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Alatas: No agreement on referendum

Kompas - February 9, 1999

Jakarta – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Alatas, denied that an agreement between Indonesia and Portugal has been reached to settle the East Timor problem by means of a referendum.

"That is not true. Indonesia shall never agree in a referendum," the Minister told Kompas who spoke with him on a long distance line to New York, Monday evening (8/2).

"I have repeatedly explained that a referendum would not be the best way," he went on saying. Ali Alatas, has said on several occasions before, that a referendum could setback the Timtim people to zero point, and that a civil war might break out.

Alatas explained further that the tripartite dialogue between the Indonesian Foreign Minister, his Portugese counterpart, under the umbrella of the Secretaris General of the United Nations at the moment, is to find out the best method in gauging the all-over opinion of the Timtim people. Those who are for pro-integration with Indonesia and those who are not.

"That is what we are presently talking about. Referendum is not mentioned, people like to jump to conclusions, saying that Indonesia will be releasing Timtim. At the moment we are trying to find the right way, how to establish autonomy in an acceptable way, or, it might be rejected by the Timtim people. We have not found a way yet. The United Nations is still looking for a way. So, how did referendum come up, everything is still under negotiation," he said.

Indonesia will be providing an alternative in the release of Timtim from the Indonesian Republic, should the people reject the offer of a special autonomy status. The government would then hand over the problem to a legislative body at the future General Meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) after the election.

Indonesia has to proceed in this way as it has to withdraw MPR rule Number VI/MPR/1978 dated March 22, 1978, through which Timtim was integrated. With the new MPR rule, Timtim would be released from the Indonesian fold.

He further explained that Timtim's status would be restored to the original position, before 1976. The withdrawal of the rule would return the region to the United Nations and make it a non-self governing territory with Portugal as its administrator.

"We are not making it independent, we are not a colony. The United Nations will have to take over in this case." Timtim stated in the Balibo Proclamation of November 30 1975 that it wanted to be integrated with Indonesia. Indonesia legalized their desire with Laws Number 7 1976 dated July 17 1976. It was enforced by MPR with Rule Number VI/MPR/1978 dated March 22 1978.

He underlined that Indonesia's offer of a special status, would not include the wish of other parties having intentions to accept the offer for a time period of five to 10 years alone and thereafter, alter in into a referendum.

Hopes are set on an autonomy agreement between Indonesia and Portugal in April, at the latest, said Alatas. After that the autonomy package will be consulted over or made public in Timtim through the best possible way.

Director General of Police, Nugroho Wisnumurti, who also spoke on a long distance line in New York explained that discussions over the autonomy style has reached the Draft Agreement stage and that they were held at top levels.

He admitted, however, that several matters were still pending for further discussions at ministerial levels. Subjects covered were the court system and management of natural resources.

United Nations The Foreign Minister of Portugal, Jaime Gama, said meanwhile, that an agreement on the polling system organised by the UN in the region, has been reached. Gama has also requested the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to dispatch as soon as possible a United Nations mission to Timtim. The request is pending until an agreement at the meeting has been forthcoming.

The results of the meeting in New York will also decide the end of the Tripartite Meeting in April 1999 when a "new plan" has been decided upon, followed by a poll in Timtim.

Gama also said that both Foreign Ministers have agreed that Indonesia would withdraw its personnel from Timtim in several months time. At the time of withdrawal, Portugal, the United Nations mission and the United Nations Police, will be governing Timtim.