Subject: IHT: Jakarta Hears Chorus Of Int'l Criticism on Timor
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 08:37:25 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

Paris, Monday, April 12, 1999

Jakarta Hears Chorus Of Criticism on Timor

Do More to End the Violence, Australia Urges

SINGAPORE - As Indonesia and Portugal prepare to resume talks on the future of East Timor next week, foreign governments, the United Nations and human-rights groups alarmed by the recent rise in violence in the disputed territory are increasing pressure on Jakarta to end the conflict.

The Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, said Sunday that Indonesian authorities must ''redouble their efforts to make sure that they act in a neutral way and do everything they possibly can to make sure violent incidents of the kind that took place last week won't occur in the future.''

He was referring to the killing by pro-Jakarta East Timorese militiamen of a still unknown number of people sheltering in a church and priest's house in Liquisa, which is a center of support for groups that want independence for East Timor. The former Portuguese colony was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and annexed the following year.

East Timor's spiritual leader, Bishop Carlos Belo, appealed for calm Sunday at a Mass outside the church in Liquisa where he said 25 people had been killed in the massacre by pro-Jakarta militiamen. Other estimates of the number killed ranged from five to 57.

A few hours earlier, the bishop suspended a church-backed attempt to negotiate between the militias and pro-independence groups, saying that he would only resume his peace initiative when a degree of calm had been restored, an aide said.

The aim of the church-mediated talks was to smooth the way for a planned consultation or vote in July, which the United Nations is organizing, on an offer by Jakarta of wide-ranging autonomy for East Timor.

The offer and details of how it is to be put to the East Timorese are supposed to be finalized at talks in New York on April 21 and 22 between the Indonesian and Portuguese foreign ministers under the auspices of the United Nations.

But the UN mediator for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, said in New York late Friday that the United Nation could not organize a ballot on the future of the territory unless violence stopped.

''This is a prerequisite,'' he said. ''It is something we have told all sides, and in particular the Indonesian government.''

In a surprise shift of policy, the Indonesian president, B.J. Habibie, said in January that if the East Timorese rejected the autonomy package, Jakarta would consider allowing the territory to become independent.

Elsewhere in East Timor on Sunday, militia groups opposing independence held their third mass rally in a week to prepare for what they said would be a war against those wanting to end Indonesian rule.

The militias have stepped up their show of strength since a call by the East Timorese rebel leader, Xanana Gusmao, last Monday for his guerrillas and civilian followers to defend themselves against attacks by pro-Indonesian forces.

The Indonesian government threatened Friday to return Mr. Gusmao to prison from his current house arrest in Jakarta if he did not retract within a week what it said appeared to be a declaration of war that violated the terms of his release from prison.

Bishop Belo has said that the Indonesian military is supporting the militias. But Mr. Downer said Sunday - after receiving a report from an investigating team, headed by Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, who had gone to Liquisa - that the role of the Indonesian armed forces in the reported massacre was debatable.

''They clearly didn't themselves kill people,'' he said in an Australian television interview. ''But there is an argument about whether they did try to stop the fighting or they didn't do enough to try to stop the fighting.''

Sidney Jones, Asia director of Human Rights Watch in New York, said that the failure to disarm the East Timorese militias indicated ''either the inability or unwillingness'' of General Wiranto, the Indonesian armed forces commander and defense minister, to take the action.

Ms. Jones said that pro-independence forces in East Timor also had weapons and that some had been responsible for intimidation and harassment of opponents of independence.

Troops Are Accused in Attack

An East Timorese resistance spokesman on Sunday accused Indonesian troops of killing 13 civilians in an attack on a minibus in Timor, Reuters reported from Jakarta. The spokesman, Manuel Carrascalao, said from Dili that the attack had occurred on Saturday in Ermera, near Liquisa, around the same time as another civilian, pro-independence activist Antonio Lima, was killed in the same area. ''It was carried out by the military and not by the paramilitaries,'' he said, referring to pro-Jakarta militias in East Timor.

Back to April Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99