Subject: AFP: Portuguese envoy pays visit to Timor's Roman Catholic bishops
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 09:11:07 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

Portuguese envoy pays visit to East Timor's Roman Catholic bishops

DILI, East Timor, March 14 (AFP) - The first Portuguese diplomat to visit East Timor since Indonesia's invasion in 1975 met with the territory's two Roman Catholic bishops on Sunday as news reached here of renewed fractional violence.

Ana Gomes, the head of the Portuguese interest section opened in Jakarta last month, attended an early morning mass led by Nobel Peace Price laureate, Dili Bishop Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo.

Gomes joined about 500 people for the early morning mass but did not partake in the communion. She shook hands with Belo and briefly spoke to him afterwards.

Scores of people also tried to shake her hand after the mass and she spoke to a few in Portuguese, a language still widely in use in the former Portuguese colony despite 23 years of Indonesian efforts to introduce the Indonesian language as the main language here.

Accompanied by her retinue, Gomes then left for Baucau, a town some 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of here which is the seat of the territory's other diocese led by Bishop Basilio do Nascimento.

A source travelling with her said Gomes was expected to meet with do Nascimento in Baucau and return to Dili in the afternoon to visit the house of pro-independence activist Manuel Carrascalao where hundreds of refugees have sought shelter from violence in their regions since January.

Tensions have risen in East Timor, annexed unilaterally by Indonesia in 1976, since Jakarta announced late January that it would give the territory independence if the people rejected autonomy.

The surprise announcement has led to rising tensions between Indonesian residents, pro-Indonesia factions and pro-independence groups.

Unconfirmed reports in Jakarta said two civilians were killed in clashes between pro-independentists and pro-Indonesian groups in Baucau on Saturday, but the incident could not be confirmed by the military or police.

And several people were reportedly wounded in Liquica, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of here, when violence broke out after rumors that a local parish priest had been stabbed by pro-Indonesian civilian militia on Saturday.

The priest, Father Rafael da Santos, had been stopped at a road block manned by pro-Indonesian militia on Saturday, the Kompas daily said.

A passing public transport driver rebuked the pro-Indonesian activists for questioning a priest but was attacked by arrows.

The priest intervened and took the wounded driver to hospital in his car but the sight of blood on his robe sparked rumors the priest had been stabbed.

Thousands of people, many armed with knives, machetes and arrows, from Liquica and surrounding towns, gathered in Liquica angered by the report.

They set up road blocks checking passing cars and passengers, beating up those who were not pro-independentist, the daily said, adding "several people were wounded."

Do Santos had to come forward and appease the crowd and assure them he was not wounded, before the mob dispersed, the daily said.

Sources said Gomes, who will be in East Timor until Tuesday, will also meet with the military and police leaders as well as leaders of several major political groupings, both pro-independence and pro-autonomy, sources said.

They cited the Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice, the National Resistance Council of Timor and the Klibur Oan Timor Ba.

Gomes is also due to meet with representatives of human rights watchdogs operating here -- the East Timor chapter of the National Commission on Human Rights, the private Human Rights and Justice Foundation and the church's Commission for Justice and Peace.

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