Subject: On-the-spot report from Dili
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 17:17:51 +1200
From: sonny inbaraj <email@example.com> Organization: The AustralAsian
I received this on-the-spot report from Dili today. Thought I'll pass it on.
I attended a demonstration this morning Monday 23/11/98. It was organised by the DSMTT - which is a combined East Timorese students group against Violence. They all started gathering at UNTIM before 8am. Students from UNTIM in their light blue jackets, students from the Polytechnic in bright yellow, from Akper - the Academy of Health indark blue and also from IPI - the Indonesian Pastoral Institute.
All nine senior high schools in Dili closed for the day and the students walked to the demonstrasi in their all white uniforms. Another youth group which supports independence for East Timor - OBJETIL had white t-shirts with OBJETIL across the front. Many people in ordinary clothes. The common estimate was around 5,000 students. There were banners supporting a free ET of course and also for Xanana, Tau matan Ruark, Konis Santana, and David Alex.
Everyone marched from UNTIM to the DPR or People's assembly where they took over the front of the building. They have done the sme action 3 times before. They had a microphone and loudspeakers on a balcony over the front steps. They were demanding peace the military out of ET; UN forces in ET. They want a stop to violence, kidnappings, killings, intimidation and torture. They wanted to say that the Indonesian government is responsible for what is happening in Alas and other districts. They say that more than 50 people have been killed at Alas including students. They say that the military are still killing people at night. They say that the leader of Falantil in Alas Tera Bulak and his members (they are the ones who captured the kopassus men) are surrounded by Indonesian military. The speaker from Same asked that the UN and all the nations of the world defeat Jakarta.
One student suggested to me that the UN impose an economic embargo on Indonesia. I asked "won't that make ET poorer?" "No we will be OK . We have our gardens and many resources. If we run out of rice we will eat corn".
There were no military in sight and the police kept their distance but were equipped with 2-way radios. One students I was talking to said it is still dangerous to be seen talking to journalists because there were plain clothes people in the crowd. The students quickly point out when a spy comes near. The governor and the military were invited to attend. There were many rumours that Abilio would show at 1pm but he did not come. I was told that he was too scared. I left at 1.30. Everyone had been told then that he was not coming.
Manuel Carrascalao did speak and was cheered supportively by the students. He started his speech with "Viva Timor Leste."
A student told me that Manuel always supports the students struggle and cares about people's suffering. He said that the military must stop the violence in Alas. He said the Timorese must unite. East Timor is their land not the Indonesians'. He told them about his meeting with the Portuguese PM where he stressed that Timorese people want independence and that Timorese who said otherwise were not representative of the people. Speakers, songs and poetry continued all morning.
I interviewed a teacher at the demonstration. he was keen for his name to be used. he is Antonio Cardoso Machido form the Dili College of Economic Science. He is also a memeber of the political department of the Gradutaes Forum. (Forsarepetil - The group which organised the 35,000 person demonstration when Abilio Soares threatened to sack government servants who did not support "autonomy").
He brought his students to the demonstartion and supports independence. He believes 99 per cent of east Timorese want independence and even the other 1per cent do but they are afraid of the consequences because they have been supporting the Indonesians. He believes ET will be economically viable. When the Indonesians leave the people will be able to return and farm their traditional lands instead of living in Dili. He believes Portugal as the administering power accepted by the UN should strive to overcome the problems ET now faces and should make compensation (for walking out I guess).
He says Australia should know that the ETese sacrificed 50,000 lives for Australian soldiers in WW II. He believes Australia should do a lot more for ET and should show their presence in ET. He believes Australia will be a good friend once ET is independent. When discussing the future viability of an independent ET and situation of education levels and human resources Antonio points out that Guinea-Bissau only had 6 gradutaes when they became independent in 1974 whereas ET has 1000.
One of our colleagues had just returned from Same. She told me that Falantil said 145 people had escaped from the villages near Alas and taken shelter with them. A group called Kontras which has recently formed and tries to trace missing persons, show that the Timorese are watching and reporting on the military actions and so increase the pressure on the military to get out of East Timor, had sent a representative to the area two days ago. He had spoken to 45 people and estimated that 60 people had been killed - including 20 near a river and 10 who were sheltering in a church.
Houses have been burnt and many people have fled. It seems there's still heavy military presence between Same and Alas.