By Selwyn Manning
Indonesia’s Director of foreign relations tonight said a formal statement on the East Timor situation will be made on Monday.
Late this evening Scoop telephoned the Jakarta-based Indonesian Director of Foreign Relations, who said foreign minister Ali Abdullah Alatas would on Monday make clear what progress, if any, the Indonesian Government has made in the East Timor crisis.
However, the Indonesian delegation attending APEC leader’s summit meetings insist tonight that the Indonesian Army has instituted a curfew in Dili.
The delegation’s message, that atrocities against the East Timorese by pro-Jakata militia have all but passed, comes on the eve of a superpower clampdown on foreign relations with the Indonesian Government.
Scoop was told tonight by Indonesia's economy media officer to the APEC leader's summit in Auckland, Wahid Supriyadi, that the Indonesian army has instituted martial law in East Timor tonight and now has retaken control of Dili.
Mr Supriyadi insisted that there were no deaths in East Timor last night and that the army's task of disarming the pro-Jakarta militia is well underway.
"Our army is in the process of achieving full disarmament of not only the militia but also all others armed and fighting in East Timor," Mr Supriyadi said.
He said the fighting has yet to be totally stopped, but that it is now clear the civilian Government remains fully in control of its military.
But the scene was this evening set for decisive plans to be brought to bear by the international community gathered in Auckland for the APEC leader’s summit.
And the international community will tomorrow step up its pressure on Jakarta. The only way for tensions to ease is for news from President B.J. Habibie that peace, or as near to peace as is possible, has been restored in East Timor.
Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, said this evening he is “delighted” with US President Bill Clinton cutting off military connections with Indonesia. Mr Downer said, the USA’s commitment to strengthen its commitment behind an Australian lead peacekeeping force was “very satisfying”.
Meetings today between the Australian diplomatic contingent and the USA’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, further supported President Clinton’s demands that the Indonesians cease the killings in East Timor.
The time is ticking for Indonesia. All ASEAN nations, who only 30 hours ago, were cold on stepping on Indonesia’s shoes, are now all unified in consensus that if Indonesia’s civilian government cannot or will not restore peace in East Timor, then it must allow an international force to bring about this about.
Scoop can reveal, Thailand’s Dr Surin Pitsuwan, speaking on behalf of the ASEAN nations, believes the situation is clear: “ASEAN is supportive, is encouraging toward the reconstruction of East Timor.
“All nations represented at yesterday’s meeting on the East timor crisis reached consensus to work toward and contibute to a restoration of peace in East Timor and to aid Indonesia to achieve that outcome if required.”
Pitsuwan’s comments still leave vacant what ASEAN will do should Indonesia fail to restore order and refuse to allow an international force into East Timor.
Britain’s foreign minister Robin Cook refused yesterday to even speculate on a contingency plan should that position realise over the next two days.
Mr cook said danger exists that mishandled diplomacy will drive a wedge between the civilian government in Indonesia and its military wing.
Japan too came under pressure this afternoon to abandon its passive role on East Timor. It was asked to assign a naval presence near East Timor and to commit itself to a peacekeeping force should that be required. Japan’s Masahiko Koumura would only reiterate that as part of the special meeting on East Timor yesterday in Auckland, it supports the international communities call for peace.
The arrival of the Chinese President Jiang Zemin will also test the strength of the collective Asian presence on the situation. China’s preliminary meetings with Madeleine Albright, and also comments by Zemin in Australia demonstrate its keeness to improve its relationship with the United States. Whether China pursues a dominating role on the East Timor crisis will no doubt be linked to how close it wishes to stand beside the US and other western nations.
However, Bill Clinton’s arrival tomorrow will escalate pressure on Indonesia. The US has clearly nailed its position onto the side of APEC, and it will expect results by the summit’s end on Monday.
Jakarta must now prove that it is fact that its army is bringing about peace in East Timor and that it has indeed disarmed and quelled the atrocities inflicted against those supporting pro-independence of East Timor.