Subject: Protests, Gunshots Disrupt Wahid Timor Trip

February 29, 2000 Protests, Gunshots Disrupt Wahid Timor Trip

DILI, East Timor (Reuters) - Gunshots and angry protests disrupted a landmark visit to East Timor Tuesday by Indonesia's new reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Portuguese troops in a U.N. peacekeeping force fired two warning shots to calm a waiting crowd as Wahid drove into Dili from the city's Komoro airport after flying in on an Indonesian military aircraft on a trip intended to usher in friendly ties.

It was the first official visit by an Indonesian leader since Jakarta gave up its claim to the territory after East Timorese voted for independence last year. That vote unleashed a rampage by pro-Indonesian militia in which hundreds were killed.

Just after declaring he felt ``at home'' in Dili, Wahid was forced to take refuge in the governor's palace, which now serves as offices for the interim U.N. administration.

Around 300 protesters noisily demanded Indonesia reveal the truth about the deaths or disappearances of resistance fighters during its 24-year occupation.

``Immediately reveal the facts and account for disappearances of our fighters who were captured and kidnapped illegally,'' read one banner.


``Immediately bring to justice TNI (Indonesian military) commanders and generals who for 24 years were responsible for disappearances in Timor Lorosae (East Timor) by the convening of an international tribunal,'' said a statement signed by coordinator Manuel Mira Freitas.

More than 5,000 people turned out to greet Wahid. Indonesia's flag and the banner of the movement that fought Jakarta's rule flew alongside one another outside the palace.

Wahid carried on with meetings inside the governor's palace amid tight security. A helicopter hovered over the building and sharpshooters kept watch from the roof. A communique on bilateral ties is due to be signed later in the day.

Independence leaders Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos-Horta, who had greeted Wahid at the airport, tried to calm the crowd.

A small delegation from the protesters, including the widow of slain guerrilla chief David Alex, was taken inside the governor's palace.

Ramos-Horta said he regretted the protest.

``I wish it did not happen, but this is a democratic country and people have the right to express their feelings,'' he told Reuters.

Despite the protest, Dili residents said they did not blame Wahid, elected in October on a strongly pro-reform ticket, for the destruction by anti-independence forces that left East Timor in ruins last year.

``I feel sad when I look at what the Indonesian military have destroyed and all the things they have done, but I do not blame the new president for that,'' said Eduardo Gayu.


A long line of security officials from the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT) helped keep order. Traditional dancers provided entertainment.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 after the abrupt withdrawal of the Portuguese colonial administration, and Jakarta ruled the territory with an iron hand for nearly 24 years.

Last year, under an agreement between Jakarta and Lisbon, the territory was allowed to choose between wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia and independence in a referendum.

The August 30 vote resulted in an overwhelming rejection of Indonesian rule, setting off a stream of violence by anti-independence forces led by the Indonesian military.

Six generals are under investigation by an Indonesian inquiry over the violence, including former armed forces chief General Wiranto, who has been suspended from his cabinet post by Wahid.

Wiranto is due to testify in parliament Wednesday on the military's role in the violence in East Timor last year.

Monday the military announced a major shake-up, replacing two Wiranto allies with prominent reformist generals in key posts.

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