DAILY CATHOLIC THURSDAY June 4, 1998 vol. 9, no. 108
NEWS & VIEWS
EAST TIMOR BISHOP URGES FORGIVENESS, CALLS FOR REFERENDUM
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CWNews.com) - Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of Dili joined leading Indonesian opposition figures on Tuesday in calling on the public to stop condemning former Indonesian President Suharto.
The 1996 co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize said it would be unethical for the country to go on condemning its own former leader, pointing out that Suharto would not have stayed as long as he did but for the support of others holding political power.
Leaders of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Muslim organization in the country, and the Indonesian Democratic Party have both pleaded for compassion and for the nation to stop haunting the fallen president. In recent weeks, the number of vocal critics of Suharto and his family have been lodging their protests, especially over their lucrative wealth.
The bishop also called for the removal of elements of the former regime under Suharto's protege, President B.J. Habibie, and added his call for a referendum on East Timor's future. The Indonesian Commission for Human Rights also urged the present government to allow the East Timorese to decide the status of the territory for themselves.
President Habibie turned away the request, saying mainly
Catholic East Timor is integral to Indonesia, the world's
most populous Muslim country. "There is no need for a
referendum. It is Indonesia. And they will enjoy, as the
others in Indonesia, the same values and quality of life,"
Habibie told CNN. "East Timor is an integrated part of the
Republic of Indonesia," he said. "We have done more in the
last 20 years than the former colonial master has done in
the last 400 years." Indonesia invaded the former Portugese
colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year, in a move
not recognized by the United Nations. An active resistance
movement continues to fight for Timorese freedom.
Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
NEWS & VIEWS