Subject: SMH: Jakarta's new role recalls old terror

Sydney Morning Herald Feb 11, 2000

Jakarta's new role recalls old terror

Dili: The two-storey building on the corner of 89 Jalan Farol is deserted now. Weeds grow around a broken section of satellite antennae.

Three-metre high concrete walls topped with barbed wire, and a rusting communications aerial, hint at a sinister, previous purpose for this fortress-like building, its walls daubed with Indonesian Army graffiti.

This was no ordinary dwelling. It once served as an army-run interrogation and torture centre.

Now it will house Indonesia's new diplomatic mission in East Timor, which expects to open before President Abdurrahman Wahid's visit this month.

The East Timor human rights group Yayasan-Hak (Foundation for Legal and Human Rights), whose staff braved countless militia and army death threats in the lead-up to East Timor's ballot on self-determination, say they are appalled at the United Nations administration's decision to hand over the building to the Indonesians.

A Yayasan Hak spokesman, Mr Joaquim Fonseca, said yesterday the building would have better served the East Timorese as a centre for human rights.

"We applied to get the building," he said. "The idea was to bring everyone there to recount their stories of torture or detention - tell of their experiences to remind people about what happened in the past and create a greater respect for human rights.

"We wanted that building to be used for human rights and create a new image. It used to be a symbol of oppression."

The group was also concerned about it being handed back to the Indonesians because it had in the past acted as an intelligence-gathering centre.

"That building was constructed for one purpose - intelligence activities. It was a symbol of oppression when the Indonesians occupied East Timor," Mr Fonseca said.

"It was once a centre of intelligence and detention. If the Indonesians take it over and use it as a consulate it could send out the wrong message."

Next to No89 is the gutted two-storey ruins of Yayasan-Hak's Dili headquarters, ransacked and burnt to the ground in the violence that followed the independence vote.

Australian soldiers have detained two militiamen in the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi after one of them threatened the troops with an Indonesian military bayonet.

Mark Dodd

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