Subject: Susilo Lays Wreath, Prays at Site of 1991 E. Timor Massacre

also: Indonesia's president prays at site of 1991 massacre in East Timor

AFP, April 9, 2005

Indonesian president lays wreath at site of East Timor massacre

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono laid a wreath at an East Timor cemetery where Indonesian soldiers massacred dozens of pro-independence protestors 14 years ago.

Yudhoyono's visit to the Santa Cruz cemetery was another step towards reconciliation between Indonesia and the territory it occupied for a quarter century, often brutally, before it opted for independence in a UN-sponsored vote.

Indonesian troops opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators who had gathered at the Santa Cruz cemetery in November 1991 to honor pro-independence activist Sebastiao Gomez, who was killed a week earlier by the Indonesian military.

More than 200 people were believed killed in the shooting, which prompted the United States to restrict arms sales to Indonesia and suspend the training of Indonesian soldiers.

A planned protest during Yudhoyono's visit to the cemetery with East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta did not materialize and he was instead greeted warmly by about 100 East Timorese, some of whom shook his hand.

The Indonesian president then moved on to a nearby cemetery where Indonesian soldiers who died during the occupation were buried.

Speaking later after meeting with East Timor parliamentarians, Yudhoyono described the tiny country as a "true friend" because, despite its own financial difficulties, it had donated 75,000 dollars for victims of the December 26 tsunami that devastated northwestern Indonesia.

"A friend in need is a friend indeed. I thank all the people of Timor Leste for their attention during our time of distress," Yudhoyono said.

He later told a group of about 100 Indonesians living in East Timor that he felt welcome in the half-island country, where he arrived on Friday for his first visit to Dili since taking office last year.

"I was touched because along the way the people greeted me with enthusiasm. Some people called out my name. This shows that the two countries' relations are excellent," Yudhoyono said.

Indonesia withdrew from the territory in 1999 in a maelstrom of military-backed violence surrounding the UN independence vote. The United Nations alleged that at least 1,400 people were murdered. Whole towns were razed.

An Indonesian tribunal set up to try military officers and officials for atrocities in East Timor has drawn international criticism for failing to jail any high-ranking Indonesians.

The UN has begun a review of the tribunal, but Dili and Jakarta say the move is unnecessary, preferring to focus on a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission to deal with the past.

On Friday Yudhoyono and East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri signed a border agreement clarifying 96 percent of their mutual frontier and removing one of the last obstacles to reconciliation.

Both countries have avoided addressing military-backed atrocities committed after Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and before it pulled out in 1999.

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Indonesia's president prays at site of 1991 massacre in East Timor

DILI, East Timor, April 9 (AP): Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Saturday prayed during a landmark visit to a cemetery in East Timor where Indonesian troops massacred hundreds of demonstrators in 1991, an event that galvanized the territory's independence struggle.

The visit was the first by an Indonesian leader to the graveyard, and the most clear symbol yet of the improving ties between the two countries since East Timor broke away from Jakarta's brutal 24-year rule in 1999 in a UN-sponsored ballot.

But it will not satisfy human rights activists, who are pressing for an international tribunal to try Indonesian officers accused in the violence that accompanied the ballot that left 1,000 people dead and much of East Timor destroyed.

East Timor itself has not aggressively supported the calls for justice, saying good relations with its giant neighbor and former occupying power are more important.

"Forget the past and look to the future," said East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri after meeting Susilo. "We must look at the past as a beautiful memory, not an ugly one."

Susilo - a former general who commanded a battalion in East Timor - prayed and laid a heart-shaped wreath at Dili's Santa Cruz Cemetery, where Indonesian troops opened fire on some 3,000 unarmed protesters commemorating the death of an activist on Nov.12, 1991.

Troops then bayoneted survivors and hauled off the dead bodies in trucks. More than 250 people were killed and about 270 went missing in the massacre.

The event focused international attention on East Timor's independence struggle.

Susilo - on his first trip to the tiny country since being elected in October - also visited a nearby graveyard where hundreds of Indonesian troops slain during the occupation are buried.

"East Timor is like an old relative," Susilo told the East Timorese parliament. "I hope that the atmosphere of this trip can be maintained and translated into closer relations in the future."

Indonesia came under intense international pressure to punish those responsible for the 1999 violence.


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