Subject: JP : Udayana Military commander ready for anti-East Timor rallies

The Jakarta Post Latest News - May 14, 2002

Udayana Military commander ready for anti-East Timor rallies

NUSA DUA, Bali (JP): Udayana Military Commander Maj. Gen. Willem T. Da Costa, who oversees Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara provinces, warned on Monday pro-Indonesia East Timorese in East Nusa Tenggara against staging demonstrations on May 20, the day of East Timor's independence.

Willem said that pro-Indonesia East Timorese currently living in the province planned to stage massive rallies in various cities in the province. Protesters planned to burn East Timorese flags and pictures of East Timor's president-elect Xanana Gusmao during the rallies.

The rallies, according to Willem, were planned and organized by Uni Timor Aswain (Aswain) -- an association comprising pro-Indonesia East Timorese intellectuals, bureaucrats, tribal leaders and former militiamen.

"I cannot tolerate this plan of burning flags and pictures, because the consequences will be grave. If the plan materializes then one of the possible outcomes is that people in East Timor will counteract by holding rallies, during which they will burn our flag and pictures of our president," the general said.

"When this kind of ugliness (retaliation) happens, who will be able to guarantee that millions of Indonesians will keep quiet and do nothing? They might get angry, after being insulted by the burnings. And we certainly don't want that to happen," Willemtold.

To make sure that the worst-case scenario does not happen, Willem said he had conveyed to East Timorese people in East Nusa Tenggara that such acts would not go unpunished.

"I have told them that I will not tolerate any rally on that day. I don't care if I am labeled as being against democracy or whatever, my stance is final. I will not allow them to stage any protest or rally as planned. I am being paid as a soldier to takecare of the best interests of the Indonesian people, not of a certain group. I believe that the planned rallies are not in the best interest of our people," he said.

Willem disclosed that he had instructed the East Nusa Tenggara military commander to get his troops prepared for the rallies. The rallies were to be held in East Nusa Tenggara's capital of Kupang, and at Atambua, where the majority of pro-Indonesia East Timorese refugees currently live.

"There is a possibility that I will not be in East Nusa Tenggara on May 20 because I have to accompany Ibu President to East Timor. But I have told the local commanders to get ready," he said. (zen)

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