Lisbon – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ramos Horta in Lisbon last week appealed to the inernartional community to "verify" Indonesia's announced troop withdrawal from his troubled homeland. Ramos Horta said the international community should check on the announced withdrawal of troops before believing it.
"Such declarations have been made in the past and did not constitute the truth because they only meant withdrawal of Indonesian troops from one place (in East Timor) to another, Ramos Horta told the media in the Portuguese capital in reaction to Jakarta's announcement that it planned to withdraw 1,000 troops from the half-island off northern Australia.
Ramos Horta also said that in the past the announced withdrawal of troops from East Timor usually just were "simple troops rotations from one island to another." Ramos Horta is the exiled vice-president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance.
A spokesman for the Indonesian armed forces last week announced the withdrawal of 1,000 troops from the East Timor later this month.
"There will be a troops withrawal from East Timor on Tuesday morning," the spkesman said, adding the port of embarkation would be Dili, capital of East Timor. "This is the first (withdrawal), others will follow," the military spokesman said. However, the officials was unable to give a date for the next contigent to leave East Timor.
Indonesian President B. J. Habibie last month promised a "gradual" troop withdrawal from the former Portuguese overseas province. The spokesman for the Indonesian armed forces also said the departing troops would leave for the island of Kalimantan and Java, adding that those staying would be "needing in a civil affairs, such as doctors and (other) medical staff." The spokesman also said that an official ceremony would be held in Dili in the presence of journalist to witness the withdrawal of the 1,000 soldiers.
According to the military observers, there are between 10,000 and 15,000 Indonesian troops in East Timor. However, the Indonesian armed forces maintain that the number amounts to "only" 8,000 soldiers, claiming that increasing numbers are recruited among the local East Timorese population. Manuel Carrascalao, who heads the Movement of Unity and Reconciliation of the People of East Timor, told Lusa in Sydney regarded the announced Indonesian troop withdrawal as "nothing more than a bluff." Carrascalao made the remark by the telephone from Dili last week. Portugese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres said in Lisbon last week that a "significant reduction" in the number of Indonesian troops in East Timor was needed, not just the announced withdrawal of 1,000 troops.
Guterres also said "there exist no sure information (on the announced troop withdrawal) because Indonesia has voiced contradictory views" (on the situation in East Timor).
The Portuguese prime minister described a significant reduction in troops in East Timor, the release of impresoned armed East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao and other political prisoners, as well as other confidence-building measures, as "important elements" to get the mediation process about East Timor moving.
Guterres also said that the problem of East Timor was "very complex," stressing that a referendum on East Timor's right of self-determination was the only "definitive solution" toi the issue. However, Guterres also said that certain "interim solutions" were possible as long as they would lead to a solution to the East Timor problem through an internationally supervised referendum on the issue of self-determination.