Subject: RT: E.T remembers its dead, forgets Jakarta meet
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 10:02:16 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
E.Timor remembers its dead, forgets Jakarta meet 03:14 a.m. Nov 11, 1998 Eastern
By Lewa Pardomuan
DILI, East Timor, Nov 11 (Reuters) - A political drama is unfolding in Jakarta which will determine Indonesia's future, but East Timor has little interest.
The priority in Dili is to remember a massacre by Indonesian troops just seven years ago.
Thursday is the anniversary of the 1991 killing of unarmed protesters at the town's Santa Cruz cemetery. East Timorese say about 200 people were killed when troops opened fire on a funeral march. The Indonesian government puts the death toll at 50.
Indonesia's top legislative body, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), began a four-day assembly in Jakarta on Tuesday amid protests and violent clashes. The special session is to set dates for next year's general and presidential elections, as Indonesia lurches towards real democracy.
But many East Timorese do not see themselves as Indonesians and have little interest in the meeting -- or none at all.
``The MPR meeting? I know nothing about it. Does it talk about East Timor?'' asked Amaro, a taxi driver in Dili, which is 2,250 km (1,400 miles) east of Jakarta.
Remembering the massacre is more important for this territory of 800,000. Student leader Januario Da Silva said President B.J. Habibie was no improvement on Suharto, who resigned in May amid riots in Jakarta which killed 1,200.
Suharto oversaw the 1975 invasion. The subsequent conflict and famine killed about 200,000 East Timorese.
``I think most people here do not care about the MPR meeting. Our attention is on the anniversary of a tragedy which should not be repeated,'' said Da Silva. ``I am not sure either if the meeting will mean something for reform. Indonesia's new leaders are just as authoritarian as Suharto. Habibie is the same.''
East Timor's charismatic Bishop Carlos Belo said he had no plans to organise a special mass for Thursday's anniversary, but urged people in the predominantly Catholic region to remain calm.
Da Silva said Dili residents planned to hold a mass at a church near the cemetery before marching to Santa Cruz itself to lay a wreath.
But jailed guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao had advised against organising protests, he said.
``We have received a message from Xanana not to hold a big demonstration during the anniversary,'' he said without elaborating.
Gusmao is serving a 20-year jail term at a Jakarta prison for opposing Indonesia's rule in East Timor, and has emerged as a key figure in attempts to find a solution to the conflict.
Habibie has offered more autonomy to East Timor but pro-independence groups have rejected the offer, preferring a referendum.
In 1976, Indonesia declared the territory its 27th province, in a unilateral move which few nations recognise. The United Nations still regards Lisbon as the administering power.
Armed resistance to Indonesian rule continues. The Fretilin movement carries on a low-level insurgency from the jungles of the rugged region, sometimes attacking military targets. Indonesia estimates the number of the rebels at 200.
One attack occurred on Monday. Three soldiers were killed in Alas district, 200 km (120 miles) south of Dili when about 50 people locals and disguised Fretilin members attacked the local military headquarters and stole guns. One attacker also died.
East Timor military commander Colonel Tono Suratman has said he would not ban commemoration of the 1991 killings, but has promised to take action against disturbances. However, residents said there was no sign of increased military presence in Dili ahead of the anniversary.
In contrast, in past years more troops would be deployed around the town, they said.
And the Santa Cruz cemetery -- where on November 12, 1991 the world was violently reminded about East Timor -- would be tightly guarded.
John M. Miller Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network PO Box 150753, Brooklyn, NY 11215-0014 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 ETAN's new web site: http://etan.org
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