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Subject: AFP: Belo asks E.Timorese to halt protests during holiday season
Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 08:47:52 +0000
From: Tapol

Received from Joyo

Bishop asks East Timorese to halt protests during holiday season

JAKARTA, Dec 17 (AFP) - Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo appealed to East Timorese Thursday to halt a spate of street protests in respect of Christmas and the Moslem fasting month of Ramadan.

"I deeply disagree with acts of protest which coincide with the days on which Christians are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and ahead of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan, a month of restraint," Belo was quoted as saying by the state Antara news agency.

Belo, speaking in the East Timorese capital of Dili, also urged East Timorese "to sit down together for a dialogue" instead of parading through the city in protest.

Belo's call came as overwhelmingly-Catholic East Timorese were preparing to stage street protests during a planned visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker.

It echoed an appeal in Jakarta by Indonesian religious affairs minister, Malik Fajar, last week, calling on students to halt their almost daily protests to respect Ramadan.

Pro-independence East Timorese students have stepped up their protests, most of which call for a referendum on self-determination since the fall of former Indonesian president Suharto in May.

Suharto ordered the invasion of the former Portuguese colony in 1975, and annexed the territory after heavy fighting a year later in a move that was not recognised by the United Nations.

Indonesian students in Jakarta, who are clamoring for Suharto to be brought to trial for abuse of power and corruption during his 32-year rule, have vowed to pursue their pro-reform demonstrations throughout the fasting month.

But some have said they were considering a softer approach out of respect for those observing Ramadan.

A mass protest in Jakarta Thursday, which some students said was meant to be the last major street protest before Ramadan, ended up in bloodshed after troops and students clashed near the parliament.

Hospital sources said one person died in the clash, while dozens were injured.

The fasting month, when Moslems fast from sunrise to sundown, will start in Indonesia on December 20.

Although East Timor is predominantly Catholic, but Ramadan is also observed by the Moslem population of the territory, composed of Indonesian civil servants, troops, merchants and government-sponsored settlers.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 1420 80153 Email: Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh, 1973-1998

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