Subject: AFP - New group protests to demand resignation of East Timor governor
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 11:29:09 +0100
From: "Paula Carvalho Pinto" <email@example.com>
A. FRANCE PRESS New group protests to demand resignation of East Timor governor (RECASTS)
JAKARTA, Oct 13 (AFP) - Hundreds of protestors Tuesday took to the streets of Dili in the troubled territory of East Timor to press for the resignation of the Jakarta-appointed governor, residents said. For the third straight day demonstrators demanded the resignation of Jose Osorio Abilio Soares who was appointed governor of the former Portuguese territory in 1993, residents said. The "Pro-integration and pro-reform East Timorese" were the latest group to protest against Soares.
Tens of thousands of East Timorese took to the streets of Dili Sunday and Monday, demanding that Soares step down for threatening to fire civil servants unless they endorse an Indonesian proposal of autonomy for the territory. Witnesses said the territory's 15,000 civil servants, who had led a "silent" stay-at-home strike on Saturday, failed to turn up for work Monday except in essential services such as hospitals and telephone switchboards. Buses stopped running, shops downed shutters and schools were closed, but no violence was reported, the witnesses told AFP late Monday from Dili.
The protestors on Tuesday accused Soares of having diverted state funds and of recruiting his cronies for high governmental positions. They also charged that Soares' statements had created negative sentiment among East Timorese towards the government and the armed forces. "The protestors gave Abilio 15 days to resign, if not they threatened to hold a bigger demonstration," one resident said, adding that daily activities in Dili had otherwise returned to normal.
Shouting "Abilio the thief" and "Abilio a dog" the protestors marched through town, They kept away from the governor's office which was guarded by police and sealed off with barbed wire. The rally ended peacefully after more than three hours. East Timorese Bishop Carlos Belo has said that he had "no objections" to the mass protests, the state news agency Antara reported Tuesday. But Antara quoted the 1996 Nobel laureate as cautioning the demonstrators to keep the protests peaceful and not to "ruin economic activities" in the territory invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed the following year. "That is why under these circumstances, social figures should wisely and immediately respond to the people's aspirations and study them for a better life," Antara quoted Belo as saying.
Since 1983 the issue of East Timor's independence has been discussed with the Indonesian and Portuguese governments under the auspices of the United Nations. The two parties are currently discussing Jakarta's autonomy offer. Jailed East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao has said it would only be acceptable as a transitional step towards a referendum on self-determination. pyp/bs/sm