EAST TIMOR HAS CEASED TO BE DECOLONIZATION ISSUE, INDONESIA SAYS, AS DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE CONCLUDES HEARINGS ON TERRITORY

17 June 1997
GA/COL/2968

EAST TIMOR HAS CEASED TO BE DECOLONIZATION ISSUE, INDONESIA SAYS, AS DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE CONCLUDES HEARINGS ON TERRITORY

17 June 1997

Press ReleaseGA/COL/2968

EAST TIMOR HAS CEASED TO BE DECOLONIZATION ISSUE, INDONESIA SAYS, AS DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE CONCLUDES HEARINGS ON TERRITORY

19970617 Portugal Says Indonesia's Presence There Has Been Presented As Fait Accompli, Stresses East Timorese Right to Self-Determination

The question of East Timor had long ceased to be a decolonization issue and the Special Committee on decolonization should strike it off its agenda and concentrate on true decolonization cases, the representative of Indonesia told the Committee this afternoon, as it concluded two days of hearings on the Territory.

The people of East Timor had opted for independence through integration with Indonesia in a decolonization process 21 years ago, he said in a right of reply statement. That had been an act of self-determination, in conformity with United Nations resolutions and their traditional democratic practices. Indonesia remained committed to cooperating with the Secretary-General in the tripartite dialogue with Portugal on the issue.

The representative of Portugal said there had been many attempts over the years to present Indonesia's presence in East Timor as a fait accompli. It had even been argued that Indonesia's occupation was justified on the basis of a free choice by the East Timorese -- an act which had never been recognized by the United Nations.

The Special Committee had a duty to persuade those responsible that a just solution could only be found if the parties concerned approached the negotiations sponsored by the Secretary-General in good faith, he said. They must recognize that only the people of East Timor had the right to determine their own future. The representative also spoke later in exercise of the right of reply.

A representative of Amnesty International said there were great expectations regarding the tripartite talks due to take place in New York on the question of East Timor. Action must be taken on human rights in the Territory in advance of a political settlement, in order to ensure a just solution to the political situation, she said.

Statements by were also made by petitioners for the following bodies: the Transitional Radical Party; the Supporting Movement for Democratisation in

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Indonesia; the Korea East Timor Solidarity, Lawyers for a Democratic Society and the Korea Human Rights Network; the British Coalition for East Timor; and the Asia Pacific Centre for Justice and Peace. A member of the Communist Party of Portugal also spoke, as did an individual petitioner.

In other business, the Special Committee this afternoon agreed to hear 31 petitioners when it takes up the question of Puerto Rico on Thursday, 19 June.

The Special Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 18 June, to consider the issue of foreign economic interests and military activities in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Special Committee Work Programme

The Special Committee on decolonization met this afternoon to conclude its hearing of petitioners on the question of East Timor.

Statements

DOMINGOS POLICARPIO DOS REIS, an individual petitioner, said the main issue with respect to East Timor had been the demise of Portugal's role. The East Timorese had realized that Portugal never intended to decolonize East Timor, so they made the decision to decolonize themselves and were integrated with Indonesia. It was astonishing to hear Portugal's rhetoric, as though it was a champion of East Timorese rights. Any proposal that Portugal should be re-established as an administering Power would be rejected. The East Timorese had been the victims of colonial rule and still carried those scars.

Today, the people of East Timor were concerned about issues that affected their lives, he said. Economic progress was crucial for the people. There were a handful of people and non-governmental organizations which would turn back that progress. The United Nations should close its chapter on the question of East Timor.

KERRY BROGAN, of Amnesty International, said there were great expectations regarding the talks due to take place in New York on the question of East Timor. Action must be taken on human rights in East Timor in advance of a political settlement, in order to ensure a just solution to the political situation. In recent weeks, tension had increased in the Territory. The Timorese resistance was not abating, and human rights abuses by the Indonesian armed forces showed no sign of improving. There had also been human rights abuses by armed opposition groups.

She said her organization was concerned about the lack of investigation into the human rights abuses in East Timor. Among Amnesty International's proposals for improving the human rights situation was the setting up a human rights monitoring office there. Steps should be taken by the Indonesian Government to monitor and verify human rights violations, including measures to ensure that local human rights groups were allowed to carry out their work, that peaceful demonstrations were allowed and that members of the armed forces implicated in human rights violations were suspended from active duty pending inquiries.

