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UN Press Conf by Xanana and Ramos-Horta

(Source - ETAN.ORG)

Wed, 29 Sep



The multinational force in East Timor must rapidly expand to start building peace and security in the territory, East Timorese leaders Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta told correspondents at a press conference, sponsored by Portugal, at Headquarters this afternoon.

Mr. Gusmao said he and Mr. Ramos Horta were at Headquarters to discuss issues related to the transition period, including rebuilding the country, and assisting the people during the difficult phase ahead with United Nations officials. They were also in New York to say East Timor was prepared to go ahead with the transitional period, and move towards independence, for which it had fought for the past 24 years.

Parts of East Timor were now under control of the Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL), he said. The international force in East Timor (INTERFET) had begun to move to Baucau, the second largest town. Security remained a problem in the western part of the territory, in areas including Dili itself, Same and Ainaro. The multinational force must now rapidly increase the number of troops in East Timor to start building peace and security there.

Those who had been taken to the concentration camps in West Timor and islands north of East Timor were living in very poor conditions, he continued. For humanitarian reasons, the international community should act quickly to return to East Timor the more than 200,000 persons living in extreme distress.

A correspondent asked what kind of commitments had been made by United Nations officials. Mr. Gusmao responded that the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) remained committed to solving the East Timor problem and helping the people of East Timor in a concrete manner. That would include training programmes, building basic infrastructure and an emergency plan to resettle those who had fled to the jungle and those who would be brought back from the concentration camps in Indonesia.

In response to a question about his meeting with Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, Mr. Gusmao said it had been beneficial for both sides. His intention had been to reaffirm to the Indonesian Government that by working together a new future could be built for the people of East Timor and the people of Indonesia. East Timor was ready to relieve Indonesia of the burden it bore and the dangers it faced with the waves of violence in East Timor. The meeting had been friendly, and the Indonesian Government had seemed to “welcome our message”, he said. Indonesia had recognized that what had happened in the past few weeks was shocking and that things should be done differently.

Had the Indonesian Government made any promises? a correspondent asked. Mr. Gusmao said it had promised to contribute to the greatest possible extent to pacifying East Timor and repatriating refugees. It had also promised to contribute to assessing the territory’s immediate needs, such as sanitation and water supply.

Asked whether he sensed any repentance or apologies from Mr. Alatas, Mr. Gusmao said he had, although it had not been stated. The Foreign Minister had said that everything that had happened was beyond the control of the Government and that Indonesia had been shocked by the violence in East Timor.

What role would women play in the government being formed in East Timor? a correspondent asked. Mr. Gusmao said that today women held leadership positions in East Timor and were working hard in a wide range of activities. “We want to build a society in East Timor which values democracy, human rights and transparency”, he said. The aim was to promote East Timorese culture and promote gender equity, and women would play a role in the entire process.

The same correspondent asked for comment on media perceptions that Mr. Gusmao had isolated himself from grass-roots and solidarity movements since his release from prison. “It was not my wish to go to Darwin. I wanted to go back to East Timor, but I was advised not to go”, he said.

He said he had not expected to be the object of so much attention in New York, but had to accept it in the interest of the people of East Timor, of whom he was a representative. In 24 years of fighting, the people of East Timor had always sensed and gained strength from the international solidarity movement.

What role was envisaged for East Timorese leaders during the period of transition? a correspondent asked. That issue was the subject of ongoing discussion with United Nations officials. Members of the National Council of the Timorese Resistance (CNRT) had been dispersed around the world during the past 24 years. It was only days ago that they had begun to gather in Darwin to start planning their return and their role in the transitional period. He expected that there would be some areas over which the United Nations would take charge, some where obligations would be shared and others where East Timorese leaders would fully take charge. The period must be understood as a transition to independence; East Timorese must participate actively in the process to prepare themselves for independence.

When asked what the minimal requirements were for the tripartite meeting to be considered a success, Mr. Gusmao said there must be agreement on scheduling Phase III. It was clear that Phase II was no longer acceptable under the present conditions. Some sort of administration and political control must be implemented in the territory immediately. East Timor could not remain in an administrative and political vacuum, waiting for a decision by Indonesia’s People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), which was a domestic matter only.

