Accessibility links

Breaking News

East Timor Leaders to Meet with Megawati - 2001-09-11

Two leaders of East Timor's struggle for independence have traveled to Jakarta to meet for the first time with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. It is the first such visit by East Timorese leaders since the territory's free national elections last month.

A spokesman says the Indonesian president is to meet Wednesday with East Timorese leaders Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta and the head of the U.N. transitional administration in the territory, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Mr. De Mello told reporters Tuesday top items on the agenda are border security and closer economic ties. He noted the agenda is not new, but said it needs to be reactivated at the highest level.

When Ms. Megawati became president in July, she said her government would promote good relations with the world's newest nation.

Indonesia occupied East Timor in 1975 after the Portuguese withdrew. East Timorese launched a struggle for independence in which thousands were killed. In 1999, the Indonesian government agreed to a U.N. supervised referendum in which three-fourths of the population voted for independence rather than integration with Indonesia.

Anti-independence militias subsequently attacked, killing an estimated one thousand civilians and destroying most public buildings and records. The United Nations sent peacekeeping troops and began preparing the territory for nationhood.

The U.N. transitional administration last Saturday certified the results of the August 30 elections and announced an all-transitional cabinet. Mr. Ramos Horta is serving as foreign minister in the transitional cabinet. Mr. Gusmao holds no elected office but is widely expected to become East Timor's first president sometime next year.

Mr. Gusmao told VOA in a recent interview that East Timorese want good relations with their large neighbor. "We are willing to have a special relation with Indonesia, but essentially with West Timor with the economic facilities there, just to help each other," he said.

East Timorese officials say a major goal is to rebuild the infrastructure and seek to revive the economy by encouraging the return of businessmen who fled the violence. They say they also will seek a solution to the tens of thousands of East Timorese living in refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor.

Many of these refugees sympathized with the anti-independence militias. East Timorese leaders have formed a Truth and Reconciliation commission in an effort to rebuild trust, bring them home and reintegrate them into East Timorese society.