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Indonesian 'security approach' fails to solve East Timor woes: Cardinal

Agence France Presse - February 1, 1997

Jakarta – Indonesia's "security approach" in East Timor has failed to reduce tension in the disputed territory, the Catholic Church warned here Saturday.

Cardinal Justinus Darmaatmaja said Jakarta's actions in East Timor had done little to address the territory's problems and called for dialogue to end a stand-off which is now in its 22nd year.

"The situation there is still the same after 20 years," Darmaatmaja told a press conference. "It is clear that many still do not want to join (Indonesia). These people have been handled with the security approach, with all its consequences.

"If this does not change I am afraid that the younger generation ... won't easily respect and join Indonesia.

They will inherit hate." Indonesian troops invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 and formally annexed it the following year, a move never recognized by the United Nations or most states, including the Vatican.

Indonesian troops have since kept a tight grip on the territory, a source of constant criticism by observers who accuse security officials of frequently arbitrarily detaining and torturing East Timorese.

Observers have identified one of the main problems in East Timor as the high level of discontent among local youths. Since September 1993, 115 East Timorese, mostly youths, have left for Portugal after seeking sanctuary in embassies in Jakarta.

Darmaatmaja called for the inclusion of all East Timorese in finding a solution for the territory. "Let's hear openly what their (the East Timorese's) grievances are, what their laments are.

An open dialogue is essential and do not sharpen differences of opinions with a firm hand," he said.

While Jakarta claims it has seven battalions in East Timor, of between 600 and 650 men per battalion, western military sources say there are up to nine battalions there, totalling 15,000 to 20,000 soldiers, plus irregular troops such as intelligence officers.

While almost 90 percent of Indonesia's 200 million people are Moslems, the majority of East Timor's 800,000 inhabitants are Roman Catholic.

In December, the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to East Timorese Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and exiled freedom activist Jose Ramos Horta, once again putting East Timor's troubles in the international spotlight.

Jakarta has discouraged the vocal bishop from making political comments or engaging in political activities. lis/kf