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Dili commander on a ceasefire and the UN

Suara Pembaruan - December 15, 1998

The military commander in East Timor, Colonel Tono Suratman said that if you wanted to have a ceasefire, it would be necessary for UN monitors to be present. He was answering a journalist after holding a meeting at his command headquarters in Dili with Canadian ambassador Kenneth Sungults.

He said that a request from Falintil guerrillas calling on ABRI to lay down its arms and enter into dialogue could be considered but he wondered whether this was realistic. "We would want the dialogue to proceed in accordance with established procedures."

"I can accept the idea of dialogue, but will it be possible? It would have to be in accordance with established procedures. That would be great. They [the guerrillas] have said they want it and I also want it. The quicker the better," said Colonel Suratman.

But he also said that the Indonesian armed forces only recognises surrender. This would not mean the guerrillas accepting defeat as they would be accepted back as members of the community.

Speaking about the situation in the district of Manufahi and Alas in particular, the commander said that the situation there is now back to normal. "Joint efforts at rehabilitation in the sub-distrct are now underway by several departments including Transmigration, Social Affairs, Public Works and the local military command, in order to help those members of the community who have suffered calamities recently," he said.

Suara Pembaruan also quoted Bishop Belo as saying, on his return from Europe, that human rights abuses had been worse in East Timor in 1998 as compared with the previous year. Abuses were committed not only by members of the armed forces but also by people on the Falintil side, he said. He hoped that the two sides would sit down together and enter into dialogue.

The Bishop has just returned from a visit to Paris where he attended a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He stressed that all sides must respect the Universal Declaration.

"Everyone knows about the Universal Declaration. It was adopted 50 years ago but the fact that there are still prisoners, there is still torture and other abuses here means that it has no significance at all here in East Timor. It's not enough for people to know about the Universal Declaration but they should also begin to practice it."