|EAST TIMOR: MARTIAL LAW|
September 7, 1999
Indonesia implements martial law as militia violence in East Timor spins out of control.
-- Posted 3:30 PM ET
the Indonesian government declared martial law in East Timor on Tuesday,
militia violence continued force thousands of civilians to flee the
According to United Nations Mission in East Timor chief Ian Martin,
the situation in the East Timorese capital of Dili has spun out of control.
"There is still a state of complete anarchy and lawlessness in Dili," Martin told Australian radio. "There has been a lot of looting and destruction going on. [Pro-Indonesia] militiamen have been roaming around the street in UNAMET vehicles. We can still hear heavy shooting from various parts of the city."
|"A state of complete anarchy"|
Just days after the U.N. announced that 78.5 percent of East Timor's
voters had endorsed independence, the government in Jakarta declared
marshal law and imposed a shoot-on-sight curfew. The declaration suspends
civil liberties in the half-island region and places the area under
direct military control.
"Martial law is intended to safeguard security and stability in
East Timor province so that any further steps for the transfer of government
from Indonesia to the United Nations can proceed peacefully," Indonesian
Minister of Public Security Faisal Tanjung said in a statement.
But reports out of East Timor say that the military is engaging in
efforts to remove East Timorese civilians from the region, allegedly
forcing many of them into neighboring West Timor at gunpoint.
"There is very clear evidence of collusion between elements of
the [Indonesian] security forces and the militias to deport East Timorese
forcibly to West Timor and elsewhere," Mary Robinson, the U.N.
High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.
According to the U.N.'s refugee agency, at least 30,000 East Timorese
have been displaced by the violence in the capital city of Dili alone.
"God only knows how many people are displaced" throughout the island, Kris Janowski, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said.
|Appealing for international aid|
those forced out of East Timor is Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo, an East
Timorese spiritual leader and a 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner. After
his house was burned yesterday, Belo escaped to Australia under an assumed
name. He told reporters East Timor is still unable to defend itself
from the militia.
"[The people of East Timor] are very sad, they feel they are unable
to fight against all the waves of violence," he said. "[T]hey
expect that the international community should act urgently, immediately
to protect their people."
The Associated Press reported that 200 U.N. workers and 2,500 East Timorese
are still trapped in the U.N. compound in Dili.
According to reports, pro-Indonesian groups have gone on a rampage
throughout the island, killing people, torching buildings, and forcing
tens of thousands from their homes.
"We will burn [East Timor] down and start all over again,"
pro-Indonesia militia leader Herminio da Silva Costa told Reuters in
the West Timor capital of Kupang. "We are ready to go to the jungles
for 20 years."
Meanwhile, the Indonesian government freed East Timorese rebel leader
Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao, who had been imprisoned since
1992. Gusmao is widely expected to become the region's first president.
Speaking from the British embassy in Jakarta, Gusmao told reporters
Sept. 7 that he would return to a country ravaged by "genocide."
"There is no population anymore," he said. "The army
is destroying and plundering the country
I think many Timorese
will die in coming weeks."
Gusmao said he was willing to go to East Timor and cooperate with the
Indonesian government, despite the widespread violence.
"I'm ready to work with the Indonesian government, cabinet members
and politicians to bring peace and to end the suffering of the East
Timorese," he said.
To the international community, Gusmao pleaded for assistance for East
"I appeal to the international community to help this heroic,
brave and so defenseless people," he said. "Help to stop the
violence, the killings, help to save lives
Many international officials, including the U.S. State Department,
have discussed sending an international force to quell the violence
in the region.
Indonesia has to take care of the situation itself or allow the international
community to come in," U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
said during a visit to Vietnam.
Australia, Portugal, France and Britain have said they support sending a U.N. force to the region. The White House said it was waiting to hear from the U.N. before deciding on whether to send U.S. troops to the area.