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Publicising East Timor

Report by Kabar dari PIJAR - 12 November 1997 (posted by Tapol)

Several meetings to highlight the situation in East Timor were held in Central Java on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the Santa Cruz Massacre, 12 November 1997. Speaking at all the meetings which were jointly convened by PIJAR, the pro-democracy reform organisation, and IMPETTU, the Association of East Timorese Students and Pupils, was Tri Agus Susanto, who spent more than two years in prison in Jakarta on charges of showing disrespect for the Head of State.

The meeting in Yogyakarta, held at Atmajaya Catholic University, heard Hortencio Pedro Vieira of IMPETTU declare that people should study the history of both Indonesia and East Timor. Following East Timor's unilateral declaration of independence on 28 November 1975, foreign forces contrived to issue a counter proclamation known as the Balibo Declaration on 30 November. Neither of these was recognised by the UN which to this day regards East Timor as a 'non-self-governing territory'. He found it strange that Indonesia, under President Sukarno, was strongly anti-colonialist whereas under President Suharto, Indonesia's position has been reversed, doing everything to halt the decolonisation process in East Timor.

Another East Timorese named Joao Maco, member of the East Timorese Student Movement which was set up by Major-General Prabowo Subianto, welcomed East Timor's integration with Indonesia, saying that it was the least worst option available to the people of East Timor. He admitted that there were many shortcomings and said the task of East Timorese youth is to improve conditions.

Drs Suryo Leksono, a lecturer at the political science faculty, said that global circumstances at the time of the Indonesian invasion were dominated by the Cold War but now that the Cold War was over and communism had been defeated, the best option was for a referendum to be held in East Timor.

Tri Agus stressed the need for the pro-democracy movement to embrace the issue. He quoted the East Timorese resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao as saying that the Indonesian pro-democracy movement and East Timor's struggle for liberation had different objectives but faced a common enemy. This points to the need for the two to collaborate closely with each other.

A lively debate followed, particularly because the two East Timorese speakers had presented opposing views.

Another meeting, held in Semarang, at Unika Soegijapranata University, was addressed by Horacio de Almeida who chairs the Semarang branch of IMPETTU, Benny Danang Setyanto who lectures in international law at the university, and Tri Agus.

Horacio said that East Timor is in essence a political problem which can only be resolved by listening to the aspirations of the people of East Timor. The solution to the problem is a matter for the international community, not just for Indonesia and Portugal to solve.

Setyanto, a graduate from Diponegoro University and Monash in Melbourne, said that it was clear beyond doubt that the Indonesian government and ABRI had violated international law. In the wake of the Balibo Declaration, a document concocted by Indonesia, the armed forces had repeatedly ignored UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal from the territory. He spoke at some length about the challenge mounted by Portugal against the Timor Gap Treaty at the International Court of Justice and said that Indonesia's international standing is constantly being plagued by the issue.

Tri Agus focused on the attitude of Indonesian intellectuals and journalists who base their analysis on information produced by the armed forces. He said they were just as much to blame as the generals who participated in the war against East Timor. He described ABRI's involvement in East Timor as a violation of the Constitution. They had attacked the people of another country, integrated into the Republic a territory that was not part of the Dutch East Indies and trampled on the sacred principle that independence is the right of every nation.

Most of those who raised questions and made comments strongly condemned ABRI for failing to withdraw from East Timor and regretted the fact that Indonesia continues to refuse to allow a referendum to take place in East Timor.