Sir, - I recently read an article in your newspaper (March 23rd) written by Mr David Shanks, "Aspirations of East Timorese people still put Jakarta in a different world", and I noticed a lack of objectivity, impartiality and clarity in this article with regard to Indonesia's current political situation.

In your article, you mention, for example, that in its 51st year of the independence of Indonesia, another image persists of just another imitative empire, driven cruelly from its political centre, Java. Your opinion, as we notice, has always been directed typically and repeatedly by Indonesian detractors as one of their major campaigns. They have incessantly fabricated and manipulated this groundless accusation as if Indonesia is a colonialist power who oppresses those living throughout the archipelago. Their campaigns are clearly supported by certain NGOs and journalists abroad, but in fact, they are not supported and are thus not popular amongst the Indonesian people. As you might be aware, the Indonesian people are proud of their national motto which is "Unity in Diversity" which signifies the unity and uniqueness of the Indonesian people despite our diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Thus, there is no political domination by one ethnic group towards another. What you have described in your article regarding this matter, therefore, has not mirrored with the actual situation of the Indonesian political situation, but simply taken the side of the anti Indonesian camp.

Regarding the Muchtar Pakpahan case, you have certainly misunderstood the judiciary process in Indonesia in which it is quite possible for the defendant or the prosecutor to ask for judicial review of the supreme court's decision so far as there is strong new evidence or should the decision be wrongly applied. This is in accordance with our criminal procedural law and nothing to do with political motives. The prosecutor of this case has been convinced that the judge has made a wrong judgment over the Muchtar Pakpahan case. However, the supreme court is the authorised body to examine this judicial review.

You have further carelessly written that recently Indonesia banned, of all things, the Reader's Digest, apparently because it carried an outspoken article on East Timor's apostolic bishop, Dr Carlos Ximenes Belo. In fact, the Ministry of Information never banned the March edition of Reader's Digest in the country, and we have no problem with it whatsoever. The rumours of the ban arose following the publication by Reuters of an interview with a Reader's Digest spokesperson, Liz Dingwall, in which she alleged that the Indonesian government had banned the magazine's March issue. Therefore, your article is not based on an accurate source, but from rumours not reflecting the reality of what was happening in Indonesia.

With regard to the meeting between President Suharto and the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Gutteres, relating to the partial diplomatic (interests section) resumption offered by the Portuguese Prime Minister, you have missed the point that this matter was proposed by the UN Secretary General sometime ago whereby Indonesia accepted this proposal but the Portuguese declined it. But at this moment the Portuguese raised the issue which they themselves rejected and claiming that the ball is now in the Indonesian court. Nevertheless, Indonesia always welcomes proposals for a constructive dialogue to solve East Timor's problem which will finally be accepted by international society. So that's why President Suharto welcomes the proposal and has ordered the Minister for Foreign Affairs to seek the best possible avenue to discuss Portugal's proposal.

Your article also contains the accusation that dirty tricks seem part of an overall Indonesian package by corresponding the negotiation process and the military operation to trash the remaining guerilla resistance in the East Timor highland. What currently happened is that the military role in East Timor has been shifted from a military operation into a civic mission by helping the people to build up the agricultural sectors and basic infrastructures in East Timor so as to improve the quality of people's life. The amount of military presence has also been reduced significantly due to these developments.

Your article also states that the Indonesian government has tried to interfere with the role of the apostolic bishop in East Timor. As a matter of fact, Indonesia has never had the intention of interfering to reduce his role in religious affairs. Indonesia has also respected the role of the Vatican in administering Catholic churches and their bishop in East Timor. This is purely a matter of religious practice and should not be linked to political affairs.

In the article, you have relentlessly accused the East Timorese, who are pro integration, of being the puppets of the Indonesian government. This seems to follow the campaign of the anti integration camp. This comment is surely an insult to those who represent the overwhelming majority of the East Timorese who in fact chose independence through integration with Indonesia. It is obvious that you have put yourself in the anti integration camp and totally disregard the aspirations of the majority of the East Timorese. Whilst you still lack the knowledge to comprehend the complexity of the East Timor problem, it is unfortunate that you have clearly misunderstood the issue based on your contact with certain sources and anti Indonesian camps, and have not represented the whole perspective of the issue.

I do not however, claim that the publication of an article on Indonesia should present a beautiful and perfect picture. We do have problems and shortcomings, as do all countries in the world, but a comprehensive, objective, and balanced way of describing the situation by observing a strict impartiality principle in order to achieve greater understanding for your readers is however necessary. - Yours, etc.,

Minister Councillor,

Head of the Information


The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia,