Subject: IO: PDI Perjuangan advocates military in ET, calls for referendum
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 18:32:02 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Indonesian Observer 11th March 1999 Nation PDI Perjuangan advocates defense of East Timor

JAKARTA (IO) — Opposition leader Megawati Soekarnoputri has claimed her party won't oppose independence for East Timor, but as long as the province remains part of Indonesia, the military has every right to defend it, says one of her aides.

Theo Syafei, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) says that despite the government's plan to grant the East Timor either autonomy or independence, the territory is still an integral part of Indonesia.

"As long as we have the decree from the People's Consultative Assembly [MPR] stating that East Timor is legally part of Indonesia, every citizen must defend the territory," Theo told journalists at a seminar on Tuesday.

The seminar on the East Timor Issue was organized by a group called Solidarity for Peace in East Timor (Solidamor) and held in Jakarta at Wisma Antara.

Theo said that if the decree is withdrawn and replaced by a new regulation granting East Timor independence, there should first be a "majority vote" in favor of the move.

However, the government has so far refused to allow the East Timorese people to hold a referendum to determine their future.

Theo said he doesn't understand why the government has decided to offer East Timor either wide-ranging autonomy or independence.

"If we are offering a referendum on East Timor's independence, it would seem as if we are a colonizer. And if we decide to go ahead with a referendum, why don't we do the same thing in Aceh and Irian Jaya? We must consider whether we've held East Timor hostage for the past 22 years," he said.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move never recognized by the United Nations.

Theo, a retired lieutenant general, once served as chief of the Udayana Military Command, which covers much of eastern Indonesia, including East Timor.

President B.J. Habibie has said he wants the East Timor issue resolved by January 1, 2000, although the UN and Foreign Affairs Ministry say April 2000 would be a more realistic date.

Theo said the government's plan to grant wide-ranging autonomy to East Timor needs to be further justified, lest other provinces also demand a similar status.

For example, he said, why doesn't the government offer autonomy to Yogyakarta, in a token of appreciation for the many services the province has rendered the country.

"What's the criteria for a province to get the autonomy option? I think the decision was probably just the result of panicking within [President B.J.] Habibies's government," Theo said.

Megawati recently said she wanted East Timor to remain an integral part of Indonesia.

But according to Australian Ambassador John McCarthy, she will not oppose independence for East Timor if elected president.


Unlike PDI Perjuangan's somewhat ambivalent stance on East Timor, the National Mandate Party (PAN) insists there should be a referendum on independence.

PAN executive Abdilah Toha said the transition to independence in East Timor must be smooth, rational, peaceful and democratic.

He said the government has failed to deal with East Timor appropriately because of a "centralized approach" and also because it brought so much corruption into the region.

"At the declaration of our party on August 23 last year, PAN said it will consistently back the referendum option for East Timor," he said.

"However, the referendum must be done step by step. It can't be done drastically. Indonesia is morally obliged to assist the East Timorese people in their bid to achieve freedom," he added.

"Indonesia shouldn't make the same mistake the Portuguese did. The Portuguese virtually threw their hands in the air and walked away from that isolated outpost."

Toha said that if PAN wins the election, it's East Timor policy will be implemented in thee stages. First, the territory would receive wide-ranging autonomy and its people would form a transitional government to reconcile conflicting factions within society.

Second, peacekeeping forces should be sent in to disarm pro and anti-independence factions. And third, a referendum should be held to determine whether East Timor remains part of Indonesia.

If a strong peacekeeping mission is sent to East Timor, its members should not include pro-Jakarta civilian security units, said PDI Perjuangan's Theo.

Sri Bintang Pamungkas, chairman of the United Indonesian Democratic Party (PUDI), said the autonomy option is the best solution in the short-term.

However, he said the East Timor issue should be resolved as soon as possible, preferably before the June 7 general election.

He said PUDI has a four-point solution to the East Timor issue. First, the Indonesian military must withdraw. Second, all feuding factions of locals must implement a ceasefire. Third, jailed East Timorese freedom fighter Xanana Gusmao must be released. And fourth, the United Nations should decide on what happens next.

Sri Bintang said the East Timorese shouldn't be allowed to vote in the June election because they have enough problems already and are likely to secede.

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