Mon, 08 Mar 1999

Australia to release East Timor documents

JAKARTA (JP): Australia will release secret government documents concerning its policy toward East Timor and Indonesia during a crucial two-year period in the 1970s, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on Sunday.

The announcement came after reports on Australia's monitoring of Indonesia's role in the former Portuguese colony, appeared in Australian newspapers on Friday, Reuters reported from Sydney.

Downer said all documents covering the period from 1974 to 1976 would be released.

"I am going to release all the documents because I think that it's only fair that there be an open debate about them," Downer told Channel Nine television.

Downer said the time frame covered in the documents were those "from the Portuguese revolution up until the final completion of the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia".

Downer recently visited Indonesia, East Timor and Lisbon and held talks with, among others, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas and East Timorese resistance leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao.

Antara reported on Sunday the launch of a book at Xanana's special detention house in Central Jakarta, the latest in a series of publications about East Timor since Soeharto stepped down in May.

The book titled Xanana Gusmao: Timor Leste Merdeka Indonesia Bebas (Xanana Gusmao: Independent Timor Leste, Indonesia Free) was edited by activist Tri Agus Siswowihardjo, a former fellow inmate at Cipinang penitentiary. The author is a member of Solidamor, a nongovernmental group with a special interest in East Timor.

"There are critics and there are those with supportive (attitudes), but I am glad that Indonesians are realizing that the East Timor issue is of enormous importance," Xanana said.

On Saturday, Xanana had a historic meeting with prointegration leaders, reportedly the first with a proindependence leader in 23 years. Held on neutral ground at the Ministry of Justice, the meeting with the Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice for East Timor was facilitated by the National Commission on Human Rights.

Forum president Dominggus Dos Dores Soares called for the release of Xanana, president of The National Resistance Council for an Independent East Timor, (CNRT), saying his presence was vital for settlement of the province's future.

From Portugal's capital, Lisbon, Antara reported that the country's Muslim figures have expressed support for the East Timorese and hope that it's people will choose to remain within the Republic of Indonesia.

Achmad Ghulam, deputy leader of the Muslim community in Portugal, said it would be better for East Timorese to accept the wide-ranging autonomy package offered by the Indonesian government. (aan)