Press Release GA/COL/2983 Decolonization Committee, 1 July 1998
PETITIONERS PLEAD FOR SELF-DETERMINATION, OTHERS ADVOCATE INTEGRATION WITH INDONESIA
Decolonization Committee Hears Contrasting Views; `Special Status' Proposal of
President Habibie also Discussed
The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples this
afternoon heard contrasting positions on the question of East Timor. While several
petitioners stressed self-determination and independence for the island, others advocated
its integration with Indonesia and expressed support for President B.J. Habibie's proposed
special status for the Territory. The Committee was continuing its hearing of petitions on
Jose Luis Guterres, External Delegation, Revolutionary Front for the Independence of
East Timor (FRETILIN), said the organization rejected any definitive solution to the
question without Timorese participation. It would never accept any transitional status
that would imply Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. The situation remained
fundamentally unchanged; an occupied country and its people had not yet exercised their
right to self-determination and independence as demanded in various General Assembly and
Security Council resolutions.
He said FRETILIN believed that United Nations Member States and permanent members of
the Security Council should have done more to implement decisions taken in respective
resolutions. In spite of claims by Indonesian authorities of development and massive
investments in East Timor, indicators by the United Nations Population Fund showed that
Timorese life expectancy was among the lowest in the world's 30 least developed countries.
The infant mortality rate was in fact the worst.
Maria Lurdes Soares, East Timor Cultural and Ethnic Research Centre, said President
Habibie had shown a creative approach and a strong understanding of the Territory's
problems. It was undeniable that the door for further discussions had been opened and the
foundation for future negotiations laid. The promise to withdraw substantial numbers of
troops, the offer of a special status, the release of political prisoners, the possible
restoration of the East Timorese community and the return of guerrillas to normal life was
a new attitude that deserved every consideration.
Mari Alkatiri, Law Faculty, Eduardo Mondlane University, said Indonesia's offer was a
political "marketing" bid aimed at conveying a more flexible attitude by the
Government while implying an image of inflexibility on the part of the East Timorese
Resistance and Portugal. The offer also aimed to create false expectations, thereby
demobilizing international support for the cause of self-determination.
Abilio Sereno, Committee of the Peace and Development in East Timor, said that if
everyone was sincere in solving the question of East Timor, the alternative offered by
President Habibie was the only viable one. He invited all parties to accept that option as
a starting point. Dialogue and consensus were the only ways to tackle the crisis. When
there were winners and losers conflicts were unavoidable and ensuring that such a
situation did not occur was the only way to avoid bloodshed.
Petitions were also heard from representatives of Kyoto East Timor Association, the
British Coalition for East Timor, East Timor Alert Network, Pax Christi International,
Free East Timor Japan Coalition, a Portuguese citizen living in East Timor, a member of
the United States Congress, the Timorese Democratic Union, Hobart East Timor Committee, a
citizen of East Timor, and the International Platform of Jurists for East Timor.
The Committee will resume its hearing of petitions tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.
Committee Work Programme
The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met this
afternoon to continue its hearing of petitioners on the question of East Timor.
RICHARD TANTER, of the Kyoto East Timor Association, said President Habibie of
Indonesia had conceded the necessity for change in East Timor policy. Indonesians
themselves were questioning the wisdom, consequences and plain morality of occupation.
More importantly, in the midst of Indonesia's economic and political crisis it was
becoming clear to all how little there was to lose by a properly orchestrated withdrawal
from the Territory.
He said Member States should renew approaches to Indonesian and East Timorese
representatives to establish a two-step pathway to a process of self-determination for the
Territory. To achieve those aims, the Organization would have to monitor: an immediate
suspension of hostilities in the Territory; immediate revision of the powers of
Indonesia's armed forces in East Timor; suspension of Indonesia's Anti-Subversion Act in
the Territory; and an assurance of conformity by all Indonesian government organizations
to the provisions of the Indonesian Criminal Code. In addition, the United Nations should
sponsor a representative forum to develop transnational institutions and policies for the
establishment of self-government in East Timor. It should also monitor the phased
withdrawal of Indonesian troops from the villages and towns of the Territory and the
simultaneous establishment of a transnational East Timorese local security and police
ARSENIO PAIXO BANO, of the British Coalition for East Timor, said his organization
sought to influence British Government policy and the European Union position on East
Timor. The initial steps by President Habibie's Government provided a crucial opportunity
to solve the problems of the Territory. It was a timely moment for the Special Committee
to carry out its responsibilities to fulfil obligations started by Portugal in 1974. Over
time, Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation had tragic consequences for the people
of East Timor. This year had been no different. The weakening Indonesian economy had also
affected the East Timorese, who now had to pay for Indonesian mismanagement. The general
poverty of the East Timorese people, coupled with rising food prices, meant that they
could now afford very little.
