Subject: SMH: Militia attack: Police 'take time' as students die
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 1999 09:37:35 -0400

Sydney Morning Herald Friday, August 13, 1999


Police 'take time' as students die

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Two students were killed after an attack by pro-Indonesian militia on Wednesday which has raised serious questions about the impartiality of local police in the lead-up to the ballot on East Timor's future.

"There was an incident yesterday [Wednesday] in Viqueque which left two confirmed dead and one injured," Mr David Wimhurst, the spokesman for the United Nations Mission in East Timor, told reporters.

The incident appeared to have been a clash between local militia and students, he said. UN staff were not involved and the situation in Viqueque yesterday morning was described as calm.

Viqueque, some 200 kilometres south-east of Dili, is a known militia troublespot and was the scene of a tense stand-off between militia supporters and the UN last month.

Local human rights officials told the Herald that this week's violence began on Tuesday evening when militia members attacked a student office, located 300 metres from a police station. It was set up to conduct pro-independence campaigning.

They said local police did not intervene in the violence that night which led to the abduction of two students and furniture and equipment being smashed. Furthur violence erupted on Wednesday between students and militia in which two students were killed and one injured.

Mr Wimhurst acknowledged that Indonesian police, responsible for maintaining security in East Timor during the balloting period, were late in arriving to restore law and order.

"I understand from the information we have that the students were in the first instance attacked by militia and during the course of this event, which stretched over several hours, two people were killed.

"The [Indonesian] police were not involved in the incident. They did come to the scene and eventually were able to restore order, but it did take time," he told reporters in Dili.

One aid official quoting local staff in Viqueque said the 59/75 Junior Militia group had virtually taken over the town on Wednesday, firing their guns without any attempt at intervention by local police.

Mr Dino Djalal, the Indonesian government spokesman in Dili, defended the role of the police, saying there were some 8,000 currently deployed across East Timor who had shown they were able to work professionally and deal with security issues.

Campaigning begins tomorrow for the UN-supervised referendum.

On Wednesday, the Atlanta-based Carter Centre, an independent electoral watchdog body, accused the Indonesian military and police of deliberately failing to maintain security in East Timor and of frequently participating in militia violence.

"The Indonesian military (TNI) and Government are actively supporting and directing armed pro-integration militias who are creating a climate of fear and intimidation," the report said.

The two students abducted on Tuesday evening have been identified as Mr Josefina Baptista, 25, from East Timor University, and Mr Emiliano da Silva Guterres, 24, a student from the sub-district of Dilor, near Viqueque. The two dead were Carlos Sarmento and Mario Gusmao.

Student spokesman Mr Januario da Silva Belo said some 15 to 20 militia armed with pistols first arrived in two trucks outside the office on Tuesday evening and opened fire on the students.

In Jakarta, Indonesian, Portuguese and UN officials began a two-day meeting yesterday to discuss the province's future after the August 30 ballot. The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Ali Alatas, told reporters that the detained East Timor resistance leader Mr Xanana Gusmao would be permitted to use media broadcasts for campaigning but would not be allowed to go to the territory.

His comments came as the army's chief, General Wiranto, told a seminar that Indonesia expected to maintain security in the territory for up to three months if the vote was for independence.

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