Friday, June 25, 1999

Ramos-Horta flying to Jakarta

The Nation

JAKARTA, 25 June 1999 -- Nobel peace laureate and exiled East Timor leader Jose Ramos-Horta is due to arrive in Indonesia tonight amid disappointment among East Timorese over a United Nations (UN) decision to delay a referendum in the province for two weeks.

Sonny Inbaraj, an assistant to Ramos-Horta, told The Nation yesterday by telephone that Ramos-Horta was due to leave New York last night, adding this visit will mark the first time the exiled leader has been in Jakarta since June 1974.

Ramos-Horta represented the Fretilin resistance group in 1974 at a meeting with the then Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik. During the meeting Malik assured Horta that ''the independence of every country is the right of every nation, with no exception for the people of East Timor''.

But Indonesia invaded East Timor in December 1975 and has occupied the former Portuguese colony since 1976. The UN, however, does not recognise Indonesia's rule over East Timor and has managed to persuade the sprawling nation to let the international body conduct a ballot on Aug 8 in which the people of East Timor will vote either for greater autonomy from Jakarta or complete independence.

Inbaraj said Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas was very likely to allow Ramos-Horta to travel to East Timor from Jakarta for a day visit, to take a look at the UN office in the province's capital of Dili, and then back to Jakarta.

''There are security concerns. The most important thing, however, is that he makes it to East Timor,'' said Inbaraj, referring to various death threats made against Ramos-Horta by pro-Indonesian militia organisations.

Alatas said on Monday that the Indonesian government would consider granting Ramos-Horta an entry visa under ''certain circumstances'', such as his attendance at the Dare II reconciliation talks.

''I never said we wouldn't grant Ramos-Horta an entry visa for the territory. The only thing I reacted against was his statement that he would go to East Timor directly from Darwin (Australia), with or without our authorisation. That's something I'll not allow. Who does he think he is?'' Alatas said.

Leading East Timorese residents abroad have been participating in the reconciliation talks, which began on Tuesday and will continue until Wednesday, in Jakarta. The reconciliation talks have become popularly known as the Dare talks after an East Timor town where the initiative was taken.

The talks are being organised by East Timor's two Catholic bishops, Carlos Ximenes Belo and Basilio de Nascimento. In the first phase, held from Tuesday until yesterday, 20 representatives of pro- and anti-independence factions resident in East Timor and Indonesia participated.

The second round of meetings will take place from Sunday until Tuesday, with participation widened to include the East Timorese diaspora. Ramos-Horta and other leaders including Joao Carrascalao and Mari Alkatiri are among the exiled East Timorese invited to the talks.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan decided on Wednesday that the UN- sponsored vote will be delayed from Aug 8 to Aug 28, citing security and logistical problems in East Timor.

The UN ballot in East Timor, projected to cost US$50 million, will involve some 600 personnel, including almost 280 unarmed police. The first contingent of police advisers arrived in the troubled territory on Tuesday from the nearby northern Australian city of Darwin.

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