East Timorese groups meet in Austria

Issue 

Between June 2 and 5, East Timorese members of the resistance, including National Council for Maubere Resistance (CNRM), Fretilin, and the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT), met for discussions with East Timorese from within East Timor and Indonesia. Those from within East Timor were government officials, intellectuals or prominent figures, such as Bishop Belo. We publish below a statement issued by CNRM on the meeting.

The UN Secretary General sponsored Intra-East Timorese Dialogue held at Burg Schlaining, Austria, proved a success for the East Timorese people and their struggle for self-determination and justice. It represented a setback to Indonesia, confirming Jakarta's fears that if let free from Indonesian control, most East Timorese will express dissatisfaction with the present occupation of their homeland.

The Schlaining meeting demonstrated the continuing existence of a strong sense of East Timorese nationalism, overshadowing the apparent submission of those under Indonesian forced tutelage. Despite pressures exerted on them by Jakarta, many chose to join with their fellow nationals in exile, adopting by consensus the "Burg Schlaining Declaration" which in effect is a denunciation of the unjust and oppressive conditions now prevailing in East Timor.

The declaration calls for continuing intra-Timorese talks and affirms the importance of the UN Secretary General's current efforts to seek a just, comprehensive, and internationally acceptable solution to the East Timor problem "according to the provisions, letter and spirit of the General Assembly Resolution 37/30". It also refers to the need to address human rights, and to promote peace, stability, justice and social harmony in the territory. The declaration further acknowledges the need to preserve the people's cultural identity, and the need to teach their national language, Tetum, and Portuguese.

Politically, the most significant aspect of the declaration is its support for the UN Secretary General's efforts as mandated by resolution 37/30. This shows clearly that East Timorese leaders, whether in exile or under Indonesian tutelage, affirm the international status of the East Timor problem, implicitly rejecting the Jakarta-promoted myths that decolonisation of East Timor has been achieved. UN GA Resolution 37/30 asks the Secretary General to initiate consultations with all directly concerned parties so as to find a settlement. It also asks the UN GA "Committee of 24" (on granting independence to colonial territories) to keep monitoring the East Timor situation, and calls upon UN specialised agencies to assist the people of East Timor, "in close consultation with Portugal, as the Administering Power".

Most dialogue participants allowed by Jakarta to participate were not really independent nor representative, being Indonesian public servants. Only some truly independent East Timorese were able to attend, as a result of a most praiseworthy UN insistence with Jakarta. Yet all unanimously joined their exiled compatriots in stressing the present poor human rights and justice situation in the occupied territory. Their call for development to be attentive to the people's cultural identity, and for the teaching of the Tetum and Portuguese languages, can be read as a criticism of the current Jakarta policies of cultural obliteration.

Former Indonesia-appointed East Timor Governor Guilherme Maria Goncalves violently condemned the current situation in East Timor, strongly calling for a referendum on independence. With Dili lawyer Tarcisio Amaral periodically reporting on the meeting's progress by telephone to Indonesian intelligence, there are grounds for grave fears regarding the safety of Goncalves after his return to Indonesia. Foreign embassies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jakarta need to monitor his situation.

The defiance by East Timorese Indonesian subjects was short lived. Immediately after the adoption of the Burg Schlaining Declaration, two Indonesian secret intelligence agents rushed to meet Suharto Ambassador Lopes da Cruz at Schlaining town. The next day, Indonesian Ambassadors to London, the UN in New York, The Hague and Vienna met the East Timorese Indonesians at the Vienna Hilton Hotel, and forced them to issue a retraction to the Declaration.

Observers travelling with the East Timorese delegation on their return flight from Vienna to Jakarta noted members' apprehension about the negative consequences they anticipated from their expression of intra-East Timorese nationalist solidarity at Burg Schlaining. It is clear that their Jakarta overlords, particularly Foreign Minister Alatas, can not be happy with this latest diplomatic defeat.

From an East Timorese perspective, the Schlaining Intra- East Timorese Dialogue represents a further valuable step forward in the UN Secretary General's efforts to seek a just and genuine solution to the East Timor problem.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.