Subject: Dili: eyewitness report of march for EU delegation
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1998 16:51:10 -0400
From: Charles Scheiner
From a foreign observer in Dili, June 28. Note that these reports are not from a journalist, but from a foreigner tourist who is there and is witnessing events and talking to many people. But I think his impressions are worth sharing for the mood, if not the facts.
-- Charlie Scheiner, ETAN
Twenty thousand pro-independence East Timorese escorted members of a European Parliament fact-finding mission today in the largest protest thus far.
Hundreds of riot police blocked access to several streets and to the grounds of the governor's office, but there was no violence
There was poetry, traditional and nationalist songs and speeches that brought huge ovations and laughter at a rally after the several stage march.
Early this morning a six truck caravan of yesterday's pro-integration demonstrators, escorted by two truckloads of soldiers left the capital headed east. Several soldiers in civilian clothes with automatic weapons rode with the demonstrators.
Tears came to my eyes today watching these young people march and rally. There is so much happiness, sincerity and hope. Kids as young as eight sat patiently for 45 minutes when we waited for the march to begin; some of them linked arms to help control the crowd's pace when it started out. Listening to one beautiful song with the refrain - Youth to the struggle - and thousands clapping with it made me cry. Literally a people rising up in so many ways.
The crowd is mercurial: anger, exultation, fear, solemnity, humor coming one upon the other
Formal leaders and formal and informal security try unsuccessfully to control the speed of the march, but few if any are looking for violence in any case. Unspoken limits exist that sometimes surprise - banging on shop shutters, climbing on a particular wall etc. Until yesterday no Indonesian flag had ben lowered and no Timorese flag raised. Historically both bring deadly reaction. Finally, they took down the Indonesian red and white from the University flag-post , though none of their own was hoisted.
As noted, security forces , who had appeared for the first time yesterday, are still on the streets and it remains to be seen if they will stay deployed.
Yesterday's danger (or the sense of danger) for foreign journalists and students seems to have passed - though could be my wishful thinking after an almost sleepless night.