Monday, 30th October 2017

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 12.10.99
Lady and the military Sir ? The crisis in East Timor could have been avoided if only the president-in-waiting, Megawati Sukarnoputri, had behaved differently. As president, B.J. Habibie considerably liberalized Jakarta?s stand on the subject. After talking to pro-independence leaders, he agreed to provide autonomy provided the demand for independence was dropped. He even agreed to a local government for Dili. The elections upset all plans. Habibie lost interest in East Timor when it became evident he would forfeit his chair. And Megawati was more interested in preserving her vote bank than in appeasing Dili?s aspirations. She threw out the peace plans, took a tough anti-independence stand, presumably taking a cue from Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic. General Wiranto, Indonesia?s military strongman, went along with Megawati. Apparently, this cosy arrangement also scotched a coup by the military. While Megawati?s rise is undoubtedly a happy event for Indonesians, it has cooked the goose for the East Timorese. Yours faithfully, Jayanta Kumar Dutt, Calcutta