|Subject: AFP:Violence by militias in Timor continues
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999 09:33:41 -0400
Violence by militias in Timor continues unabated: Canadian mission
JAKARTA, Aug 12 (AFP) - A Canadian delegation said Thursday that violence and intimidation by pro-Indonesian militias is continuing unabated in East Timor less than three weeks before a vote on the territory's future.
Echoing comments by two other groups, the team said it had evidence that Indonesian authorities were arming and supporting the militias to spread chaos if voters reject an offer of autonomy in favour of independence.
"It is clear, based on our visit there, that violence continues unabated by militia in East Timor," Hassan Yussuff, delegation leader and executive vice president of the Canadian Labor Congress, told a press conference.
The nine-member delegation of trade unions, women's and human rights groups, as well as a Canadian MP, were speaking after a five-day visit to the former Portuguese colony which Indonesia invaded in 1975.
They met 20 East Timorese organizations, including the pro-Indonesia Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice.
The group also urged the Canadian government and the international community to press for a UN peacekeeping force for East Timor if Indonesia fails to stop violence there.
"Unless Indonesia is going to live up to its obligation, we believe that it is critical for a peacekeeping force to be sent to the territory immediately," said Svend Robinson, a member of parliament.
The accusations against Indonesian authorities echoed those levelled by The Carter Center, a private observer group, and the Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, a leading East Timorese rights group, on Wednesday.
"It is clear to us that the May 5 agreement, in regards to security issues that the Indonesian government promised to provide, has been breached many, many times," Yussuff added, referring to an ageement between Indonesia, Portugal and the UN signed in New York.
Under the agreement some 450,000 East Timorese here and abroad are expected to vote on August 30 to determine whether they accept or reject an Indonesian offer for broad autonomy.
Jakarta has said it may grant East Timor independence if the autonomy offer is rejected.
The delegation said in a statement that it had seen the Indonesian military and militias gathering at military posts and travelling together.
The statement said the delegation saw several homes burned by the militias and residents, including refugees, had been forced to fly the Indonesian flag for protection.
Robinson also urged the international community to pressure Indonesia to withdraw its troops from the territory which it annexed in 1976.
"We are requesting the international community to take necessary steps to ensure Indonesa withdraws all its troops from the occupied territory before the vote takes place," he said.
Joan Grant Cummings, delegation member and president of the National Committeee on the Status of Women, blasted the Canadian government for its apparent inaction over rapes of women in East Timor by soldiers.
She said the culprits had escaped unpunished.
The group also called for the release of jailed East Timor rebel leader Xanana Gusmao so he can take part in campaigning before the vote.