Now was the time for Indonesia, under the auspices of the international community, to
take serious steps to resolve the decolonization issue. It must also improve its standing
in the international community and its human rights record. President Habibie had
indicated consent for a special status for East Timor. That was not satisfactory and was
not in line with the European Union position adopted in 1996. There must be a referendum
for the people of East Timor to choose their right to self-determination. The Coalition
urged the Committee to encourage the Government of Indonesia to take concrete steps to
resolve the situation of East Timor. He also drew the attention of the Committee to
violence against women in East Timor who were subjected to rape, sexual harassment,
prostitution and were also used as sex slaves. It was alarming that such considerations
had been largely omitted from the peace initiatives.
MAX SURJADINATA, of the East Timor Alert Network/Canada, said the East Timorese were
suffering severely from a combination of political repression and social mismanagement.
Conditions under Indonesian occupation could not be expected to improve. The changes in
Indonesia had opened up new possibilities for East Timor, but so far the new Government
had remained almost as inflexible as the last. Its offer of special status was essentially
meaningless, and would be no more than symbolic -- a far cry from the self- determination
which the East Timorese demanded, and which was their right.
Many Canadian organizations and individuals had called for a free and fair referendum
on the status of East Timor. There could be no better time than now, when Indonesia was
trying to move towards democracy. If the new Government was serious, it would extend the
basic democratic right of self- determination to the East Timorese, he said.
ABILIO SERENO, of the Committee of the Peace and Development in East Timor, wanted to
know the meaning of "legitimate" in the context of East Timor when the FRETELIN
had killed so many. It made no sense to launch a negative campaign against the saviour,
Indonesia, while praising the killer. In a prison situation, did people have to wait for
the United Nations to verify legitimacy or would they accept the hand of the savior who
set them free. The Indonesian Government hoped to open a different chapter by giving East
Timor a new status.
He said that, if everyone was sincere in solving the question of East Timor, the
alternative offered by President Habibie was the only viable one. He invited all parties
to accept that option as a starting point in solving the problem. Dialogue and consensus
were the only ways to solve the crisis. When there were winners and losers, conflicts were
unavoidable. Ensuring that there were none was the only way to avoid bloodshed. Also, why
should Portugal force a referendum in East Timor when Macao had not been required to hold
one to establish whether it wanted to join China? he asked.
ROBERT MURKEN, of Pax Christi International, spoke of economic injustices experienced
by the East Timorese. Natural assets such as marble, oil and trees, were
"stripped" from the island by the Indonesian business community, while the local
indigenous community was denied its right to participate in the decision-making, work
opportunities and profit-sharing. There was continued and excessive military presence, and
the violation of human rights was another main source of conflict. The East Timorese were
victims of oppression, arbitrary detention, ill treatment, torture and even extra-judicial
execution. They were also denied the right of lawful assembly and political activity. Poor
social care, especially in the area of health, was yet another principal conflict area.
He said Pax Christi International recommended that the Special Committee on the
Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of
Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples should initiate actions to reverse the
annexation of the Territory. Interim initial steps which could be taken should include:
setting up an independent human rights commission in Dili to safeguard basic human rights;
the immediate and unconditional release of East Timorese political prisoners; access to
the Territory by the United Nations specialized agencies to carry out a programme of
restoration and protection of the environment; voluntary resettlement of displaced
persons; district development projects, women and childcare and public health; the
appointment of a resident representative of the United Nations to implement all its
activities; broadening the Indonesian Government's agenda to include good governance,
human rights, environmental sustainability, and human development; and the reduction and
eventual withdrawal of occupying forces.
