|Subject: SMH: Habibie: 'Show me proof' of rogue
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 11:33:24 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Sydney Morning Herald Monday, May 24, 1999
Habibie: 'Show me proof'
By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald correspondent in Jakarta
Indonesia's President B.J. Habibie says he has no reason to believe Australian claims that "rogue elements" in the army are backing loyalist forces in East Timor ahead of the August independence vote.
During an interview with the Herald, Dr Habibie challenged the Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, who made the claims, to "do me a favour by giving me the names of the people and the proof and I will take it up immediately".
"Be fair! Give me the list and the proof of what they have done and I will call the commander."
Asked if he was confident Indonesians were not operating in this way, Dr Habibie said: "No, I am not confident that is the case or not. But I cannot take any action based on what somebody says. That is not justice."
During the 70-minute interview at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Dr Habibie said he feared that whichever way the East Timor vote went, violence would continue because the side that lost would not accept the result.
He pledged that Indonesia would honour any vote for independence in the United Nations-supervised ballot on August 7.
But he warned that a vote to remain within Indonesia must be recognised by neighbouring countries and the UN as confirming "the sovereign territory of the Republic of Indonesia".
Dr Habibie also promised the release of the convicted East Timor leader Xanana Gusmao in time to take charge of the territory immediately after the ballot.
He said he had decided to cut the 20-year sentence Gusmao is serving for treason and other alleged crimes to time served by August 8, the day after the ballot.
"Of course I promise that," he said. "I think he should be released, to be fair."
The UN is spending more than $60 million and sending nearly 1,000 personnel to East Timor, many of them Australians, to monitor and help organise the ballot, which will give Timorese the choice of autonomy within Indonesia, or independence.
Diplomats and analysts believe a majority would vote to break from Indonesia if the ballot is free of intimidation by Indonesia's security forces, which have used violence to suppress anti-Indonesian sentiments in the predominantly Catholic territory since 1975.
Revealing why he made the surprise decision early this year to allow the ballot, Dr Habibie said he had thought: "Hey, why the hell is East Timor with us ... it doesn't belong to our declared territory as of independence."
Amid campaigning for the June 7 national elections - the first free vote in the country since 1955 - Dr Habibie declined to criticise his rivals, including Mrs Megawati Sukarnoputri, saying he would be honoured to pass the baton to whoever wins.
Mrs Megawati is a frontrunner to replace him after she joined two other key opposition parties last week to form an anti-Habibie united front."I'm not God, I'm not a dictator," Dr Habibie said. "I have only one vote. I'm not sitting here as Superman coming from another planet ... I'm just an ordinary citizen who became president."
Dr Habibie, the presidential candidate of the ruling Golkar party, admitted that he would not have the authority to give the East Timorese their independence even if he won the election.
"Look, I don't have the power," he said. "The power is with the MPR [parliament]." But he said it would be "very hard" for newly elected MPs to ignore the results of the ballot when parliament resumed in August.