MARCO PERDUCA, of the Transitional Radical Party, said solution of the problem in East Timor had been delayed for too long. The time had come for a new commitment by the United Nations, in order to save the Maubere people and grant them self-determination, through a referendum in East Timor under United Nations supervision. A joint United Nations-European Union mission should be

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sent to the Territory to report on the human rights situation there. The setting up of an international criminal tribunal for East Timor was not the best way to deal with the heinous human rights violations, as it would only delay the whole process.

He then began to read a resolution on Indonesia which had been adopted by the European Parliament.

MARTY MULIANA NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), speaking on a point of order, objected to the reading of the resolution, which contained issues that were extraneous to the matter being addressed by the Special Committee. The petitioner should limit his references to aspects of the resolution that were directly relevant to issue before the Committee.

UTULA U. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Special Committee Chairman, said the petitioner should be allowed to complete his reading of the resolution.

Following the reading and a second objection by the representative of Indonesia, the Chairman said aspects of the resolution had not directly focused on the issue before the Committee and should not have been read. He therefore agreed with the point of order raised by the Indonesian representative.

JOHN MILLER, of the Netherlands-based Supporting Movement for Democratisation in Indonesia, said the dream of the Timorese people for peace and freedom lived on and was internationally recognized. There must be an end to the arrests, disappearances, killings, torture and intimidations that had been carried out for nearly 23 years by the Indonesian authorities. The international community must urge the Indonesian Government to stop its current crackdown on peaceful political activities and guarantee freedom of expression and association.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), speaking on a point of order, said many petitioners did not seem to understand the need to concentrate on the issue under discussion. He appealed to the Chairman to ensure that their statements dwelt on the subject at hand.

Mr. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Special Committee Chairman, urged the petitioner to focus on the issue before the Committee.

FRANK FITZGERALD, of Korea East Timor Solidarity, Lawyers for a Democratic Society and the Korea Human Rights Network, urged the Special Committee to send a mission to East Timor to inquire into the situation there, so as to facilitate the people's exercise of their right to self- determination. The General Assembly should ask for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice in the dispute over the Indonesian

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contention that the East Timorese had already exercised their right to self- determination in favour of integration with Indonesia.

The present tripartite talks involving Portugal, Indonesia and the United Nations were not sufficient to implement that right to self- determination, he said. A new framework should be hammered out. A genuine solution required a mechanism that would ensure the participation of the East Timorese in all processes leading to their self-determination. The Korean experience in the aftermath of Japanese colonialism bore that out.

KRISTIN SUNDEL, of the British Coalition for East Timor, said the Special Committee should consider the attention being given to the East Timorese question in Europe. In the United Kingdom, the campaign on behalf of the East Timorese people had grown. There had been a number of resolutions and statements by European intergovernmental bodies condemning Indonesia's actions in East Timor. The European Parliament had also called for the release of political prisoners. The Special Committee should identify measures to establish a United Nations presence in the Territory.

RUBEN LUIS TRISTAO DE CARVALDO E SILVA, a member of the Communist Party of Portugal, said many developments had occurred since the Special Committee considered the question of East Timor last year. The heroic struggle of that people had drawn attention to the problem. The Portuguese people and Government would not slacken in their active support for the people of East Timor until they achieved self-determination, freedom and an end to the Indonesian occupation of the Territory.

LIBERTATO C. BAUTISTA, of the Asia Pacific Centre for Justice and Peace, in Washington, D.C., said his organization had identified the East Timor struggle for human rights as a prime focus of its advocacy work. Numerous member organizations of the Centre had passed resolutions in support of self- determination of East Timor. One such resolution called for solidarity of churches in East Timor, as well as for an end to arms sales to Indonesia.

He said the United States National Council of Churches was sponsoring a high-level delegation to visit East Timor later this year. Quoting from another source, he said it was critical that the churches play a leading role on the question of East Timor. A recent mission of churches had seen a positive relationship between Catholics and Protestants in East Timor, contrary to what had been stated by some critics. Welcoming the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two East Timorese, he said the struggle for the rights of the East Timorese people was now global. His Centre would continue to work for their right to self-determination.

