Subject: IO: R  Indonesia to revise Timor autonomy package
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 18:27:43 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Indonesian Observer 9th March 1999 Front Page RI to revise Timor autonomy package

JAKARTA ( IO ) — Indonesia has yet to complete details of the autonomy package for the troubled province of East Timor before it will be presented in a fresh tripartite negotiation in New York, a senior minister said yesterday.

"Our autonomy draft (for East Timor)still needs further discussion and possible revisions. The president has decided to set up a team of key ministers who will directly tackle any remaining problems in the plan under the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs", Foreign Minister Ali Alatas told the press after a cabinet meeting headed by President Habibie at the Bina Graha building here.

The team comprises the home, political affairs, defense and foreign ministers and the state secretary.

He admitted that there are many aspects of the plan that need revision.

He said changes would be made in the areas of law, economics, finance and customs. He did not elaborate.

"I think it’s understandable, as a difficult and complex concept which deals with law, foreign relations, defense, finance, customs and other areas we need in-depth discussions", said Alatas.

"We hope that despite the tight schedule we would complete them by late April," Alatas told newsmen.

The cabinet meeting mainly held to listen to a presentation by Alatas on the draft autonomy plan.

Minister Alatas then left for New York last night to meet UN Secretary General Kofi Anand to explain the need for a time extension at a two-day talks with his Portuguese counterpart due on March 9.

In a major policy shift from former President Soeharto regime which fell in May after 32 years in power, President Habibie announced earlier this year that East Timor may become independent if majority of the half-island territory’s 850,000 people rejected wide ranging autonomy offered by Jakarta.

Tensions and sometimes violence in the province have intensified following Indonesia’s change of policy, and thousands of non indigenous East Timorese had fled the territory for fearing escalation of violence.

President Habibie has said earlier he wanted the fate of East Timor decided by the start of next year.

However he made clear that Indonesia opposed referendum because it said will only lead to bloodshed similar to that in 1975 when Portugal, former ruler of East Timor, abruptly left the territory.

Alatas also explained reasons behind the setting up of the team.

"The negotiation process in New York has reached a stage that has to be reported to the president and entire cabinet", Alatas added.

The foreign minister said he appreciated the good offices of the UN Secretary General who has since provided the text of the wide ranging autonomy for East Timor.

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