|=Subject: AFP: Dancing, rallies and pessimism follow
Date: Sat, 08 May 1999 09:30:32 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Dancing, rallies and pessimism follow East Timor agreeement
DILI, East Timor, May 6 (AFP) - Pro-independence students danced while fellow East Timorese huddled round radios and snapped up newspapers announcing that agreement had been reached in New York that they could choose their own future.
But despite the excitement Thursday, most expressed pessimism on the possibilities that the accord signed at the United Nations between Portugal and Indonesia would end years of bloodshed.
"We say welcome to them," said one of the 200 students in front of the University of Timor Timor, referring to the unarmed UN police force scheduled to start arriving here Monday to supervise preparations for the August 8 ballot.
"I think its a kind of method to solve the East Timor problem, but we are still pessimistic. The people don't believe the Indonesian army.
"I personally believe that most people want independence," the student said, rejecting the Jakarta offer of a broad autonomy that will be offered as an alternative to the 800,000 people of East Timor in August.
As the students danced, cheered and sang revolutionary songs, waving two large green, black and yellow flags of the Fretilin pro-independence movement, passers-by snatched copies of the territory's only newspaper, the Voice of East Timor, from vendors' hands.
The students fell silent when a contingent of 20 police in full riot gear drove up and deployed in a field nearby.
The police urged the students to move the demonstration, the third this week, inside the university gates because it was obstructing traffic.
The students refused, asking the police: "Why don't you stop the Besi Merah Putih (pro-Indonesia militia group) when they hold mass demonstrations?"
But there was no confrontation, an AFP reporter said.
Pro Indonesian militias have been stepping up rallies in support of autonomy since Jakarta in January said it may let go East Timor if the people of the territory rejected Indonesia's broad autonomy offer.
They also went on an unchecked rampage here on April 17, leaving at least 21 killed and houses of pro-independence activists burned or damaged.
Outside the downtown office of the Voice of Timor, which reopened Sunday after being ransacked on April 17, copies of the paper were sold before most vendors could fan out through the city.
Most East Timorese first heard news of the agreement from New York by radio as dawn broke over the city and the first patrols of Kamra (army auxiliaries) started making their rounds of the city.
A cigarette, drink and candy vendor setting up his wooden barrow outside a downtown hotel, listened to a BBC broadcast in Indonesian from a radio slung around his neck and hidden under his shirt.
"I am still afraid. They (the pro-Indonesian militia) will make more terror," he said, asking that his name not be published.
A student leader, Maukura, echoed many when he said he was waiting to learn the details of the accord from the evening Portuguese RTT television news broadcast.
"In my heart I want independence ... but we need to know the details. I think this is the first stage, we need to be very careful," he said, adding that he distrusted security assurances given by Indonesian armed forces chief General Wiranto.
"We need a neutral force," he said.
Pro-Indonesian groups meanwhile headed for a series of pre-planned mass rallies inside and outside the city as part of a stepped-up propaganda campaign.
There were to be further rallies on Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, according to faxed notices from the Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice labelled "First reactions to Tripartite Talks" sent from Jakarta.
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it the following year but the United Nations still views Portugal as the official administrator there.
An estimated 200,000 East Timorese and 20,000 Indonesian troops died in the conflict, according to official estimates.
Jakarta in January said that it would let go East Timor should its autonomy proposal be rejected by most of the population there.