Subject: WSJ: Resistance Leader Unveils Blueprint For E.Timor
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 20:09:50 EDT

The Wall Street Journal August 26, 1999

Resistance Leader Unveils Blueprint For East Timor, Assuming Autonomy


JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Jailed resistance leader Xanana Gusmao unveiled his blueprint for the future of East Timor if, as is likely, the territory opts to separate from Indonesia at Monday's referendum.

The package is in keeping with Mr. Gusmao's moderate approach. He offered amnesty and reconciliation for all, including "those who have committed the most reprehensible acts." The words are in stark contrast to the confrontational mood of pro-Jakarta militias in East Timor that have harassed opponents and United Nations officials in recent weeks.

The statement, read out by Mr. Gusmao in English, Portuguese and Indonesian, was prepared by a team of pro-independence figures inside and outside East Timor. Mr. Gusmao, serving a 20-year jail term for separatism after his capture in the early 1990s, was released from prison into house arrest last year. Mr. Gusmao has long been regarded by pro-independence Timorese as their leader since he took over the guerrilla resistance movement in 1981.

His blueprint covered a lot of ground: The new state, he said, would be one that "fights for peace, democracy and prosperity for all." Economically, East Timor would upgrade its mostly rural economy in part by attracting foreign investment.

Vision of a Hub

This would be done by exploiting its geographical location "at the confluence of the commercial route between Asia and Oceania" to become an entrepot, as well as becoming an offshore banking and tax haven, Mr. Gusmao said.

There was no mention of the potentially lucrative oil and gas resources in the Timor Gap, exploited jointly by Indonesia and Australia under an agreement signed in 1989. "We're still looking into that," said Emilia Pires, a longtime exile and a member of the drafting team.

Economic reconstruction is a tall order. Despite massive investment by Indonesia -- of the $116 million public expenditure in the 1998-99 fiscal year, about 85% was a net transfer from Jakarta -- the territory is the second-poorest in Indonesia. East Timor is almost entirely dependent on imports of most things, except coffee and beef, even though around 80% of its work force is engaged in agriculture.

The statement's release was designed as much to reassure opponents as to enlighten pro-independence supporters. "People need to know what we're heading into," said Ms. Pires. "The other side, too."

More than 400,000 East Timorese will vote on Monday on whether to accept an offer of special autonomy by their current ruler Indonesia. If they reject it, the three-month-old U.N. mission in East Timor, Unamet, will help oversee a transition to independence, following a formal revocation of East Timor's integration by Indonesia's special assembly, probably in November.

Violence Feared

By presenting his blueprint now, Mr. Gusmao's National Council of Timorese Resistance, or CNRT, hopes to pre-empt bloody confrontation on the day of the vote or in the weeks ahead. Indonesian and Unamet officials have warned of violence by whichever side that loses the vote; CNRT officials have warned that their supporters would assume the ballot wasn't free if the vote wasn't in their favor.

Dozens have been killed in recent months, mainly by pro-Indonesian militia, and U.N. officials have questioned Indonesia's sincerity in allowing a fair ballot to take place. There are fears that it may be hard to prevent revenge attacks whichever side wins.

"We don't assume we'll win. We know we're going to win -- given the right conditions," said Ms. Pires. More than 10,000 independence supporters gathered outside the CNRT's headquarters in Dili, East Timor's capital, on Wednesday, waving banners and shouting "Long live Xanana Gusmao!"

Mr. Gusmao, who is CNRT's president, also aimed his remarks elsewhere, seeking to console Indonesia and its citizens. He omitted Indonesia from a list of countries an East Timor under the CNRT would seek close relations with, but he stressed the Timorese people had no quarrel with their Indonesian counterparts. "We have fought against an oppressive system that antagonized us. At no point have we fought against the people of Indonesia," he said.

It will be some consolation for the many Indonesians who have sought their livelihood in East Timor since it was invaded by Indonesia in 1975. At its height, up to 10% of the territory's population of 850,000 were migrants from Indonesia, although that number has dwindled since the beginning of this year. Those who do remain are mainly civil servants. "They are welcome to contribute to the building of the new state," Mr. Gusmao said of civil servants and state enterprise employees.

Of more immediate concern, he said, was the need for a smooth transition. During that time, he said, the Indonesian currency should be maintained, and efforts should be focused on keeping institutions and the economy going. But he gave his word there would be no retribution. East Timor "will welcome in its bosom all the East Timorese, regardless of the positions they assumed in the past," Mr. Gusmao said.

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