East Timor: Open Letter to Habibie – Free Xanana Gusmao Now!


Urgent Appeal Case: UA990203

The Asia Pacific Coalition for East Timor’s (APCET) open letter to Habibie and the governments of ASEAN to free Xanana Gusmao now. We are seeking endorsement until 14 February 1999 for submission to the ASEAN Secretariat during the ASEAN Conference on Human Rights in Bangkok on the last week of February. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)campaigns for the right to self-determination by the East Timorese. AHRC coordinates the Hong Kong RoundTable on East Timor (an affliate of APCET). AHRC request you and your organistion to endorse the the APCETs’ Open Letter to Habibie




It is time to release East Timor’s leader Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao! As the refreshing breeze of democracy wafts over the region sweeping away the vestiges of fascism and colonialism, East Timor’s undisputed leader remains in a Jakarta prison. While the vast majority of East Timorese march in the streets of Dili, scour the slopes of Mt. Matebian, pray for freedom in their cathedrals, pound the halls of the United Nations, talk their guts out among themselves in Austria and link arms in solidarity with the democratic aspirations of a still struggling Indonesian people, their leader Xanana Gusmao remains in a Jakarta prison.

Twenty-three years ago, East Timor was brutally invaded by Indonesia. Since then, 200,000 people or more than a quarter of its population have died or have been killed due to the occupation. The United Nations has never recognized the Indonesian annexation. U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on Indonesia to withdraw from East Timor \”without delay\” have repeatedly been defied by Indonesia. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his special representative, Jamsheed Marker, are paving the way anew for negotiations between Portugal (East Timor’s former colonial ruler which remains the \”administering power\” of the country under international law) and Indonesia. Yet, it is imperative that the East Timorese, through their leader, Xanana Gusmao take part in the on-going negotiations.

Even before his capture in late 1992, Xanana Gusmao has valiantly and creatively led the East Timorese resistance and has not wavered even more so now from inside Indonesia’s prisons. Already Xanana has become the \”Nelson Mandela of South East Asia.\” While the previous offer of a non-negotiable autonomy of the Habibie government has been virtually rejected, there is need for the East Timorese to all the more speak in unison and negotiate their tortuous path to self-determination. Xanana Gusmao, who is the President of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, is the best person to lead them in this agonizing chapter of their national life. Now the Habibie government is saying that it is open to \”granting\” independence to East Timor if all else fails. There have been varied receptions to this seeming turnaround but whatever the motives, we welcome and view this as a moral victory for East Timor. Even then, any solution, or even discussion to the aspirations of the East Timorese for their self-determination should include their legitimate leaders, foremost of which is Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao. Other governments specially from the West must go beyond paying lip service to the quest for self-determination in East Timor and more democracy in Indonesia. There can never be just negotiations if the principal party involved, nay, at stake in the negotiations ¬≠ the East Timorese — are left out in the lurch.

Xanana Gusmao is the recognized leader of East Timor. From the peak of Mt. Ramelau to the plains of Baucau to the coasts of Alas to the diaspora in Macau, Portugal, Australia, to the quiet corners of Resistance offices in Mozambique, Lisbon, Sydney, New York, to the suffocating confines of Cipinang prison in Jakarta the name of Xanana Gusmao evoke the greatest respect among his people. Together with other concerned and peace-loving individuals, groups around the world, the Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET) calls on Indonesian President Habibie to effect the unconditional release of Xanana Gusmao and all other political prisoners. Doing so will be a step towards creating the correct atmosphere for a hopefully abbreviated journey to a just, peaceful and internationally acceptable solution to the East Timorese conflict.

APCET likewise calls on the ASEAN governments to also speak out on Indonesia’s bloody saga in East Timor and urge the Habibie government in unconditionally releasing Xanana Gusmao. Doing so may be the first step in atonement for their conspiracy of silence about East Timor.

Free Xanana Gusmao now!

Asia-Pacific Coalition For East Timor (APCET)


We encourage your organisation and you to endorse the above Open Letter As follows:

Asian Human Rights Commission
World Movement of Christian Workers – ASEAN

Individuals and Organizations
Sinapan Samydorai, Programme Coordinator, Asian Human Rights Commission to Organise.

Please remember to send copies of your letters to Asian Human Rights Commission.

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA990203
Countries : Indonesia,