The Baltimore Sun


Indonesian diplomat was once considered for top U.N. post

Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, who had the delicate task of representing Indonesia during an often-brutal dictatorship and was once considered for the top job at the United Nations, died yesterday in Singapore, a week after suffering a stroke.

Mr. Alatas was the country's highest-ranking diplomat from 1988 until 1999 - the year after longtime President Suharto was swept from power after a wave of pro-democracy street protests.

He twice served as Indonesia's ambassador to the United Nations, chaired and participated in many international seminars and, most recently, acted as an adviser to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Though he was well-respected, Mr. Alatas' legacy was tainted by atrocities carried out during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor, which ended in 1999.

The most notable of those atrocities was a massacre by troops in Santa Cruz district that left hundreds of civilians dead.

The 1991 attack - captured on video by a British filmmaker - marked a "turning point" in efforts to put the sprawling archipelago of 235 million people in a good light, Mr. Alatas told Tempo Magazine in 2000.

It also might have cost him the job as secretary-general of the United Nations, for which he was considered in the late 1990s.

Suharto reportedly opposed his candidacy, because he worried it would put a fresh spotlight on such abuses.

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