Subject: AFP: Youths mark anniversary with UN protest
Date: Mon, 07 Dec 1998 20:25:45 +0900
From: sonny inbaraj <firstname.lastname@example.org> Organization: The AustralAsian
Youths mark anniversary of East Timor invasion with UN protest
JAKARTA, Dec 7 (AFP) - East Timor students demanded self-determination at a protest at the UN building here Monday on the 23rd anniversary of Indonesia's invasion of the territory, as campaigners condemned military plans to arm villagers there.
In Dili, the capital of the former Portuguese colony, residents said the city was mostly deserted with shops and businesses closed and public transport scarce.
There had been widespread rumors in the past few days of massive demonstrations to mark the anniversary.
"Some people, who have come from all 14 districts (of East Timor) went to the Santa Cruz cemetery for a mass this morning, but for the rest of the day, the city is much quieter than usual," Pastor Domingus Sequeira said from Dili.
In Jakarta, some 100 students from the East Timor Students and Youth Association, wearing black headbands inscribed with the words Referendum, protested at the United Nations building before attempting to march to the US embassy about a kilometre (under a mile) down the road.
Five representatives of the protestors were let in to the UN building to meet with an information official and hand over a letter addressed to UN chief Kofi Annan.
In the letter, the group called for "a free and fair referendum (on self-determination), in accordance with the UN resolution."
It also called for the "total, immediate and unconditional" withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor under UN supervision, a review of military assistance to Indonesia by all countries, and for the release of jailed rebel leader Xanana Gusmao and all other East Timorese political prisoners held in Indonesian jails.
The protestors were later blocked some 500 metres (yards) before the US embassy by a police cordon, but an embassy official came to see them "to make sure that this is a peaceful demonstration."
"Believe me the United States of America is looking into this issue now," said counsellor for political affairs Edmund McWilliams.
"We are hoping to have a clearer policy ... we will see some changes in US policies on human rights," McWillams told the demonstrators.
The protestors carried posters declaring that "Suharto the dictator" should be tried in the International Court of Justice, and that several other former military officers who were the "architects" of the 1975 invasion be hanged.
Veteran president Suharto, who ordered the invasion and annexation a year later of East Timor, was ousted in May.
The group also displayed a large flag of the East Timorese National Resistance Council.
A brief scuffle broke when hundreds of troops from the military and police closed in from the other end of the street.
Three students who tried to escape were taken away by a military truck but were released more than one hour later just before the protestors dispersed peacefully.
Meanwhile Monday, the Darwin-based East Timor International Support Centre (ETISC) lashed out at the Indonesian military's announcement that it plans to arm villagers in East Timor against rebel attacks.
"A 'people's defence force' is just a cruel excuse to create another paramilitary group in East Timor," the ETISC statement said.
"This defence force will be used by ABRI (the Indonesian armed forces) to do their dirty work, and being out of uniform, they are unaccountable for the abuses they might commit," it added.
The Indonesian military commander in East Timor, Colonel Tono Suratman, on Saturday said he planned to arm civilians in more than 442 villages in East Timor to safeguard villages from rebels.
"I have an order from my superior to arm villagers so that they can secure their villages," Suratman was Monday quoted by the Jakarta Post daily as saying.
Suratman also said only villages prone to attacks by pro-independence rebels would be armed, and added he would "shoulder all the risks" if it lead to excesses.
After a year of heavy fighting, Indonesia unilaterally declared East Timor its 27th province in 1976 in a move never recognized by the United Nations and most countries.
A pro-independence movement has since provided armed resistance against the Indonesian presence and its attacks on Indonesian targets and people suspected of acting as collaborators have been on the rise since Suharto stood down.
The UN has been sponsoring a peace dialogue on East Timor between Indonesia and Portugal, which it still considers the official administrator of the troubled territory.