Subject: AU: militia fail to shift Megawati out of neutral
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999 09:21:56 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

The Australian 11 August 99

Bikie militia fail to shift Megawati out of neutral

From SIAN POWELL in Dili

A RALLY for victorious Indonesian party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri in Dili yesterday was dominated by members of the notorious Aitarak (Thorn) militia, who have terrorised the East Timorese capital for months.

Mrs Megawati did not endorse autonomy for the Indonesian province in her brief speech, which would have been politically embarrassing. She said instead she was sure the people would choose the best thing for East Timor in this month's crucial referendum.

A procession of roaring motorbikes heralded the arrival of the militia members, who were followed half an hour later by the presidential hopeful. The square in front of the Dili auditorium ran with shouts of "autonomy, yes" punctuated with fists flung in the air.

The 400-strong crowd mostly Aitarak militia and West Timorese people, was led in rallying cries of autonomy by militia leader Eurico Guterres.

Ms Megawati recently publicly stated for the first time that she supported the right of East Timorese people to decide their own future. But over her three-day visit she met with none of the resistance leaders.

A meeting she had with the United Front for Autonomy on Monday night was purely social and nothing political was discussed, the front's spokesman Basilio Araujo said.

Ms Megawati also had a meeting early yesterday with Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo, who later issued a statement saying he hoped she would respect the wishes of the East Timorese people as well as seeking a political solution for the people of Aceh and Irian Jaya.

"We hope Megawati will be able to respect the aspirations of the East Timorese people after the popular consultation (vote)," the statement read.

Bishop Belo also called on Ms Megawati to release all political prisoners and reduce the military's political role.

Ms Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) won two of East Timor's four seats in Indonesia's National Assembly. Golkar won the other two.

Ms Megawati sat impassively as shouts of autonomy filled the auditorium yesterday and kept her comments on the independence ballot strictly neutral.

Thanking the people of East Timor who voted for her party, she said: "I love East Timor." She said she was concerned about security in the province.

In a press conference at Dili airport just before she left for Jakarta last night, Ms Megawati, when questioned about the Bishop Belo's statement, said: "Of course I will respect the result of the ballot."

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