Subject: CIVPOL no show at burning incident

Student congress up in flames

In the latest of several similar alleged attacks on community groups in Dili in the past eight weeks, four men invaded, then doused in fuel and burned the platform at the front of the national East Timor Student Solidarity Council conference at 2am Sunday June 18th.

Seven hours and 15 minutes is how long CIVPOL Dili took to arrive at the scene where earlier in the day, an UNTAET education representative, university academics from the former UNTIM, and student speakers had addressed over 300 student delegates from all over East Timor.

Neighbours and Security from the Tribunal next door rushed to the scene after spotting the men who arrived and left on motorbikes. Apparently the men visited no other sites that night.

Students awoke, berating themselves for relaxing enough to sleep through most of the incident. "I never thought this would happen again," said one man, "Why?"

After trying the incorrect phone number for CIVPOL apparently published in a recent edition of the UNTAET newspaper Tais Timor, students located a new edition and eventually got through.

6 phone calls over one and a half hours failed to attract officers to the scene, where frightened students were waiting out the front, expectations of help disappointed.

At 8:15am students walked to CIVPOL HQ and spent 45 minutes locating the right person to talk to about the matter. Eventually a very competent and concerned investigator accompanied them to the student HQ at 9:15.

However, no record of the 6 desperate phone calls earlier that morning were registered at the CIVPOL office.

At this time, the perpetrators of and motivation for the attack are subjects of speculation. However, such a targeted attack on a conference discussing civil society and democratization in East Timor raises disturbing questions about the political balance in this new country.

Three tables and a whiteboard were incinerated, and sections of the temporary tarpaulan shade cover were melted. A banner commemorating the second anniversary of the emergence of the student group as a non-clandestine movement was also burned.

University Students for East Timor, Australia

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