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Xanana meets with captor

Agence France Presse - July 30, 1998 (slightly abridged)

Jakarta – Jailed East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao met Thursday in a Jakarta jail with Theo Syafei, the man who arrested him, to discuss the future of the former Portuguese colony.

In the hour-long meeting Xanana, who requested the dialogue Wednesday, proposed that a United Nations peacekeeping force step into the troubled territory which was unilaterally annexed by Indonesia in 1976. Xanana also told the retired major general that he felt a referendum was needed for East Timorese to determine their own fate, Syafei told reporters outside the East Jakartan Cipinang prison after the meeting.

"Xanana still asked for referendum because it could give the East Timorese the right to integrate with Indonesia, seperate themselves or other alternatives," Syafei said.

Hendardi, Xanana's lawyer and the executive director of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association, said the jailed leader had asked for Thursday's meeting to suggest some changes in the territory. "Xanana initiated the dialogue because East Timor cannot stay the way it is now ...So the initiative was to give input to ABRI (the Indonesian armed forces) and the government," Hendardi said.

"The bottom line of the discussion was Xanana's proposal to put the UN troops in East Timor with ABRI still intact in the territory as a "tolerant force" ...whose job is still to maintain peace and order," he added.

Syafei, who at the time of the arrest was the regional military commander of East Timor, indirectly responded that the heavy presence of the some 12,000 Indonesian armed forces personnel in the territory had failed to solve the problems there. "If ABRI had the answer to the problem, the situation should have improved and there should have been more security and order," he added. Xanana further proposed that Syafei act as an intermediary between the East Timorese and the ABRI.

Hendardi, who was also present at the dialogue, said Xanana's selection of Syafei as the middleman must have been because "he (Xanana) thought the man (Syafei) knows enough and knows in depth about East Timor." A previous initiative by Xanana to initiate a dialogue with the Indonesian army in East Timor broke down, but since then Indonesia's new president B.J Habibie has offered the territory autonomy.

[Major General Theo Syafei, then a colonel, was appointed commander of East Timor in December 1991 following the removal of Colonel Warouw in the wake of the Santa Cruz massacre. After his own removal from the post, he was sidelined into one of the army's educational institutions. He later became a member of Parliament but was "re-called" for speaking out of line - James Balowski.]