Subject: East Timor Leader: Won't Help Others Break From Indonesia

Associated Press February 26, 2001

E Timor Leader: Won't Help Others Break From Indonesia


SINGAPORE (AP)--East Timor's Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta says he understands the suffering, humiliation and struggles of people fighting to break free from Indonesia, but he said his newly independent homeland cannot support their cause.

"We cannot support," Ramos-Horta told The Associated Press during an interview late Sunday when asked why East Timor was not taking a philosophical stand in support of bloody independence movements in Indonesia's Aceh, Irian Jaya and the Maluku archipelago.

"Can you imagine if the international community supports independence for Aceh and Irian Jaya, what would be the repercussions elsewhere around the world with countries not only in the developing world, but in Europe, facing similar problems?"

"It would be a colossal disaster," he said.

East Timor voted for independence in 1999 after a U.N.-backed referendum. The territory is now being run by the U.N., but should have full independence this year. He said East Timor's case is different from other territories in Indonesia because it was a Portuguese colony and was never part of the Dutch East Indies.

Ramos-Horta said it would create a diplomatic mess if other countries supported independence movements in "the Basque country in Spain or Canada and Quebec" or "Tibet, Kashmir, and even Bangladesh."

"Latin America is the only fortunate continent that doesn't have secessionists," he said, during a trip to Singapore where he attended a meeting on U.N. peacekeeping efforts with academics.

In 1975, Ramos-Horta, who was then in exile, successfully lobbied the U.N. Security Council to condemn the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.

Although Ramos-Horta agrees that warfare has been on the rise since former dictator Suharto was ousted in 1998, he doesn't believe Indonesia will break apart. He said people were not giving Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid enough time to sort out the countries problems.

For decades, Suharto used his security forces to crush any dissent or unrest, suppressing tensions between Indonesia's many diverse ethnic and religious groups.

"The abuses perpetrated by the army, the humiliation the suffering of these people in Aceh and Irian Jaya are the same ones we shared and we suffered in the past," he said.

Thousands have been killed in combat between troops and separatist rebels in Aceh province. About 5,000 people have died in two years of warfare between Christians and Muslims in the Maluku archipelago. In Irian Jaya, an upsurge of separatist violence has claimed dozens of lives since December.

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