MISAKO KIMURA, of the Free East Timor Japan Coalition, recalled an incident at the
Second Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 1996, when the
Malaysian authorities forcibly stopped the conference, arrested its local NGO organizers
and deported foreign participants.
She said she was lucky never to have seen a person killed and had never even seen a
real gun. She had no specialized training and would not know how to fight with weapons if
she had to. But although it was not an armed struggle, she was carrying out a struggle
nevertheless by urging the people of her community -- whether the lady down the street or
the Japanese Government -- to be concerned about human rights and to be aware of what was
happening in East Timor.
People in Japan, Asia and throughout the world should know about East Timor, she said.
They should listen to what the Timorese themselves had to say and join the struggle. When
that happened, things would change and the name of East Timor would be heard throughout
MARIA LURDES SOARES,of the East Timor Cultural and Ethnic Research Centre, said that
although last October's all-inclusive intra-Timorese dialogue in Krumbach, Austria, had
provided the environment for open discussion on practical issues, some of the participants
had regarded the forum as ground for personal political campaigns. Past divisions and
radical postures were key factors that prevented the meeting from being as efficient and
as conducive as it should have been. However, the Krumbach Declaration was produced,
stating -- among other things -- that participants reaffirmed their support for the
ongoing Tripartite Dialogue between the Governments of Portugal and Indonesia under the
auspices of the United Nations to find a just, comprehensive and internationally
acceptable solution to the question of East Timor.
She said the political transformations in Indonesia during the last few months had
placed great emphasis on the question of East Timor in the international community. The
President of Indonesia, Jusuf Habibie, had already shown a creative approach and a quite
strong understanding of the Territory's problems and had conclusively shattered the
traditional practice of absolutely refusing to discuss or negotiate the question. It was
undeniable that the door for further discussions had been opened and the foundation for
future negotiations laid.
She said the new Indonesian President had promised to withdraw substantial numbers of
troops from the Territory while offering the status of a special region, the release of
political prisoners, the possible restoration of the East Timorese community and the
return of guerrillas to normal life. That new attitude deserved every consideration since
there was a greater chance for its success in a new atmosphere of dialogue and
understanding. The Timorese people had much to gain, she added.
VALENTE DE ARAUJO, a Portuguese citizen born in Timor, said that the last 22 years had
witnessed extreme and irreducible positions concerning the question of East Timor. For
some people that was the independence of the Territory, while for others it was
integration with Indonesia.
He said he proposed a form of autonomy that would be supported by a constitution and by
the legalization of existing political parties in the Territory; a reasonable period to
prepare free elections; and the installation of the party winning the most votes, which
would rule through a president of the regional government, who would appoint regional
secretaries and a regional parliament.
In terms of colonization, East Timor had nothing to do with the history of Indonesia,
he said. In 450 years of Portuguese colonization, the Territory had always been separate
from Indonesia in political, cultural, social and economic terms. As such, the East Timor
question could not be resolved in terms of the Indonesian Constitution and should not be a
source of problems for other regions/provinces.
He said that such autonomy meant a strong defence of the maintenance of the Portuguese
language, which should be taught and spoken in schools and in public administration side
by side with the Indonesian language. The use and practice of the two languages would be a
fundamental means of understanding both cultures.
NITA M. LOWEY, a member of the United States House of Representatives, in a statement
read on her behalf by Matthew Traub, said that to effect real and lasting change in East
Timor, there should be a demand for self- determination for its people through an
internationally supervised referendum. The United States foreign aid bill for the current
fiscal year included several provisions relating to the Territory. It contained an
unprecedented requirement that any sale of weapons from the United States to Indonesia
must include the stated expectation that they would be not used in East Timor. There was
also a provision in the bill supporting "international efforts to find a just and
viable solution to the problems in East Timor".
Resolutions had been introduced in the House of Representatives and the United States
Senate by Congresswoman Lowey and Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, respectively,
calling for an internationally supervised referendum to determine the political status of
East Timor. Congresswoman Lowey believed very strongly that the United States and the
international community had a responsibility to demand that Indonesia end its occupation
of East Timor and give its people their inalienable right to self-determination.
