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Activist calls for military ties to be cut

Canberra Times - September 5, 1997

Ian Mcphedran – A leading Indonesian pro-democracy campaigner has called on Australia to sever military ties with his country and to grant refugee status to East Timorese asylum-seekers.

Risking possible arrest on his return to Jakarta, Edwin Gozal, a member of the Central Leadership Committee of the Peoples' Democratic Party, said the Indonesian people aspired to democracy.

Mr Gozal, a former leading student activist, said that unless there was democratic reform in Indonesia, there would be a civil uprising in the country within the next few years.

He said in Indonesia there was no general election only an election for generals.

"Australia's Government often says that it should not impose Australia's democratic values on Indonesia," he said.

"Is democracy only preserved for Western countries, not for South-East Asian countries like us, or brown people like us?" He accused Australia of training Indonesian special-forces troops who were responsible for killing people in East Timor on one hand, while on the other the Government refused to grant refugee status to East Timorese. Mr Gozal said he was disturbed by the Australian Government's low-key approach to human-rights issues.

He said many Western countries had used silent diplomacy against Indonesia for years and it had not had any impact on the democratisation process.

"On the other side, the Australian Government has a close relationship with Indonesia in economic and military projects and in terms of democracy and human rights they say we have different values and a different approach." Greens Senator Bob Brown told Mr Gozal that the actions of the Australian Government on Indonesia did not reflect the wishes of the majority of Australian people.

Mr Gozal this week met the human-rights sub-committee of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

He last visited Australia for an East Timor conference in Sydney last year and when he and his companions returned three of them were arrested and remain locked up.

East Timor