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Press release: Ramos-Horta issues statement on Megawati

Jose Ramos-Horta - November 25, 1997

The Indonesian Antara Newsagency claimed on 23 November that Indonesia's opposition political figure, Megawati Sukarnoputri said that East Timor is part of Indonesia. The report quotes Megawati as saying that "the integration of East Timor into Indonesia is the wish of the people there. So we have to defend the territory because it has something to do with our pride as a nation..."

It is hard to imagine that Megawati, the true leader of the opposition party PDI would make such a statement. As someone who has experienced the brutality of the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI), Megawati knows the plight of those who oppose the Indonesian regime. Many PDI members have been massacred in cold blood a little over one year ago, under conditions very similar to the ones experienced by so many East Timorese during these last 22 years of Indonesian occupation.

Antara often deliberately misconstrues the statement of personalities, making them appear to support the illegal and brutal Indonesian occupation of the former Portuguese territory. A few months back even the usually docile Australian Government was forced to strongly deny ANTARA claims that their ambassador was favourably impressed by the conditions in the territory at the end of a visit there. The opposite was the case. Last week, after visiting East Timor, the Portuguese Duke of Braganc,a had to issue a denial about Antara news alleging his support for the Indonesian presence in the territory.

As a leader of Indonesians struggling for democracy and an end to the corrupt and oppressive Suharto regime, Megawati knows full well that the integration of East Timor into Indonesia was never the wish of the people. She knows from her own experience, particularly from her removal as PDI head, how the regime manipulates and distorts the truth. Megawati knows very well how strongly the people of East Timor have resisted the brutal occupation they have been subjected to for the last 22 years.

If the aim of this latest disinformation by Antara is to drive a wedge in the increasingly strong relationship between the rapidly growing supporters of democracy in Indonesia and the people of East Timor, Antara has once again failed with its crude tactics. There is a growing alliance between the East Timorese and the increasing number of Indonesians fighting for democracy in their country. This was clearly visible at APEC in Vancouver in the last few days, where we saw the strong determination of young Indonesians to bring an end to the Suharto regime. They closely joined the activities by East Timorese protesting the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, even if doing so entailed high risks for their future security, given the strong threats from the authorities against Indonesian protesters. It would be hard to believe, as Antara seems to wants us to do, that Megawati Sukarnoputri is out of touch with these realities. If she were, her legitimacy as a democratic leader would be put in doubt. Is this what Antara is trying to achieve?