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In Celebration of the 1st East Timor Independence Day 

(Is it important for President Megawati to attend the celebration?)

            A few weeks ago, East Timor President Xanana Gusmao, came to Jakarta, Indonesia, to invite President Megawati to East Timor to witness the celebration of their 1st anniversary of their Independence, on May 20. Since then, there have been debates between pros and cons including opinions from elite politicians. Experts and civilians alike are wondering whether President Megawati should go to East Timor for the celebration.

Before Gusmao came to Jakarta, Megawati had been advised not go to East Timor, in her place Indonesia should send their Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hasan Wirajuda, for the affair. She’s was even warned not to send anyone at all, due to alleged tampered referendum that resulted to the independence of East Timor.

Spokesman for the president, says Megawati would go to East Timor, if she doesn’t have any important agenda during that day. However, she refuses to compromise with the PIP (Pro Integration Party), stating that if she is not busy on the 20th she will attend the celebration even when the PIP were to hold a demonstration against her.

President Megawati is not the only special guest invited by the Committee of the Independence Day.  A famous Indonesian rock group is among the invitee lists as well. The leader of the rock band commented that as public figure they have to maintain professionalism in dealing with such situation. They took the decision to participate in the event, regardless of the situation and political condition in East Timor.

As Indonesia’s neighbouring country, East Timor proved to be a potential asset for Indonesian government in trading. Amongst East Timor civilians, Indonesian products are more popular than products from other countries.

Imported products from other countries can be found in newly established supermarkets
in East Timor, with prices more expensive than those made in Indonesia.  As a result, only expatriates have the ability to buy the goods.

Indonesian government still have to retrieve the remains of Indonesian soldiers who were buried in East Timor during the conflict.  It is reported that East Timorese farmers have converted some of these burial grounds to cassava plantations, which angered most Indonesians. Due to this allegation observers say’s President Magawati cannot afford to take the wrong steps that could jeopardize her position.

Given the above facts, some intriguing questions are raised for Megawati. Will she follow the decision made by the famous Indonesia rock group, to attend the celebration regardless of the current political condition or she will stay put in Jakarta? It should be remembered that Megawati is the daughter of the first Indonesian president, the late Soekarno (Sukarno). Danny Wahyoe (The Montreal Tribune’s Indonesian correspondent)  

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