Subject: AFP: Indon press calls for reconciliation with a new E. Timor

Indonesian press calls for reconciliation with a new East Timor

JAKARTA, Nov 1 (AFP) - The Indonesian press on Monday expressed relief the country's army had completed its withdrawal from East Timor in a dignified manner, and called for reconciliation to heal the bitter wounds of the past.

The leading Kompas daily said the weekend ceremony in Dili marking the departure of the last 1,000-strong garrison from East Timor was emotional and highly significant for many Indonesians.

"We are heartened that the withdrawal of the last TNI troops from the land of Loro Sae (East Timor) and the lowering of the red and white flag took place in an honorable way," said the paper.

The English-language Jakarta Post heaped praise on East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao for shaking the hands of the departing Indonesian top brass in a ceremony at Dili's Comoro airport on Saturday.

"The East Timorese can consider themselves fortunate to have this kind of leader at a time when they are poised to embark on the arduous road to full independence," said the paper.

The Post said Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor had been a painful mistake which had cost the lives of around 5,000 Indonesians and 200,000 East Timorese.

"The 24-year-long conflict can be appropriately called a historical error given the sacrifices that have been made on both sides and the international complications which the problem has caused for Jakarta."

And it urged new Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid to learn the lessons of the East Timor debacle in dealing with separatist movements in other areas of the vast archipelago such as Aceh and Irian Jaya.

"For Indonesia the whole episode can serve as a valuable lesson in how popular resistance movements should not be handled. Indonesia's fatal mistake in East Timor was that during its 24-year-long presence in the territory it failed to win the hearts and minds of the East Timorese people," it said.

However Kompas said the issue of East Timor was not "black and white," adding that Indonesia's invasion of the former Portuguese colony in 1975 had to be seen in the context of the Cold War.

"Geopolitics, seen from the perspective of the Cold War, was a determining factor to superpowers like the United States, let alone to Indonesia, a developing country still prone to intervention and instability," said Kompas.

The paper also pointed to the "prevailing division and civil war among the people of East Timor" at the time of the invasion.

The Indonesian Observer focused on the damage done to relations with Australia over the eruption of army-backed militia violence that greeted the overwhelming vote by the people of East Timor for independence on August 30.

The paper said the international peacekeeping force Interfet was now being well run under the "efficient" leadership of Australian Major General Peter Cosgrove and that militia violence had tailed off.

"The prospects for a recovery in the relationship between Indonesia and Australia look quite good," said the Observer, pointing to reconciliatory statements by Wahid and Australian leaders.

All three papers called for Indonesian and East Timorese leaders to work together for a better future.

"In the spirit of reconcialition we can build relations or at least be a good neighbor," said Kompas.

The Jakarta Post added: "With the kind of wise leadership that now exists in Jakarta -- and hopefully in the near future in Dili -- there is every reason to believe that such a rapprochement is possible."

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