Indonesia spurns self-determination call

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 1996, 12:00am

Indonesia yesterday dismissed out of hand the notion of granting East Timor self-determination following a landmark motion in the Australian Senate in support of the move.

'The idea of making a choice on where the East Timorese would like to be has already been done, that was during the Balibo declaration,' said a spokesman for the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs, Ghaffar Fadyl.

'And that was endorsed by the Government. So I don't see again how the Australian Senate can again be raising the question of self-determination.' He was referring to a vote in 1976 by a hand-picked East Timorese People's Assembly in which 37 delegates chose to join Indonesia.

The move had been organised by the Indonesian Government following its invasion of the province the year before.

The Australian Senate yesterday voted in support of a parliamentary motion calling on the conservative Government to support self-determination for East Timor and to represent forcefully to the Indonesian Government Australia's support for democracy and the rule of law in Indonesia.

The senator who sponsored the motion, Bob Brown, of the Australian Greens party, claimed the vote represented a major change in policy on Indonesia's involvement in East Timor.

But a spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia had recognised Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor in 1979 and would 'continue to do so'.

Australia is the most prominent of a minority of states which recognise the annexation - which is not recognised by the United Nations.

'We do not agree with the way in which Indonesia brought East Timor into Indonesia but we do recognise that any form of self-determination will need the co-operation of the Indonesian Government,' the spokesman said.

'We believe that the best way to bring about positive change is to encourage peace and recognise the reality of Indonesia's position.' Asked whether Indonesia would ever consider another referendum in East Timor, Mr Fadyl said: 'Certainly not.' But he added that he believed self-determination and independence were two different matters.

The Senate notice of motion also congratulated Nobel Peace Prize winners Jose Ramos Horta and Catholic Bishop Carlos Ximines Belo, proponents of self-determination for East Timor, on their joint award.

Mr Brown said Mr Horta was ecstatic when told of the result.

'Either there has been a major change in government policy - that the Government is now in the Parliament supporting self-determination for East Timor, which it has never done in the past - or they have in some way failed to register the real impact of this historic motion,' the senator told an Australian radio station.


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