Jakarta – Indonesia's president might not attend an Asia-Pacific leaders' summin in Canada in November because of possible protests over his country's human rights record in the troubled territory of East Timor, the foreign minister said Wednesday.
Ali Alatas said President Suharto had yet to decide whether to go to the 18 country Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Vancouver – the region's biggest annual diplomatic event.
Alatas said Indonesian officials would gauge how serious any protests against Suharto might be in Canada, where there is a vocal netowrk of activists who want independence for East Timor.
"If our conclusion is that it could get out of hand then why should we subject the president to such indignites?" Alatas told the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents' Club.
However he indicated that the president would not be bothered by "demonstrations that are well under control in accordance with the law of the land."
APEC groups Canada, the United States, Japan, China, Australia and most countries of Southeast Asia.
Alatas said Suharto, a 76-year-old former army general who has governed Indonesia for 31 years, believed that overseas official visits should produce good will, not friction between nations.
Alatas said this was one reason Suharto also had no plans to visit neighbouring Australia where protests over the plight of East TImor are common despite close co-operation on other political and economic issues.
East Timor has been wracked by civil unrest, pro-independence guerilla warfare and human rights abuse since Indonesia invaded the former Portugese colony in 1975. Indonesia annexed East Timor in 1976 and claims it as its 27th province.
The United Nations, currently host to talks between Indonesia and Portugal over the territory's future, does not recognize Indonesia's sovereignty there.