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Soares: Timor's special autonomy would depend on locals' preparedness

Antara - September 12, 1997

Dili, East Timor – East Timor Governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares on Thursday turned down South African President Nelson Mandela's call to award special autonomy to the Indonesia's27th province.

"We must ask ourselves whether or not we are ready to be autonomous. In fact, nearly 99 percent of East Timor's development budget comes from the central government," Abilio said.

Mandela urged Indonesia to give the East Timorese more opportunity to govern themselves after meeting with Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dili Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, in Johannesburg Tuesday.

"East Timor has actually enjoyed autonomy since it integrated with the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. The idea of granting special autonomy as suggested by Mandela cannot be implemented because it depends on the province's preparedness," he said.

Abilio said the central government's stand that granting special autonomy to East Timor will harm Indonesia's interest as a whole must be upheld.