Subject: KY: Indonesian Muslim leader visits E. Timor
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:13:55 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Indonesian Muslim leader visits E. Timor

Kyodo News By Sugianto Tandra

DILI, East Timor , July 26 --

Indonesian Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid arrived in the predominantly Catholic territory of East Timor on Monday for a two-day visit.

Fadjrul Falakh, his personal assistant, said Wahid would meet with all conflicting parties in the former Portuguese colony and would call on them to commit themselves to a nonviolent and democratic means of solving conflicts.

"The purpose of the visit is to call for stopping of all kinds of violence, for disarmament and for the respect of a process of democracy," he told Kyodo News.

Wahid is chairman of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, the 30 million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama. Indonesia is the world's fourth largest country with a population of around 210 million.

In Indonesia's current politics, Wahid is known as a "kingmaker" and has recently been nominated by many reform-minded political leaders as a candidate for president to replace incumbent B.J. Habibie.

Affectionately known as Gus Dur, the Muslim leader met with top local government officials and pro-Indonesia figures Monday noon and was to meet later with independence leaders.

On Tuesday he is to meet with the head of the U.N. Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), Ian Martin, and Dili Bishop Carlos Belo, who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with self-exiled East Timor resistance leader Jose Ramos-Horta.

Wahid is known both nationally and locally as Belo's close friend.

East Timor is presently bracing for an UNAMET-organized referendum in late August in which around 400,000 East Timorese will vote either to accept an autonomy offered by Indonesia or reject it, leading to separation and possibly independence.

The Indonesian military invaded East Timor in 1975 and former President Suharto's government unilaterally annexed it the next year, a move disputed by Portugal and many members of the United Nations.

Violence has run havoc following the announcement of Suharto's handpicked successor B.J. Habibie last January that Indonesia would let East Timor go if its people reject autonomy. Since then East Timorese have been seriously divided.

More than 100 East Timorese have died in the violence and tens of thousands of villagers have been displaced since.

Four East Timorese sustained stab wounds, one seriously, in violence at a market Monday, according to local police.

East Timor police spokesman Capt. Widodo said one was arrested for questioning.

"I have no further details yet about the incident," he told Kyodo News by phone.

According to Widodo, the violence in Mercado Lama market broke out after a man from Indonesia's South Sulawesi was chased down by local youths in the market and stabbed for allegedly being a member of a notorious pro-Indonesia militia group.

The Indonesian police fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, Widodo said.

Scores of Indonesian police were seen on guard around the market and journalists trying to approach the area were asked to stay away.

Widodo said 500 more Indonesian police officers arrived in Dili on Tuesday, bringing the total in the region to about 6,500. They will be augmented further by another 400 police who are to arrive Tuesday.

Earlier Monday, the UNAMET announced that it has closed two of its 200 voter registration posts Sunday. The closures were in Balibo following a threat from a group of pro-Indonesia militia.

On Monday, all registration centers were open, UNAMET spokesman Yasuhiro Ueki said.

Back to July Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99