October 27, 1994
DILI, Indonesia (AP) - Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo called Thursday for an environment of freedom and democracy in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which Indonesia annexed in 1976.
The demand was made in a rare seminar on the development of the remote island sponsored by the army.
The seminar attended by about 100 military personnel and civil servants in East Timor, was aimed at seeking ideas from local community leaders on how to develop the remote area.
We are of the view that a guarantee must be given to the people of East Timor of an environment of freedom where they are free to express their opinion because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee the freedom of expression, form groups and association,+ said Bishop Belo.
The bishop also accused the Indonesian authority of using the tactic of divide et impera or divide and rule to control the predominantly 700,000 Catholic population of East Timor.
It was the first time that Bishop Belo ever addressed a military gathering since its annexation by Indonesia 18 years ago.
Belo, who has proposed an autonomy for East timor, also came out with several other charges against the military in East timor including forced birth control, desecration of the Catholic church and extortion.
"We cannot accept those who in their desire to reach a higher position resort to terror, non-tolerance and force, such as the one conducted by the family Planning Agency by forcing the people to accept family planning," he said.
A military tribunal early this month sentenced two Muslim soldiers to prison and sacked them from the army for desecrating a Catholic church in the troubled province.
The bishop also said soldiers guarding the main cemetery at St. Cruz in the East Timor capital of Dili should also be pulled back.
The guarding of important places such as the St. Cruz cemetery should best be dropped because it only creates anger and hatred of the people, who for centuries have never seen any forces guarding such places,+ he said.
The cemetery was a bloody scene of horror in 1991 when Indonesian troops shot and killed dozens of pro-independence protesters.
Belo, who acknowledged substantial progress made in the development of the remote territory said the achievement would be meaningless without the true participation of the people.
If the development is only accepted by the people with a feeling of envy and restlessness, then to be honest, the development in the area can be said as a failure, because perhaps there are other sectors in the life of the people, which are not known by the authority.+ he said.
Earlier the Governor of East Timor Abilio Osorio Soares in a brief statement curtly said, President Suharto has appointed me Governor to make the people of East Timor become Indonesians.
He also said, the sun may rise in the east and set in the west, East Timor will always be part of Indonesia. Indonesia annexed East Timor in 1976 after intervening in a civil war that broke out there after the territory was abandoned by Portugal, which colonized it for more than four centuries.
The United Nations still recognizes Portugal as the territory's administering power.
Meanwhile in a related development a group of parliamentarians from New Zealand in a meeting with Foreign Minister Ali Alatas earlier in the day said the integration of East Timor with Indonesia has destroyed the indigenous culture and religious entity of the territory.
The law makers also cited, without elaboration, several human rights violations by the military in the region.
Alatas, who rejected the allegations, said he was disappointed with the parliamentarians saying,+ they should look back into the history of East Timor to avoid falling into the trap of believing in a misconception rather than the fact.
The visiting parliamentarians are scheduled to visit East Timor during their stay in Indonesia.
The visit came one day after Indonesia signed a Memorandum of Intent to promote and protect human rights with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Jakarta at the end of a three-day government-sponsored seminar in Jakarta.