By Selwyn Manning
The international community gathered in Auckland tonight is clearly presented with a changing situation in East Timor which will require a decisive response.
Scoop tonight reports that the Indonesian Cabinet is now preparing for an emergency session on the East Timor Crisis in Jakarta. The Cabinet including General Wiranto and President B.J. Habibie will discuss the crisis, and, most probably, Gen. Wiranto's comments yesterday that he favoured an "accelerated deployment" of foreign peace keepers.
Scoop can reveal that US President Bill Clinton is pushing tonight for a full leader’s meeting in Auckland on the East Timor issue. He wants to iron out what approach toward a peaceful resolution in East Timor the APEC leaders support.
If the Indonesian Cabinet tonight accepts that call for “accelerated deployment” then world leaders, gathered in Auckland for the APEC leader’s summit, will be forced into a spin to adopt a more decisive position than they have dared to canvass in recent days.
Decisions will be fast-tracked should Jakarta call for assistance. But should it refuse, a wedge looms likely to drive through economically obsessed ASEAN nations and the humanitarianism of the west.
All world leaders here in Auckland, including British foreign minister Robin Cook on Friday, have refused to make public a collective plan should Indonesia fail to call the international community in to aid peace in East Timor – should Dili and the surrounding district once again flame into violence.
To do so threatened to unnecessarily pressure Jakarta into an isolationist position – not a good thing when dealing with a powerful military Asian nation. It also risked pushing out Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and other Asian ASEAN nations from the international community fold. These nations were cold on the APEC leader’s meetings in Auckland becoming sidelined or ransacked by the East Timor crisis.
And a spokesperson for Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Abdullah Alatas, told Scoop from Jakarta on Friday night [NZ Time] that APEC should concentrate on economic matters and not preoccupy itself with Indonesia’s handling of East Timor.
But the international community tonight is clearly presented with a changing situation which will require a decisive response.
Tonight it is clear – the Indonesian military has once failed to keep peace in East Timor.
Indonesia’s options are now limited to two: it either asks the international community to enter East Timor as an ally or it will face the economic and possibly the military consequences of its sealed border isolationist stance.
Tonight’s tri-nation meeting between United States, Japan and South Korea tonight played out the consequences of another escalation of violence in East Timor. But contingencies plans would not be discussed should the scenario that Indonesia continue to refuse an international peacekeeping present to gather in East Timor.
The United States’ cutting of all military ties with Indonesia and its severing economic co-operation and aid had clearly out-run Japan’s position.
Japan tonight warned that the international community must “consider the serious consequences” of withholding International Monetary Fund aid to Indonesia. It said such an action would have dire consequences for the security and economic development of the Asia/Pacific region.
Japan contributes $2 billion US in humanitarian aid to Indonesia. That makes up 60 percent of the net aid contribution received.
Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi reiterated for Indonesia to: “accept international calls for calm in East Timor.” “To do so,” he said, “is not something which Indonesia should be ashamed.”
Mr Obuchi said the situation in East Timor continues to be “unacceptable”. “The responsibility of restoring order lies with Indonesia. If it cannot restore order then we should again ask Indonesia to allow the international community to restore order on its behalf.”
But again he warned: “If international pressure on Indonesia causes the economic hardship onto Indonesia’s people, then unknown consequences would develop.”
Japan would only go as far to say it would provide “logistic support to a United Nations lead force in East Timor.”
China’s President Jiang Zemin said this afternoon: “That the will of the East Timorese people should be honoured and that the International community should now move to restore order in East Timor.”
That was the strongest stance yet from the Asian leaders gathered in Auckland.
Japan again interpreted the stage within the Indonesia Government’s psyche. “It is a young democracy,” Japanese Prime Minister’s spokesperson Sadaaki Numata said. “Indonesia is struggling to restore order in a country wrecked with tension, defection and complex factions.”
At today’s tri-nation meeting, Japan’s Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi was given the task of contacting Indonesian President B.J. Habibie. The message was to be that Habibie should accept an international peacekeeping force into East Timor as an ally, and to consider the world’s concerns as those of friends of Indonesia and not those of an enemy.