Subject: Sunday Tribune/ Violence Continues in East Timor
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 12:49:27 +0000
From: "East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign" <> Organization: ETISC

Source: The Sunday Tribune Date: 15 August 1999 Section: World News



The attack on East Timorese students involving Irish freelance journalist Sean Steele in the town of Viqueque on Tuesday night spotlights the atmosphere of violence and intimidation which is preceding a referendum on possible independence set for the end of this month.

Steele fled form a meeting of pro-independence students when Indonesian military and local militia allies opened fire, killing two of the the students. He and student leader, Antero da Silva waded through a river before taking refuge in the nearest United Nations post.

Although Foreign Minister David Andrews has been appointed the EU Special Envoy on East Timor, and Irish Gardai are stationed in the territory, the situation on the ground seems increasingly to preclude the likelihood of a free and fair ballot. Indonesia, which invaded the ex-Portuguese colony in December 1975, announced its willingness to " part ways" with East Timor on January 27th, allowing for a United Nations monitored vote for either outright independence or greater autonomy. The independence party CNRT (Council for Timorese National Resistance)accuses the Armed Forces (TNI) of arming " pro-integration" death squads, opposed to independence, but without even minority support, to bully and terrorise the 400,000 person electorate into voting against independence. Recently the Nobel-winning bishop, Carlos Xememes Belo said that 5,000 Timorese had already been killed in attacks committed by the death squads. He added that two fresh infantry companies and over 1,000 secret service agents were sent to East Timor.

The western districts of Liquicia, Ermera, Ainaro and Oecussi are effectively under the control of the militias. In many western towns, houses have hung out the red and white Indonesian flags for fear on attacks. Although there is relative calm in the capital, Dili, nowhere can be regarded as fully safe. Andrews' last visit to Dili was accompanied by violent attacks there which left 20 dead.

Many leaders of the "por-integration" militias actively collaborated with the Indonesians during their 24-year occupation, estimated to have cost as many as 300,000 lives. Their spokesman, Basilio Dias Araujo, is a leading businessman in Dili. Another leader, Joao Taverez, was implicated in the murder of five western newsmen during the 1975 invasion. Even the Indonesian military commander, Tono Suratman, recently promoted to Brigadier-General, has business links with the deposed ex-president, General Suharto. The Suharto family owns an estimated 30% of the land in East Timor, as well as large stakes in coffee and oil production.

Indonesian fears about independence in East Timor largely centre on the possible chain-reaction throughout the the chain of 13,000 islands. The main contender in the recent Indonesian elections, the first free elections there since 1957, Mrs Megawati Sukarnopoutri, has voiced opposition to Timorese succession in the past.

As the daughter of Dr. Achmed Sukarno, Indonesia's president form 1949 to 1965, she has played upon her father's reputation as the country's founding father. The ballot in East Timor takes place one month before Indonesia marks 50 years of independence from The Netherlands.

The United Nation Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) is headed by Ian Martin and has less than 300 civilian police officers, together with several thousand Indonesian police, known locally as the "Lorosae Contingent". There are currently nine Gardai in East Timor, three in Dili and tow of each in the provincial capitals Suai, Los Palos, and Baucau.

Bishop Belo has expressed fears that the Indonesians might attempt to forcibly partition East Timor if the ballot goes ahead. Although the Portuguese departed form their colony in August 1975, under United Nations law, East Timor is still recognised as an " overseas province" of Portugal.

ENDS East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign Suite 16, Dame House 24-26 Dame Street Dublin 2 Telephone 00 353 1 671 9207/ 677 0253 /623 3148 Mobile 087 286 0122 Fax 00 353 1 671 9207 Timorese Community in Ireland 00 353 1 453 1462 web Offices in: Dublin Belfast Laois Galway Claremorris

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