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East Timorese leader comes to APEC

10 September 1999


Wellington, Sept 10 East Timorese independence leader Jose Ramos Horta has come to the Apec meeting in Auckland to keep the plight of his people on the world agenda.

``It is extremely important to avoid silence. Silence would be complicity.''

Foreign ministers in Auckland for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) conference met yesterday, along with British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, to discuss the situation in East Timor, where pro-Indonesian militia are using violence to try to overthrow a vote for East Timorese independence.

Apec is primarily a meeting about trade, but Mr Horta told National Radio that those meeting in Auckland could not avoid talking about the violence in East Timor, where it is estimated hundreds have died.

``I can understand that this is an economic Apec forum, but the fact the ministers are here from different countries of the world, I don't think they can avoid discussing the issue and taking some steps, maybe not necessarily in the context of Apec, but in the context of the United Nations.''

Mr Horta welcomed the United States' decision to suspend military ties with Indonesia.

``We certainly appreciate the decision of the United States. It should have been taken many years ago, many months ago, the record of the Indonesian military is well-known and was well-known then.

``However, we are pleased this has taken place, but we expect additional measures from the rest of the European countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, all must help. All must suspend military links with Indonesia. It is the only moral thing they can do. It would be a scandal if anyone can still find an argument to continue military links with Indonesia.''

Mr Horta said he expected further action to follow, such as the suspension of international loans to Indonesia.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to travel to Timor on Saturday at the same time as a security delegation. Mr Horta hoped she would use the opportunity of her visit to push for a war crimes tribunal for East Timor to be set up.

``The situation in East Timor amounts to genocide, punishable under the genocide convention. There is the precedent of Rwanda, ex-Yugoslavia, Kosovo. There has to be a war crimes tribunal in East Timor to indict Indonesia military leaders who have been responsible for genocide.''


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