JOAO VIEGAS CARRASCALAO, of the Timorese Democratic Union, said that at the last
Pacific Regional Seminar held at Nadi, Fiji, from 16 to 18 June, it had been recommended
to the Special Committee that Indonesia be called upon to comply with all relevant
resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly. New calls
were now being added for the unconditional liberation of Xanana Gusmao and for the
condemnation of Indonesia for crimes against humanity in East Timor.
He said that Portugal, the administering Power of a Non-Self-Governing Territory
recognized by the United Nations, had shown readiness to decolonize it and was, in fact,
implementing its own decolonization programme with United Nations approval. A free act of
self-determination was to take place at the end of the process. A third party, not
concerned with the case, had stepped in uninvited, and decided to invade and militarily
occupy the country in defiance of the United Nations Charter. That action was a clear-cut
violation of international law. The East Timor issue did not belong in the Special
Committee. It was a case for the Security Council and for the United Nations to enforce
JOSE LUIS GUTERRES, of the FRETILIN External Delegation, said that in East Timor the
situation remained fundamentally unchanged. An occupied country and its people had not yet
exercised their right to self-determination and independence as demanded in various
General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. The Revolutionary Front for the
Independence of East Timor (FRETILIN) believed that Members of the United Nations and
permanent members of the Council should have done more to implement the decision that had
been taken. It appealed to the Chinese Government, Japan, Australia, the Association of
South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Pacific Forum to help the United Nations to
bring peace and freedom to East Timor.
In spite of claims by Indonesian authorities of development and massive investments in
East Timor that surpassed the Portuguese colonial period, indicators released by the
United Nations Population Fund indicated that life expectancy for the Timorese was one of
the lowest among the 30 least developed countries, and that the infant mortality rate was
in fact the worst.
From a self-sufficient country in rice production, East Timor now depended on rice
imports. Deforestation for military purposes, destruction of the environment, lack of
sound incentives for farmers, and rigid military control over the circulation of people
had led the majority of Timorese to live below the poverty line. The FRETILIN encouraged
President Habibie to continue his efforts to rectify the extreme injustice committed
against a sister country.
He said FRETILIN clearly rejected the idea of any definitive solution without the
participation of the Timorese people. It would never accept any transitional status
implying Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. It recognized the right of any Timorese
to defend any political status for East Timor. The FRETILIN also believed that human
rights should be respected by all individuals, organizations and States. A strong,
democratic and stable Indonesia was in the interest of the East Timorese people, ASEAN,
Australia and the world.
MARI ALKATIRI, of the Law Faculty, Eduardo Mondlane University, said that the sole
novelty in the Indonesian offer of autonomy or special status for East Timor was the fact
that it had been formally and publicly disclosed. For many years, several resistance
leaders had been approached by Indonesian envoys with similar proposals. The resistance
had never been influenced by such offers, not even during the most uncertain and hardest
periods of the struggle waged by the East Timorese.
He said that the aim of the Indonesian offer was a political "marketing" bid
aimed at conveying an apparently more flexible attitude by the Indonesian Government and,
therefore, an image that the East Timorese Resistance and Portugal were inflexible;
creating false expectations, thereby demobilizing international support for the cause of
self-determination; and endlessly postponing a solution to the East Timor question.
He said the following stands should be adopted for a just solution: negotiations
without conditions and the direct participation of the National Council for the East
Timorese Resistance, led by Xanana Gusmao, in the dialogue involving Portugal and
Indonesia under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General; unrestricted debate
of all the issues regarding East Timor in the intra-Timorese dialogue; and refusal of any
offer of a political status for East Timor unless it arose from a consensus born of the
negotiating process, in full respect of international law.
MIRANDA SISSONS, of the Hobart East Timor Committee, referred to United Nations
mechanisms that could have been used to assist the people of East Timor, but which had
been largely ineffective. Instead of the Organization placing restrictions on the nation
in violation of international law -- Indonesia -- it had permitted that country to place a
comprehensive air, sea, land, postal and telecommunications blockade on East Timor.
She said that in 1975, Portugal's requests for the development of a peacekeeping
operation were ignored by the United Nations and effectively sabotaged by Australia and
the United States. Had the United Nations taken its peacekeeping responsibilities more
seriously, an Indonesian invasion of East Timor might have been averted altogether.
