense of calm and stability on the island. Disarming civilian factions and embracing proposals such as a broad-based council to promote peace and reconciliation are necessary steps. Confidence building measures such as troop reductions and an increased international presence in East Timor would also be very useful.

No one can predict the outcome of the East Timorese vote on autonomy. Clearly, however, the possibility exists that East Timor could choose to turn down Indonesia's autonomy proposal thereby raising the real possibility of independence. If this is the electoral outcome, Indonesia must realize that an immediate withdrawal of Indonesian support from East Timor will greatly increase the risk of civil war and long-term inviability for East Timor. This would reflect badly on Indonesia's international image and call into question its regional leadership abilities. Consequently, should East Timor opt for independence, Indonesia should commit to fair and supportive transitional arrangements.

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