Tue, 10 Jun 2003

RI, East Timor to discuss residual issues

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri is slated to arrive here on Tuesday for a four-day working visit to discuss various residual issues with the Indonesian government following the secession of the former Indonesian province in 1999.

During his visit, Alkatiri is scheduled to meet Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri on Wednesday and other senior Indonesian officials.

Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said on Monday that cross-border issues, including traditional markets in border areas, would be among the topics of discussion.

"Hopefully, we can sign several new agreements that will further strengthen our forward-looking diplomatic ties," Hassan said after a meeting with Megawati.

Alkatiri's trip comes on the heels of the furor over his reported statement expressing his intention of asking for an international tribunal to try Indonesian Military (TNI) officers implicated in the 1999 mayhem in East Timor.

Reportedly, Alkatiri suggested the trial be held in a neutral country, citing the "theatrical legal process" in Indonesia, which has acquitted 13 military officers of all charges.

Hassan said he had asked for clarification regarding the report and, according to him, the East Timorese had denied the statement.

"Alkatiri's office said that the report was inaccurate and they were ready to correct it," Hassan said, adding that East Timor remained committed to maintaining relations with its neighbor, Indonesia.

The minister added that the working visit of Alkatiri reflected East Timor's desire to strengthen ties with Indonesia.

East Timor seceded from Indonesian in 1999 after the United Nations-sponsored ballot resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence.

An Indonesian ad hoc human rights court has tried 18 military and government officials for crimes against humanity both before and after the ballot. Only five of the defendants have been convicted and sentenced, but they remain free pending appeals.

Megawati and Alkatiri are slated to witness the signing on Wednesday of agreements on cross-border arrangements and the establishment of traditional markets in border areas.

On Thursday, Alkatiri is scheduled to meet with executives of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines, the East Timorese community here and ambassadors from Portuguese-speaking countries.

Merpati is the only Indonesian airline company that continues to serve Dili.

Alkatiri will also pay a courtesy call on House of Representative Speaker Akbar Tandjung and People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais.