Subject: Report on pro-integration Dili demonstration
Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 00:25:00 -0400
From: Charles Scheiner
The following report was sent June 26 by a foreign observer in Dili. I'm forwarding it to convey one impression of what is happening. --
One thousand people, some bussed in from 200 kms away, rallied in the capital city of Dili yesterday in support of continued Indonesian control of East Timor.
The rally, the first pro-integration rally since President Suharto resigned more than a month ago, comes after 2 weeks of much larger pro-independence protests.
Trucks carrying the pro-integration demonstrators were stoned as they drove through one Dili neighborhood. At least 8 trucks, coming from the east of the country, were blocked from entering the city by young independence supporters. Six people were lightly injured and 5 windshields smashed.
Several participants interviewed later said they had been forced or tricked into participating. One resident of a nearby village added his village headman told him and others they would be joining student demonstrations for independence. He said he was too scared to leave after he realized what was happening. Another man said he and his co-workers on a construction project in a sub-regency near Dili were told they would be fired if they didn't get on the trucks.
Government employees in Dili were told by office heads they had to attend, according to several workers.
According to local activists, many of those at the rally were Intel agents, government-hired thugs, little seen since Suharto resigned. Many others were not East Timorese natives, but recent immigrants from Indonesia. Such immigrants make up a significant part of the population now.
Student leaders have called off a pro-independence protest for today fearing violent conflict with a second pro-Jakarta rally now scheduled.