Timor Begins Campaign To Expunge Indon Influence
also: [AFP] East Timorese solemnly mark anniversary of Indonesian invasion
Associated Press December 7, 1999
E Timor Begins Campaign To Expunge Indonesian Influence
DILI, East Timor (AP)--Determined to erase symbols of decades of iron-fisted occupation, East Timor's leaders Tuesday renamed Dili's main thoroughfare, which used to honor the dead wife of Indonesia's former dictator Suharto.
Ibu Tien Suharto Road is now Rua dos Martires da Patria, the street of martyrs of the homeland.
The name change was made on the anniversary of Indonesia's 1975 invasion, which ushered in a quarter-century of brutal military occupation and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.
Nobel laureates Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, who jointly won the 1996 Peace Prize for their efforts to liberate the half-island province, officiated at the simple ribbon-cutting ceremony.
It marked the start of a campaign to wipe out public references to Indonesian rule. Other street names will be changed, along with those of public buildings and utilities, officials said.
East Timorese solemnly mark anniversary of Indonesian invasion
DILI, East Timor, Dec 7 (AFP) - A street named after the late wife of former Indonesian strongman Suharto was renamed here on Tuesday as East Timor remembered those who died after the Indonesian invasion 24 years ago.
Independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta cut a pink ribbon on the busy street just outside Dili's airport to officially change the name from Jalan Ibu Tien Suharto to Rua Dos Martires Da Patria, or Street of the Martyrs of the Motherland.
"Many died with courage, with honor, with dignity. It was a small tribute on our part," Ramos-Horta said in Portuguese, English and local Tetum as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bishop Carlos Belo and David Ximenes, an official with the National Council for Timorese Resistance, stood beside him.
About 100 local residents lined the street's central boulevard and sidewalk to watch the simple ceremony and traditional dancing.
After the ribbon cutting, the three dignitaries poured cement into a hole to help secure a green street sign made of wood.
The ceremony took place in front of what, until September, was a post of the Aitarak militia, who conducted a campaign of terror backed by the Indonesian armed forces after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly on August 30 for independence.
Truckloads of East Timorese were driven along Jalan Ibu Tien Suharto on their way to the airport as part of a campaign of forced relocation.
Ramos-Horta told AFP that Suharto's wife was "the least likely person that should be honored."
Suharto, who resigned in May last year amid street protests against his rule, was president at the time of the December 7, 1975 invasion when Indonesian troops landed in Dili, the former Portuguese territory's capital.
Amnesty International estimated that up to 200,000 East Timorese died after the attack which was also remembered earlier Tuesday at a church near the beach where Indonesian troops began their assault.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, who heads the UN Transition Administration in East Timor, attended the mass along with Ramos-Horta.
"It's an act of solidarity," De Mello told AFP later.
He said the mass, led by Father Leao Da Costa and Father Rafael Dos Santos, preached forgiveness and commitment to the future.
"I didn't hear one single word of hatred, intolerance, criticism," De Mello said.
"I think there's a very powerful message. I wish we could hear the same in other parts of the world, especially the Balkans."
Only about 35 local residents attended the mass. One of them said he had been captured by the Indonesians after the invasion.
During Indonesian rule, thousands of people went to the church as an act of protest every December 7, Ramos-Horta said.
He said the low turnout for this anniversary service is partly a sign that the Indonesian army is gone and "people go on with their normal lives."
He also said the mass was not widely promoted.
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