Sun, 27 Feb 2000

I'm fit to travel to Brunei: Gus Dur

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid said on Saturday he was fit enough to travel and would go ahead with plans to visit Brunei on Sunday and East Timor on Tuesday.

The President was instructed to rest on Thursday after catching a fever, later diagnosed as influenza.

But Abdurrahman, described by friends as a workaholic, will depart to Brunei on Sunday morning for a one-day working visit to meet Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Except for Brunei, Abdurrahman has visited all the other eight fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In his visit to East Timor, Abdurrahman intends to meet Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, Baucau Bishop Basilio do Nascimento, and the head the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Abdurrahman did not mention the name of Dili Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo once during his briefing with journalists.

The President said the topics of discussion would include the kind of assistance Indonesia can extend to help East Timor establish its own state.

The visit will be a landmark as it is the highest level visit since East Timor rejected Indonesia's wide-ranging autonomy offer in the Aug. 30 ballot.

Abdurrahman also said he wanted to discuss with Xanana and de Mello ways to improve cooperation at the border between East Timor and East Nusa Tenggara to ease the mobility of people crossing it.

While in Dili, Abdurrahman is scheduled to open an Indonesian interest section office.

"Because, according to de Mello, the East Timorese would like to buy food and trade with their Indonesian counterparts. I want to facilitate this," the President remarked.

Abdurrahman also confirmed he had decided to delay a scheduled visit to Australia next month because his agenda was already too full.

A visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the coming days has also been canceled.

Abdurrahman said the neighboring country was in domestic turmoil and therefore would not be in a position to welcome a foreign dignitary.

"This is their statement. We just believe what they said," Abdurrahman remarked.

Meanwhile, AFP reported on Saturday that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad would make a two-day bilateral visit to Indonesia on March 9.

"This visit is going to be a full complement visit, consisting of various people from ministries as well as the private sector," Malaysian foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar was quoted as saying in Kuala Lumpur. (prb)