|Subject: AGE: Timor resistance rejects autonomy
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 18:23:44 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo:
The Age [Australia] Monday 8 March 1999
*Timor resistance rejects autonomy
By LINDSAY MURDOCH - DILI, EAST TIMOR, SUNDAY
East Timorese resistance leaders from all regions of the troubled province have vowed to reject an Indonesian Government offer of wide-ranging autonomy and to continue their 23-year struggle for independence.
The summit in Dili of an until-now clandestine network of 60 East Timorese resistance leaders also claimed to have evidence that shadowy Jakarta-backed groups had embarked on a campaign to destabilise and starve the former Portuguese territory of 850,000 people.
The meeting, held in a Dili school only kilometres from the Indonesian military's East Timor headquarters, heard informants claim that pro-Indonesian groups had spent $US1.7million ($A2.6million) since early February arming and paying civilian militia who had attacked scores of villages in recent weeks, forcing thousands into refuge centres.
They also warned of a drastic shortage of rice and other essential goods, claiming Timorese would be starving by April unless cut supply lines were restored almost immediately or other countries arranged emergency deliveries.
Father Domingos Soares, a spokesman for the National Council for Timorese Resistance, the umbrella group under which the leaders met, said the Indonesian military in East Timor was backing a campaign to destabilise the territory, despite a pledge by Indonesia's President, Dr B.J.Habibie, that East Timor could become independent if the Timorese rejected an offer of wide- ranging autonomy.
Father Soares, a Roman Catholic priest, said he did not know whether the Government in Jakarta was aware of the strategy to destabilise the territory before the June elections in Indonesia but ``we are certain the Indonesian military in East Timor does not accept the reality of independence''.
``The blood of too many soldiers has been spilled in East Timor for the Indonesian military to be able to walk away,'' he said.
Father Soares said the resistance leaders, many of whom, like himself, 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.
The resistance leaders welcomed a call last week by the United States Secretary of State, Dr Madeleine Albright, for an international, preferably UN, presence in East Timor in response to the escalating violence.
Father Soares said the Dili meeting discussed ways to receive an expected UN delegation ``which we believe will be an important turning point in our history''.
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.
Traders and aid workers confirmed today that the price of rice had risen five- fold in weeks and that hundreds of trucks that usually brought supplies to East Timor were no longer making the trip.
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 5500 rupiah per kilogram they cannot afford it anyway.''
Father Soares said the East Timorese leaders pledged to abide by the orders of their leader, Mr Jose ``Xanana'' Gusmao, not to take revenge against pro- Indonesian militia who had been protected by Indonesian troops since they invaded the territory in 1975 after Portugal abruptly abandoned the territory.