FERNANDO NEVES (Portugal) said the attainment of independence for Non- Self-Governing Territories would not be fully accomplished until they were able to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. Portugal reaffirmed its resolve to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the question,

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taking full account of the legitimate aspirations of the people of East Timor. He welcomed the Secretary-General's intention to bring a new impetus to the talks under his auspices. The awarding of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize to Bishop Belo and Jose Ramos Horta had put the spotlight on East Timor, but it had not improved the human rights situation. That situation involved such abuses as an excessive military and security presence; arbitrary arrests, interrogation and torture; and political detentions.

The April resolution on human rights in Indonesia by the Commission on Human Rights was a strong political signal from the international community. It called on Indonesia to address seriously the situation in East Timor. Otherwise, it would continue to be exposed to international criticism.

Throughout the years, there had been many attempts to present Indonesia's presence in East Timor as a fait accompli, he said. It had even been argued that Indonesia's occupation was justified on the basis of a free choice by the East Timorese -- an act which had never been recognized by the United Nations. The outburst of violence during the recent illegal elections showed that without recognition of their right to self-determination, the East Timorese would not give up their fight. The Special Committee had a duty to persuade all those responsible that a just solution could only be found if the parties approached the negotiations sponsored by the Secretary-General in good faith. Those concerned must recognize that only the people of East Timor had the right to determine their own future.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he wished to address "the unwarranted allegations and misrepresentations" made by the representative of Portugal. For over two decades, there had been "a persistent pattern of fabrication of historical facts, as well as of the prevailing realities in East Timor". The Special Committee's current session had once again turned into an anti-Indonesia campaign, demonstrating that its sole purpose was to provide Portugal and its surrogates with a platform for voicing their self-serving political rhetoric.

It had been now 21 years since the decolonization process took place in East Timor, when the people opted for independence through integration with Indonesia, he said. That act was an exercise of their inalienable right to self-determination, in conformity with United Nations resolutions and their traditional democratic practices.

He stressed that resolutions 1541 (XV) and 2625 (XXV) were relevant to the case of East Timor. Implementation of a second process of decolonization with Portugal as administering Power -- "as it bungled the first one" -- was most unrealistic and showed how out of touch Portugal was with pertinent realities. It was astonishing that Portugal proclaimed itself as the so- called champion of self-determination and human rights, when its record in that field was known to be the worst in the annals of decolonization.

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Following East Timor's integration with Indonesia, it had made vast strides in its development, he said. Its infrastructure today bore no resemblance to its tragic colonial past. Education, health care and communications reflected the tremendous progress achieved. The human rights of the people had been vastly enhanced. Indonesia's constitutional commitment to religious freedom throughout East Timor was fully upheld. The number of churches there had increased, and a new Bishop of Baucau had been ordained by Pope John Paul II to serve the growing Catholic population. Access to the province of East Timor was open.

He said the question of East Timor had long ceased to be a decolonization issue, although Portugal, the former colonial Power, had actively campaigned to keep it on the Special Committee's agenda. The question that needed to be addressed was "where do we go from here?". Was it credible for the Special Committee to satisfy the colonial subjugator and maintain its position as administering Power -- a role it abandoned 21 years ago? The time had come for the Special Committee to strike the item off its agenda and devote its time to true cases of decolonization, especially as the end of the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism drew near.

For its part, Indonesia remained committed to cooperating with the Secretary-General in the tripartite dialogue with Portugal, to seek a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the question of East Timor, so as to enable the people to continue on the path to development. After centuries of abuse and neglect, they deserved no less.

Mr. NEVES (Portugal), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said it was not in his country's interest to wage an anti-Indonesian campaign but a pro-Timorese campaign. He reiterated that the end of colonization must be the expression of the will of the people.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) reaffirmed that it was preposterous to speak of self-determination for the people of East Timor, which they had rightly chosen. Indonesia remained fully committed to protecting their human rights as part of the Indonesian nation.

Mr. NEVES (Portugal) said he was astonished to hear that the East Timorese right to self-determination had been fulfilled. That was totally in contradiction of United Nations resolutions.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said that his Government's position was well known and he would like to reiterate it.

The Special Committee then decided to include the question of East Timor on the provisional agenda of its next session.

Mr. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said his country objected to the inclusion of that item on the Committee's agenda, as it had done at the outset of the hearing yesterday.

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For information media. Not an official record.