Subject: Malaysia Says Has No Ulterior Motive In Timor

Reuters November 3, 1999

Malaysia Says Has No Ulterior Motive In Timor

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has defended itself against scathing criticism from an East Timor independence leader who said Kuala Lumpur was against human rights and should not lead a United Nations peacekeeping force in the territory.

Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Malaysia had no agenda in sending forces to East Timor except to fulfil its responsibilities under the planned U.N. peacekeeping mission.

``We are not entering that area with a political agenda, only to serve the U.N. mission as peacekeeping troops,'' the official Bernama news agency quoted Abdullah as saying Tuesday.

The Malaysian minister was responding to statements Monday by independence leader Jose-Ramos Horta who said civil disobedience could break out across East Timor if a Malaysian was appointed head of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

``Malaysia has an extremely poor record when it comes to East Timor,'' Ramos-Horta told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

``People would be shocked, people would be angry, no one would cooperate with a Malaysian commander. There could be even total civil disobedience.''

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said his country is prepared to lead the U.N. peacekeeping operation during the transitional administration that will take over from the current Australian-led multinational intervention force.

Jakarta reluctantly allowed that force, known as INTERFET, into East Timor after waves of violence by pro-Indonesia militias broke out in the wake of an August 30 referendum in which East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence.

Mahathir has accused the Australians of being ''heavy-handed'' in East Timor and said Western powers exerted interventionist pressure in East Timor that forced neighboring Indonesia to allow a vote for independence at an awkward time for Jakarta.

MALAYSIA IN QUANDARY

``Prime Minister Mahathir has been making outrageous statements that are insulting to the East Timorese and Malaysia's record stands against what the United Nations stands for and that is human rights, rule of law in East Timor,'' Ramos-Horta said.

``I don't think it would be wise for the U.N. to have therefore Malaysia as the head of the peacekeeping, or for that matter any ASEAN country,'' he said, referring to the Association of South East Asian Nations.

Abdullah said Ramos-Horta appeared to be ``dead serious'' in opposing a leadership role for Malaysia in a U.N. force, but that bickering would only complicate relief work for the Timorese.

``What he (Ramos-Horta) did was not good for our image,'' Abdullah said.

Malaysia has been in a quandary over East Timor. Kuala Lumpur fears that East Timor's vote for independence could fan separatist movements in other Indonesian regions, including Aceh on Sumatra island near peninsular Malaysia.

Malaysia holds one of the rotating seats on the U.N. Security Council and has pledged up to 1,500 troops for an eventual U.N. peacekeeping force in East Timor.

But it balked at working side-by-side with Australia in the multilateral force which is trying to restore order in East Timor, initially refusing to participate and later sending a token 30 soldiers.

Malaysian soldiers have participated in numerous U.N. peacekeeping operations including those in Bosnia and Somalia.


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