Subject: AU: Megawati tells Timor she's concerned about torture, suffering
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 17:47:20 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

The Australian 2 June 99

Stay with us, Megawati tells Timor


INDONESIAN opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri stormed through the streets of Dili with her supporters yesterday, promising reconciliation, but sticking firmly to her belief that East Timor should remain a part of Indonesia.

In the largest election rally yet in the East Timorese capital, an estimated 6000 people clapped and waved red-and-black banners as the presidential hopeful said the problems of East Timor should be solved "peacefully and with love".

"I am concerned about East Timor's suffering," she said. "So far you have been living under torture and violence and I have come here to invite you to join together and develop with Indonesia.

"No one can solve the problems of East Timor through violence and torture."

Heavily armed riot police held back crowds of supporters as the cavalcade of vehicles led by Ms Megawati surged towards the Dili sports stadium. Supporters of rival parties in open trucks made their presence felt in the streets before her arrival, but were prevented from approaching the stadium.

There were no reports of violence. During her three-hour visit to the city she held a brief meeting with Bishop Carlos Belo, the Nobel laureate who is trying to bring together pro-integration and pro-independence forces in an attempt to end violence ahead of the August 8 referendum.

Bishop Belo said after the closed-door meeting that he had told Ms Megawati her Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) could help improve respect for the law in East Timor after the Indonesian election.

Ms Megawati's party is one of the frontrunners for next week's parliamentary elections, which will result in the formation of a new People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). Under the terms of an agreement between the Habibie Government and Portugal, the East Timorese will decide on August 8 whether they want independence or greater autonomy within Indonesia.

But the results of the vote must be put to the MPR, which has the power to reject them. Ms Megawati has criticised President B. J. Habibie's policy towards East Timor as "risky" and called for the momentum towards independence to be slowed.

Her visit to East Timor was widely seen as an attempt to appease the powerful military, which is unhappy with Dr Habibie's decision to allow the East Timorese to decide their own future. The military views an independent East Timor as potentially destabilising because it might strengthen the independence demands of other provinces such as Aceh and Irian Jaya.

After losing thousands of soldiers in a bloody 23-year guerilla war with independence fighters, sections of the military have sided with pro-integration militias who have been carrying out a campaign of fear and intimidation in many parts of the territory.

Meanwhile, residents of Dili were relieved yesterday after the militias' expected overnight sweep through the city to check voter registration failed to materialise. However reports continued to come in from outlying areas that militias were conducting house-to-house searches warning people to vote in the election.

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