Tue, 25 Jan 2000

UNTAET responsible for East Timor hardships: Araujo

JAKARTA (JP): President of the Timorese Nationalist Party (PNT) Abilio Araujo said on Monday the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was responsible for the current hardships in East Timor.

"We, the East Timorese, are not yet free. We are not yet an independent people and it is the responsibility of UNTAET and the international community to deal with the current situation in East Timor," Araujo said in an interview with The Jakarta Post.

Araujo, former president of an armed wing of the East Timor proindependence group, Fretilin, arrived here on Sunday to meet President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri. He also plans to attend the United National Front congress in Kupang to be held from Jan. 26 to Jan. 28.

"International support falls short of meeting the serious current shortages and needs of our new country while there is little we can do during this transitional period," he said.

Araujo, therefore, called on all East Timorese to push for a general election in two or three years to lay a strong foundation for its future as a sovereign state.

"Through a general election we will have a parliament that will draw up our constitution. The same parliament will also elect the new president," he said.

He said it was the duty of UNTAET to promote democracy in East Timor.

"UNTAET tends to act in favor of CNRT, arguing that CNRT represents 80 percent of the population. I am against any discrimination," he said, referring to the National Council for East Timor Resistance led by Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao.

Araujo expressed regret over Xanana's decisions on a number of strategic issues such as language and currency. Xanana has stated that East Timor would use Portuguese as the official language and the Portuguese escudo as the new currency to replace the Indonesian rupiah.

"There is no reason at all for any particular Timorese political force to claim exclusivity in representing the East Timorese people. PNT considers attempts to impose those policies as a fait accompli that should have been decided by the proper bodies," he said.

Araujo himself favors Bahasa Indonesia as the official language, with Portuguese taught as a second official language. In the long run, Tetun will become the official language as well.

"Using Bahasa Indonesia will enable us to have a greater presence in the community of Malay-speaking people, a community which East Timor is part of, and where 300 million people understand each other by means of Malay, the root of Bahasa Indonesia," said Araujo.

He dismissed as emotional the argument that Bahasa Indonesia had to be eliminated from East Timor as a legacy of a brutal regime.

"The military does not represent all Indonesians. If Bahasa Indonesia is rejected on that basis, then we should reject Portuguese for the same reason. We do not reject Portuguese for the fact that it is a legacy of 500 years of Portuguese colonialism," he said.

Araujo said he was against attempts to bring to court members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) charged with planning or involvement in the mayhem in East Timor following the Aug. 30, 1999 ballot which resulted in East Timor's separation from Indonesia.

"I have repeatedly stressed the need for reconciliation among East Timorese as a precondition toward building our future. This reconciliation should include Indonesians (the military), otherwise we will always have open wounds," he said.

"We both have mistakes and we should look forward and forgive each other," he said, adding that as a former military commander, he did not have problems with reconciliation.

During his meeting with Abdurrahman, Araujo asked Indonesia to help rebuild East Timor due to his worries of the return of Portugal to its former colony.

Araujo also asked Abdurrahman to let some 2,000 East Timorese students continue their studies in Indonesia and asserted the need for East Timor to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The East Timorese figure presented Abdurrahman with compact discs of Amalia Rodrigues' FADO and Maria Joao Pires' piano recital Nocturnes composed by Frederic Chopin. (lem)