A correspondent then asked about recognition of the claims of companies and families controlling East Timorese resources. Mr. Gusmao said legitimate rights would be respected. Before leaving Jakarta, he had invited Indonesian businesses to invest in East Timor and had already received expressions of interest.

Asked for more details about the western part of East Timor, Mr. Gusmao said that all efforts would be made to “get our brothers back to East Timor”. This morning he had asked Mr. Alatas to help repatriate the militias. “We will not take revenge on East Timorese”, he said. Much of the violence had been committed by militias from outside East Timor, he added.

Asked if the INTERFET deployment would be sufficient, Mr. Gusmao said 7,000 troops were enough, but their deployment must be expedited.

The Indonesian Government had said it would pass to East Timor its share in the Timor Gap oil revenues, a correspondent said. Would there be need for renegotiation? Mr. Gusmao affirmed that East Timor would honour the terms of the Timor Gap Agreement, and that Indonesia would surrender its rights to the East Timor authority.

“Indonesia had spent $1 million per day during the war”, a correspondent asked. How much was needed to rebuild East Timor? he asked. Mr. Gusmao said the plan was to assess the needs on the ground in October and to determine the cost of reconstruction and development planning. The real amounts spent by Indonesia were not known, he added.

Would Indonesia contribute to the costs for East Timor? the correspondent further asked. “I don’t think so. They have 200 million people to feed, and it is better for them to take care of their people”, Mr. Gusmao said.

Mr. Ramos Horta responded to questions on the talks held at Headquarters. In the last 48 hours, intense discussions had been held with the Secretary-General, as well as with senior officials of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Political Affairs, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Tomorrow, they would meet with the head of the World Bank and representatives of more than 30 countries. In the discussions, a number of issues had been highlighted. First among those was the emergency of repatriation.

They had stressed that every diplomatic effort must be directed at Jakarta so that the tens of thousands of East Timorese forcibly relocated to West Timor and islands were relocated to East Timor and then resettled, he continued. At the same time, they had emphasized the humanitarian situation in East Timor, particularly the need to feed, house and care for those who were there now and the returnees.

As the emergency situation was addressed, there was need to build infrastructure, based on a joint assessment by the World Bank and donor countries, he went on. The idea was to not duplicate efforts; tomorrow’s meeting in Washington would be directed towards finding common ground for assessment, with the aim of sending a joint mission. Then, focus would be on what could be called “a mini- Marshall Plan” for the territory, which the World Bank would be asked to design in consultation with East Timor.

Another issue being addressed was the need for the faster deployment of INTERFET, he said. Addressing the humanitarian situation and rebuilding the country would be possible only under conditions of peace and security. East Timor appealed to those countries that had offered contingents to INTERFET to deploy them faster, he stressed.

Another issue being discussed with the Secretary-General, the President of the Security Council, the Foreign Ministers of New Zealand, Don McKinnon and Australia, Alexander Downer, was the role of CNRT in the transition period, he continued. The people of East Timor had voted for independence under the flag of CNRT. The CNRT had earned the right to participate actively in the transition. In the United Nations in the 1960s and 1970s national liberation movements from countries such as Namibia (SWAPO) and South Africa (ANC) had gained special status in the Organization -- the General Assembly had recognized them as the sole legitimate representatives of the people without their having been elected in those territories.

On the basis of the legitimacy that came from the 30 August referendum, the CNRT expected to be consulted at every level and to participate actively in the transition period, he emphasized.

A correspondent asked for Mr. Gusmao’s views on criticism of the Secretary- General’s decision to proceed with the referendum despite warnings of violence. Mr. Gusmao said he fully supported every decision taken by the Secretary-General. For 23 years, the people of East Timor had lived in danger and suffered a huge death toll to gain the right to self-determination. The risk was taken by them, and they were determined to continue in order to achieve their sacred goal. Now, with media attention, the world was witnessing the barbarous actions and questioning the Secretary-General’s decision. But for 25 years no one had known what was happening -– “we were taking the risks on our own”.

“On behalf of the people of East Timor, I express gratitude not only for the concern showed by the Secretary-General but also for his commitment”, he said. No one had expected the violence to reach that level. Even Minister Alatas had recognized that the level of violence was shocking, including to the Indonesian Government. The whole world did not expect such violence to happen, and that includes Indonesia itself.


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