APSN Banner

Xanana outlines independence plan

Agence France Presse - November 16 1998

Jakarta – East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao has spelled out his blueprint for the territory's gradual independence from Indonesia, a process he said should take several years and possibly involve UN peace-keeping forces.

In an interview in his cell at Jakarta's Cipinang jail – where he is serving a 20-year sentence for illegal possession of arms and subversion – Gusmao repeated his insistence that an Indonesian offer of autonomy was meaningless without allowing for a referendum on self-determination.

Once that pledge was made, he told the Jakarta Post, the former Portuguese colony which was invaded by Indonesian troops in 1975 could follow a three-phase plan, with the first period of six to 18 months to "solve problems related to security". That period, he said, should see "an [Indonesian] troop withdrawal, disarmament of the paramilitary members, [as well as] guerilla withdrawal". In addition, a police force made up only of East Timorese should be formed "by the United Nations as part of a possible deployment of peace-keeping forces".

A second three-year period would be needed for "national reconciliation", including political education for the public, setting up an East Timorese administration and conducting a national census. This would also be "under the auspices of international bodies", he said. It would be during those three years that the thorny question of who wanted integration with Indonesia, who wanted autonomy and who a referendum, would be tackled. Strategies would also be laid down for a first five-year development plan, he added.

Indonesia, whose sovereignty over the territory of some 600,000 to 800,000 people is not recognised by the United Nations, this year offered East Timor broad autonomy, while keeping foreign affairs, finance and external defence in its own hands. The proposal is currently under debate between Lisbon and Jakarta, under the auspices of the UN, which has been sponsoring so-far futile peace talks between the two on the issue since 1983.

[Security forces in East Timor arrested four suspected rebels after an attack on a military post last week that left three soldiers dead and two abducted, the Kompas daily reported. The abducted men were believed to be still alive.]