Prisoners in the Australian embassy


On February 20, five of the East Timorese seeking refuge inside the Australian embassy in Jakarta were escorted to a nearby hospital. Sometime later, their embassy escorts left the hospital. The next morning the five East Timorese, three of them ill, were detained by the Indonesian military and interrogated for nine hours. The five were Paula Fonseka, Florencio Amaral, Fidel Alves, Aires Aparicio Guterres and Amorin Dieria. One day later MAX LANE spoke over the phone to PAULA FONSEKA, the spokesperson for five of the East Timorese. Question: What happened when you first entered the embassy? We opened up banners which read in Indonesian "Free Xanana Gusmao and all political prisoners", "Involve CNRM in international forums" and "A referendum in East Timor". We were four hours in the front grounds before we were approached by any embassy officials. Question: Who approached you? What did they say? The official didn't introduce himself. He told us we either had to leave the grounds or come inside the embassy with him. So we went inside. We were taken to a small space, not actually a room, more like a waiting area. There were no windows, or any access to sunlight. We were locked in there. He told us that our request for asylum would be considered. It was two days before we heard back in response. We were locked inside for those two days with just somebody bringing food and drink. Question: Did you have any idea what was happening outside? No. We were forbidden to listen to the radio, either domestic or international broadcasts, even though we had a radio with us. Later the radio was confiscated. We weren't allowed to read the newspapers. Question: Many journalists, including myself, rang the embassy to try to speak with you. Did the embassy officials tell you that? No. Question: And when an official came again? A man, I think his name was Alistair, said that there were no grounds for the Australian government to give us asylum. They didn't talk with us at all. They just came, said that and went. Nobody ever asked us about what we thought was happening in East Timor or anything. Question: How long were you locked in the space? For 12 days, and we were never allowed outside to walk or be in the sun or anything. We were given a normal visa application form, but we refused to fill it out. We weren't there trying to go on a holiday or a picnic. We were there seeking asylum because we can't live in our country. Everywhere we go, we're followed by the security apparatus. We can't say or do want we want in our own country. We want to do something, to struggle to help free our country. Question: We heard that some of you had gone on a hunger strike. Yes, three of us went on hunger strike. After four days, some fell sick. I was given an intravenous drip. Amorin started to vomit blood. Amorin Dieria seemed to have an aggravated ulcer. Later Fidel Aries fell down due to a weak condition and hit his head on the floor. An Australian doctor examined us and said that we should go straight to hospital. The three of us who were sick, plus two other East Timorese, the Red Cross and embassy officials then went to a nearby hospital. The embassy officials said we could come back at night to the embassy. And before we left, the embassy officials took our sunglasses and make-up and things. Why? Question: What happened in the hospital? The doctors examined us. Later, after the Australian officials, left, the military came and took us away. We were all still ill, but they still made us go with them. They interrogated us for nine hours before they let us go. But we had nowhere to go. The Australian embassy said we could go back there. Don't they feel any responsibility? Finally the military agreed to take us to the East Timor province office in Jakarta. Later we left there for somewhere safer. Question: How do you feel about all that has happened to you? Doesn't the Australian government remember how many East Timorese died helping them in World War II? Why hasn't the Australian government ever helped or defended us? We just want a free, peaceful, secure and calm society for our country. We thought Australia followed the English tradition of human rights. Is the Australian government anti-human rights, or what is going on? And I want to remind the Australian government too, that the oil in the Timor Gap does not belong to them.