Since the formation of the United Nations, more than 70 colonies had gained nationhood,
but few had achieved their independence by reason of the help, encouragement and support
of the Special Committee, she said. It seemed likely that East Timor would gain its
independence within the next year or two through the tenacity, courage and determination
of its people, rather than because of any positive action taken by the Committee.
CIPRIANO MAGNO, a resident of East Timor, said he enjoyed living as an Indonesian
citizen. Integration had fulfilled cherished hopes and aspirations, and liberated Timorese
from the nightmare of Portuguese colonialism which had left poverty, backwardness and
isolation in its wake. Over the past years, the Indonesian Government had accorded special
attention to the needs of the people of East Timor, despite the many other domestic issues
that it had to confront. That special attention continued even today in the face of
economic difficulties. East Timor had been transformed into a vastly different land. The
colonial past offered nothing worth remembering. It was a past where health care was
absent, which denied education to most with the exception of the privileged few, and which
was filled with racial discrimination in the employment sector.
Referring to the petitions made by the "so-called" National Council of
Timorese Resistance, he said it was to be expected, given their past records, that they
should speak so much when they had done so little. They offered solutions when they were
themselves the mischief makers. They falsely and arrogantly spoke on behalf of the people
who, however, could not be deceived. Ramos Horta could never pull the wool over the eyes
of the East Timorese and his opportunistic ways shone through. The "Province" of
East Timor could not escape the economic difficulties which had recently affected
Indonesia and the entire Southeast Asian region. However, there was a determination to
collectively overcome those challenges with the other provinces.
VANESSA RAMOS, International Platform of Jurists for East Timor, asked the Committee
members not to lend themselves to the fallacious formulas of the occupying Power who
invented the term "special status". They should only be taken seriously when
they started withdrawing occupying troops.
Peace would come sooner if countries selling weapons to Indonesia would stop doing so.
The tripartite talks involving Portugal, Indonesia and the United Nations should continue
and the people of East Timor should be invited to participate.
She strongly urged the Indonesian Government to release Xanana Gusmao and all remaining
political prisoners. It was hoped that the United Nations would soon be in a position to
provide a working group to facilitate a self- determination referendum and that the
Indonesian Government would allow access to the specialized agencies.
STEVANUS WAISAPY, of the Solidaritas Pemuda Indonesia, said, as an Indonesian he was
astonished by the strong anti-Indonesia rhetoric hurled at his country by people who had
little or no knowledge about it. As former colonial peoples, Indonesians needed no
sermonizing about human rights, he said. In the case of East Timor and its people, he said
Portuguese colonialism had left its deep scars. They had no health facilities, schools,
roads, hospitals and transportation. On the contrary, following integration with
Indonesia, East Timorese and Indonesians had worked in partnership to expedite the process
of reconstruction after decades of colonial subjugation by Portugal. Every effort was
being made to ensure that the people of East Timor enjoyed full exercise of their rights
as Indonesian citizens.
After so much tragedy, he said East Timorese deserved support and assistance as they
strove to consolidate their development as an integral part of Indonesia. The rest of
Indonesia extended its fullest support towards the achievement of that goal, he added.
FERNANDO NEVES (Portugal) said that some petitioners seemed to be making comparisons
between Indonesian colonialism and Portuguese colonialism which was not the purpose of the
meeting. The last speaker had mentioned Portuguese atrocities in East Timor; it was under
the Indonesian occupation that the worst atrocities had been committed in the Territory.
SOERYO LEGOWO (Indonesia) said his delegation would exercise its right of reply at a
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ-PARILLA (Cuba), acting Chairman, said that in order to allow all
petitioners to speak, it had been decided to meet tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. He requested
petitioners to limit their statements to a maximum of 10 minutes. There was no way the
Committee could conclude its work without calling for the greatest punctuality and brevity
EAST TIMOR PETITIONERS PLEAD FOR SELF-DETERMINATION, OTHERS ADVOCATE INTEGRATION WITH
On page 3 of Press Release GA/COL/2983 of 1 July 1998 the statement attributed to
ABILIO SERENO was, in fact, made by BASILIO DIAS ARAUJO of the Indonesian Association of
British Alumni of East Timor.
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