=Subject: NPR: People of ET face violence
Date: Sat, 08 May 1999 09:31:39 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED (8:00 PM ET) May 5, 1999, Wednesday



At the United Nations today, representatives from Portugal, Indonesia and the UN signed an agreement to allow a referendum in East Timor. Voters there will get the chance this August to choose between autonomy and independence. Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and then annexed it. The UN refused to recognize the annexation and separatist groups in East Timor have waged a guerilla war against Indonesia for decades. NPR's Michael Sullivan reports now from Dili, East Timor's capital.


Dili's dock workers were busy today unloading cargo ships bringing rice and other staples to this remote island territory that's a lot closer to Australia than it is the Indonesian capital Jakarta. In the past few weeks, many ships and planes have left Dili carrying a different cargo: People fleeing the upsurge and violence following President Habibe's surprise announcement in January to allow the Timoris independence if they reject autonomy. Since that announcement, local militias, which want to remain part of Indonesia, have waged a terror campaign against pro-independence activists. In a single weekend last month, more than 30 people were killed in Dili, as militias rampaged through the city. Fifty more were killed outside a church in a village 20 miles to the west.

Diplomats and human rights activists say the militias are backed by elements of the Indonesian military, who have no intention of letting East Timor go free. Aniceto Guterres Lopez heads the local human rights group, Hawk(ph).

Mr. ANICETO GUTERRES LOPEZ: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: Everything continues to be controlled by Indonesia,' he says, both the army and the militias. There's terror, there's intimidation, there's violence and,' he says, there's no indication it will end any time soon, with or without UN monitors on the ground.'

The violence has forced many independence activists into hiding or exile. And though the Indonesian military denies any direct involvement, people here say there's evidence to the contrary.

Dr. DAN MURPHY (Operates Outpatient Clinic in Dili): Well, the weapons can only come from one place and that's the Indonesian military.

SULLIVAN: Dr. Dan Murphy is an Iowa native who helps run a small outpatient clinic in Dili.

Dr. MURPHY: Well, over the last six weeks, I have been overwhelmed with high-velocity penetrating wounds, which--usually M-16 caliber penetrating wound to the chest, head wounds, abdominal wounds, severe eye injuries, a lot of bleeding. Well, suddenly they're flooded with wounded and they just kept coming and kept coming.

SULLIVAN: In the clinic's tiny four-bed ward, he pointed to a young man, his right arm wrapped in bandages, a foot-long machete scar on his back. The man,' he says, who doesn't want to talk, was attacked when militia stormed the house of a pro-independence leader a few weeks ago.

Dr. MURPHY: First of all, he was shot and then he was hacked with a machete, left for dead in a pile of bodies for an hour. But he wasn't dead and he got out afterwards.

SULLIVAN: Otelio Ote, deputy editor of Dili's Suara Timor Timor newspaper, says the militia's strong-armed tactics appear to be working.

Mr. OTELIO OTE (Deputy Editor, Suara Timor Timor): (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: Two months ago,' he says, I'm sure that most Timoris would have voted for independence. But now,' he says, the people are afraid and will probably vote for autonomy instead.'

Human rights activist Aniceto Guterres Lopez hopes for a free and fair election, but says he's pessimistic, especially given the short time frame involved.

Mr. LOPEZ: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: Because of the situation on the ground,' he says, I believe that three months till August is not enough for the three parties--Portugal, Indonesia and the UN--to ensure a free and fair ballot. There has to be the political will on the part of all the parties,' he says. And on the military side, on the militia side, that will does not appear to be there.'

Many observers say the Indonesian military is unwilling to let East Timor go free because such a move might encourage other restive provinces to seek their freedom. Since President Suharto stepped down last May, the central government's control over the vast Indonesian archipelago has been steadily eroding. But East Timors' grievance, in the eyes of the international community, is real. A legacy of nearly 30 years of oppressive rule by Indonesian security forces, a rule that human rights groups say has claimed nearly 200,000 lives. Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Dili, East Timor.

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