Protests spread to capital


By Norm Dixon

The brutal massacre of Timorese mourners in Dili on November 12 has led to protests in the Indonesian capital. Those involving the Timorese community and human rights activists have been met with repression. However, protests have also been heard from some government politicians.

On November 20, one week after the Dili massacre, 200 people, mostly East Timorese students with the support of Indonesian human rights activists from the group INFIGHT, marched to the United Nations office in Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta. They were unable to enter the building. They then went to the Japanese and Australian embassies. At the Australian embassy, the protesters were met by locked gates and were forced to push petitions under the fence.

Slogans on the banners carried said: "It is better to die than to be integrated!"; "The 12 November mass killings were only a small fraction of the mass killings in 16 years!"; "Mr Alatas, the question is not development but invasion and self-determination".

The demonstrators were encircled by police; at least 80 were arrested and bundled into two pick-up trucks and a bus. A number of people were beaten by police and are reported to be detained at the Kramat Jaya police detention centre in Jakarta. The Indonesian authorities denied the arrests had taken place. The US-based Asia Watch human rights group has protested against the arrests.

The ABC's Jakarta correspondent, Ian McIntosh, was told by senior Indonesian officials that there had been long, heated discussions inside the government about the commission of inquiry's membership prior to its announcement. A section of Indonesia's rulers is clearly worried that the inquiry will be seen to be a whitewash and the country will lose some aid and military support.

An MP from the ruling Golkar Party, Marzuki Darusman, publicly urged Jakarta to set up a commission of inquiry independent of the government. "There needs to be an evaluation of the whole policy of our approach in East Timor", Darusman said on November 16.

East Timor's Indonesian-appointed governor, Mario Viegas Carrascalao, has been at great pains since the massacre to distance himself from the military's actions. He has threatened to resign if the inquiry is not impartial.