Sun, 05 Sep 1999

Habibie calls on the nation to accept E. Timor results

JAKARTA (JP): President B.J. Habibie urged the nation on Saturday to accept the result of the ballot in East Timor with sincerity and perseverance.

In a conciliatory address televised to the nation, Habibie said he understood those who may feel bitter with the fact that the majority of East Timorese rejected Indonesia's offer for wide-ranging autonomy.

But he pleaded with all the leaders and people of Indonesia and East Timor to work together and create an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence.

Habibie reasserted the government's commitment to honor the result.

"I call on all the East Timorese to remain calm, create order and ensure security to create a peaceful atmosphere so the next process and steps related with the direct ballot can be implemented in an orderly and peaceful manner," he said.

In his capacity as the Indonesian Military (TNI) supreme commander, the President ordered TNI chief Gen. Wiranto and National Police chief Gen. Roesmanhadi to ensure that law and order were upheld.

Habibie also pointed out that he had instructed Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas to continue negotiations with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as required by the agreement made in New York on May 5.

"In the meantime, the Indonesian government will continue to carry out its task in general administration and public services before transferring its authority of East Timor to the UN," he added.

In the afternoon, Habibie met with British Ambassador Robin Christopher, U.S. Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy, New Zealand Ambassador Michael Green and Japan Ambassador Takao Kawakami to brief them on the latest development.

On Sunday morning, several ministers, including Gen. Wiranto, Alatas, Minister of Justice/State Secretary Muladi and Gen. Roesmanhadi will fly to Dili to meet with military and local community leaders.


While most national figures said they would respect the results of the ballot, there was an air of despondency in their comments as they lamented what looks now to be the inevitable separation of Indonesia's 27th province.

Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairperson of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and leading presidential candidate, expressed sorrow that the East Timorese opted to reject autonomy.

"I'm very sad at the result of this ballot," she said in Yogyakarta on Saturday.

"I always hoped East Timor would remain part of the Republic of Indonesia," said Megawati, whose party received over 116,000 votes from East Timor in the June 7 general election, and was second only to the Golkar Party in the province.

She remarked her concern now was for the repercussions of the ballot, and feared a wave of terror could prompt a wave of refugees out of the province.

She said she had contacted party leaders in four branches -- East Java, Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara -- to assist a possible influx of refugees.

Megawati was full of recrimination for Habibie, whom she said should be held responsible for initiating a ballot which could have such severe consequences.

It was Habibie who reversed Indonesia's long-standing policy on East Timor in January and decided to hold a ballot.

Separately, Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X also expressed disappointment.

"Personally, I'm disappointed because my hope was that no territory would ever separate from this republic. Alas, if this is what the government decides, then we must remain loyal," he said.

Founder of the National Awakening Party (PKB), Abdurrahman Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, was unhappy with the process as a whole and said Indonesia had an international commitment to respect its agreements.

However, he had strong words about future relations with an independent East Timor.

"If we have to have diplomatic ties, make it a very cold relationship, and if necessary, set it up at the lowest level without having an embassy there," Abdurrahman told The Jakarta Post via telephone from Singapore on Saturday.

"We are not a cecere (cockroach) nation," he asserted.

The secretary-general of the Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) Adi Sasono seemed almost relieved East Timor would no longer be a part of Indonesia.

Adi, who is also the minister of cooperatives, pointed out that for 23 years Indonesia's foreign policy was held "hostage" by East Timor with its population of just 700,000.

"During that time, our nation was insulted because we were accused of violating human rights, yet each year we had to fork out US$100 million (for the East Timor provincial budget)," he said.

"All we got in return was enmity, rejection and hate," he said.

Legislator Usamah Hisyam of the United Development Party (PPP) said he would urge the House of Representatives Commission I for security and defense, which oversees the foreign policy, to summon Alatas and Gen. Wiranto.

Golkar Party chairman Akbar Tandjung also expressed disappointment at the results, but affirmed that he would uphold the party's commitment to respect the outcome.


Meanwhile, veterans, many of them physically handicapped and widows of the Seroja Military operation in East Timor, told SCTV they were disappointed with the result of the ballot.

"We should not have let East Timor go ... thousands have died ... of my husband, only his name remains," a widow said.

"What do our medals mean if East Timor is independent?" one veteran said.

The Indonesian Military itself officially congratulated the East Timorese on the results of the ballot and urged all to sincerely accept the outcome.

"That's what army personnel are also commanded to do: sincerely accept and honor the ballot result," spokesman Brig. Gen. Sudrajat said on Saturday on behalf of TNI chief Gen. Wiranto.

"We will still hold the responsibility over security until late November and we'll work with other related institutions during the authority transition," he quickly added. (swa/23/emf/anr/mds/prb)