|Subject: SMH: Shadowy groups accused of E Timor
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 18:22:39 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo:
Sydney Morning Herald 08/03/99
*Shadowy groups accused of starvation plot
By LINDSAY MURDOCH in Dili
Anti-Indonesian resistance leaders claimed at an unprecedented public meeting at the weekend they have evidence that shadowy Jakarta-backed groups have embarked on a campaign to starve East Timor's 850,000 people and destabilise the former Portuguese territory.
The meeting in Dili of 60 leaders of a previously clandestine network heard informants claim that pro-Indonesian groups had spent $2.7 million in the past month on arming and paying civilian militia who have attacked scores of villages in recent weeks, forcing thousands into refuge centres.
They also warned of a drastic shortage of rice and other essentials and claimed Timorese would be starving by next month unless cut supply lines were restored almost immediately or other countries arranged emergency deliveries.
Traders and aid workers confirmed yesterday that the price of rice had risen five-fold in recent weeks and that hundreds of trucks that brought supplies were no longer making the trip.
Thousands of mostly Muslim migrant traders in predominantly Catholic East Timor have left the territory or are preparing to leave amid fears of a violent backlash against them by Timorese who have suffered 23 years of brutal repression under Indonesia's rule.
The resistance leaders from all regions of the territory vowed at the meeting to reject an Indonesian Government offer of wide-ranging autonomy and to continue their struggle for independence.
Father Domingos Soares, a spokesman for the National Council for Timorese Resistance, the umbrella group for the leaders at the meeting, said the Indonesian military in East Timor was backing a campaign to destabilise the territory, despite a pledge by Indonesia's President B.J. Habibie that East Timor could become independent if the Timorese rejected an offer of autonomy.
Father Soares said he did not know whether the government in Jakarta was aware of the strategy to destabilise the territory ahead of elections in June, but "we are certain the Indonesian military in East Timor does not accept the reality of independence." He added: "The blood of too many soldiers has been spilled in East Timor for the Indonesian military to be able to walk away."
Father Soares said the military had seized 900 tonnes of rice remaining in East Timor.
"The stock is to be used for the soldiers and public [Indonesian] functionaries," he said. "There is little rice remaining for the ordinary people, but at a cost of 5,500 rupiah [$1] per kilogram they cannot afford it anyway."
Leaders at the meeting held in a Dili school pledged to abide by the orders of their leader, Xanana Gusmao, not to take revenge against pro-Indonesian Timorese who had been protected by Indonesian troops since they invaded the territory in 1975.
But after attacks on villagers in areas west of Dili, particularly near the border with West Timor, commanders of pro-independent Fretilin guerilla forces still in mountain hide-outs were meeting at the weekend to decide whether to strike back against the militia, many of whom have been given money and weapons by the Indonesian authorities.
Father Soares said the resistance leaders agreed that "the past is history" and people who had backed Indonesia's rule need not fear revenge attacks. "The courts are there to take care of offenders."
Despite a 20-year sentence for treason and other alleged crimes, Gusmao is viewed by the Habibie Government as a key to ending the East Timor conflict and is being allowing to take part in peace talks in Jakarta.
Father Soares said the resistance leaders, many of whom, like him, had been arrested in the past by Indonesian forces, had never before felt confident enough to meet openly in Dili.
"The climate has changed. Now there is no alternative to independence," he said.
Father Soares said the Dili meeting discussed ways to receive an expected United Nations delegation "which we believe will be an important turning point in our history".