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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

SEPTEMBER 24, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 38

It's the Army, Stupid
Ramos-Horta on Indonesia's real problem

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
On the Firing Line
Habibie gives in to international pressure over foreign intervention -- but his problems are far from over

It's the Army, Stupid
Ramos-Horta on Indonesia's real problem

Indonesia Pays the Price
Savagery and scandal test the economy

Timor's Trail of Tears
Refugees face violence, starvation and exile

'We Were Surprised'
Ginandjar on East Timor and Bank Bali

  RELATED STORIES
CNN
Breaking news from Southeast Asia

An unexpected visitor on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Auckland, José Ramos-Horta played the role of East Timor's de facto foreign minister, meeting officials and leaders, including U.S. President Bill Clinton. After Jakarta reversed its stand to allow a U.N. peacekeeping force in the territory, the Sydney-based Nobel Peace Prize laureate commended Indonesian President B.J. Habibie for the decision and heaped praise on Clinton for his strong support. He also called for an emergency air-drop of food and supplies to Timorese hiding in the hills. The day before Indonesia's Sept. 12 about-face, Senior Correspondent Alejandro Reyes met Ramos-Horta in the modest suburban Auckland bed-and-breakfast inn where he was staying -- a far cry from the five-star hotels where other VIPs were billeted. Excerpts from the interview:

What was the value of the special meeting on East Timor in Auckland Sept. 9?
I was told by the New Zealand prime minister when I met her that the [value was in the] simple fact that such a meeting was held by several foreign ministers -- and she was pleasantly surprised that many Asian officials came. In the past, probably all the ASEAN countries would have boycotted it out of fear and respect for Indo-nesia. Even though East Timor was not formally on the agenda, it has been the issue.

What is your reading of the political situation in Indonesia?
The problem is the Indonesian army, an army that has become a state within a state, with enormous privileges, political power and economic power. The Indonesians talk about reform in terms of getting more political parties, more newspapers, but they forget that the real problem is the institution of the army. As long as the army doesn't go back to the barracks and isn't stripped of privileges, they will continue to be a threat to the democratically elected president and to citizens. In areas where there is resistance to the central authority, the army will operate as they always have: with total arrogance and impunity. In the case of East Timor, they went to war in 1975. They thought they could conquer it within days. In the process, thousands of Indonesian soldiers lost their lives there. And because the East Timorese fought back and inflicted thousands of dead, the Indonesian army is even more bitter, saying that where we lost so many men, now we cannot leave. An army is supposed to protect people. What have Indonesian military officers learned in their academies? To rape women? Torture techniques? What a bunch of animals!

Is President B.J. Habibie in control?
As long as President B.J. Habibie, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and other civilian officials who might be moral and decent do not have the power or courage to challenge the army, the army will continue as it has and bring down further Indonesia's good name and its national interests. I feel sorry for B.J. Habibie and Ali Alatas and other civilians. They must ask their own military to stop bringing so much harm to their own country. They must have the courage to denounce the incredible arrogance of the military. Once the military find their proper place as a truly professional army, then Indonesia will again be a tremendous voice in the region and in the world.

How badly has the decimation of East Timor set back the nation-building that will have to be undertaken once it is able to secure its independence?
East Timor is reduced to ashes. Dili today is a monument to Indonesia's shame. For generations, East Timorese will not want to hear anything about Indonesia. And joining ASEAN is very far [down] my list of priorities.

Are you upset at ASEAN's apparent lack of action?
Yes. They are a club of hypocrites who play golf, display ostentatious [ways] and crack down on students and intellectuals who disagree with their policies and lifestyle. There is, of course, some fresh air in ASEAN, notably the Philippines. The Filipinos show that you can have fundamental freedoms and economic growth hand in hand. We will look for relations with individual members of ASEAN, the Philippines in particular. We have with the Philip-pines immense cultural, religious and historical affinities. But also we look to bilateral cooperation with the Singaporeans, Malaysi-ans. Our strategic choice will be strong relations with countries to the south -- Australia and New Zealand -- and with Japan and the U.S. As for Indonesia, what kind of cooperation can we have? Any Timorese businessman who wants to do business with Indone-sia will think twice because of corruption and cronyism.

What might a new East Timor government look like?
Beyond addressing this emergency situation, we are working on a strategic development plan and we are looking to set up a provisional government. We have some very good people of the younger generation who have tremendous credibility and professional expertise. One does not have to be an Einstein to do slightly better than those incompetent, lazy, corrupt bastards who managed our country for 23 years. Sometimes I find it laughable that the Indonesians keep telling us East Timor cannot manage itself without Indonesia.

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