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Wednesday, 2 February 1994
Page: 291

(Question No. 888)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 15 December 1993:

  Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the East Timor Peace Plan which has been drafted by the National Council of Maubere Resistance (CNRM); if so: (a) are the suggested timelines workable; (b) would the Government be prepared to support the plan; (c) will the Government discuss the plan with representatives of the CNRM; and (d) will the Government raise the existence of the plan with the Indonesian Government.

Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows :

  The Government is aware of the CNRM peace plan, presented by Mr Jose Ramos Horta, Special Representative of the CNRM, to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on 14 May 1992. The Government is familiar with the details of the plan.

  (a), (b), (c) : The Government commented on the peace proposal when it was presented in 1992. I refer the honourable senator to my reply to a Question without Notice recorded in the Senate Hansard of 28 May 1992 (p. 2909). At that time the Government made it clear that while the peace proposal was interesting it was not one on which the Government proposed to take any action. This remains the Government's position. The reasons for this are as follows.

  (i) It is by no means clear that the proposal has the full support of the East Timorese community. For example, on the "World Today" radio program of 21 May 1992, Australia—based East Timorese activist Mr Alfredo Ferreira was reported as saying that he doubted whether there would be widespread support for the idea of ceasing to resist Indonesian rule, and that Mr Horta's views were his own and did not necessarily represent the views of other East Timorese.

  (ii) To the extent that the proposal leaves open the question of sovereignty over East Timor, it is inconsistent with the position of the Australian Government. In 1979 the then Coalition Government extended de jure recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. This has been maintained by successive Labor Governments.

  The Government continues to regard the peace plan as a matter for the Indonesian Government. As the Government said at the time the proposal was presented in 1992, if the peace plan had the effect of contributing to the longer—term reconciliation process in East Timor, the Government would welcome it. The Government has long made known its views on the need for a reconciliation process in the province and has urged the Indonesian authorities to sit down with the people of East Timor, including the armed resistance, in a forward—looking spirit. The Government believes a reconciliation process in East Timor would include improved social and economic development in the province and greater recognition of its distinctive cultural identity. The Government has also made clear that the security forces need to be more sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the East Timorese, and that a reduction in troop numbers would be a major step towards improving the situation in East Timor. The Government has indicated to the Indonesian authorities that reconciliation might be assisted by giving the people of East Timor a significantly greater say in the running of their affairs, and possibly some greater degree of autonomy.

  The Government welcomes the Indonesian Government's announced plan to downgrade the nature and level of its military presence in East Timor. The disbanding of the province's special military command in April 1993, leaving the provincial level command to assume security management of the province, places military arrangements in line with those in other provinces in Indonesia.

  (d) In the circumstances, the Government does not intend to raise this peace plan proposal with the Indonesian Government. It can be assumed that the Indonesian Government is aware of the matter.