Five killed in East Timor as students protest

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Wed Dec 4 14:45:58 MST 2002

Although East Timor recently established an independent state after a long
and bloody struggle against Portuguese and then Indonesian occupiers,  the
Australian imperialists and the United Nations Security Council still have
troops and considerable real power in the country, which is vulnerable due
to  underdevelopment and to the vastly increased poverty and devastation
resulting from Indonesia's counterinsurgency war.
Note that this article does not report what the demonstration was about.
Fred Feldman

>From "Sydney Morning Herald" 5 December 2002

Five shot dead as students storm Timor parliament

As many as five protesters were shot dead in the East Timor capital,
Dili, yesterday when hundreds of students clashed with police near
parliament, witnesses said. United Nations peacekeepers surrounded
the parliament as the crowd torched a supermarket and damaged other
buildings. The witnesses said it was the police who had opened fire
on the demonstrators. "At least five were killed and I saw another
six people in a minivan being taken to the hospital with really bad
injuries," said a journalist.

Some of the protesters had gunshot wounds and others had been beaten.
A senior parliamentarian was also hurt when the crowd began throwing
stones. Another witness, who did not want to be identified, claimed
that the police who opened fire were not in uniform. "The police
tried to take a body from the students but they refused and there was
another clash and the students set fire to a supermarket," the
witness said. East Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, called
the violence a "very serious turn of events that has stunned everyone
in Dili". The Government declared a state of emergency and a curfew.

Australians working in the area were moved out as the protest turned
violent, and the Australian Embassy warned citizens to stay indoors.
John Rouw, an Australian living in Dili, said by phone: "I was in an
internet cafe and the staff here heard there were problems so they
shut the windows and we all hid in the back of the shop. "When we
finally went outside there was a UN Land Rover on fire and a lot of
the shop windows were smashed. You can see black smoke on the horizon
and we have heard a mosque has been torched but there are a lot of
rumours flying around."

In Canberra, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the
rioting had involved up to 600 people. "United Nations and East
Timorese security forces are at the scene to restore order," a
spokeswoman said.

The UN, which plays an administrative role, said the country's
leadership had called an urgent meeting to discuss the unrest. "The
only thing I can say at this moment is that we are all concerned by
what has happened here today," a UN spokesman, Brennon Jones, said,
adding that at least 30 peacekeepers were called to the parliament.

The protest had begun on Tuesday after a student was arrested and
yesterday's violence broke out in front of police headquarters, where
dozens of police were on duty. Shots were fired and the protest then
moved two blocks away to the parliament where there was more gunfire.
Some politicians had agreed to meet the students outside the
parliament early yesterday but had failed to show up, which Mr Jones
said may have added to the tension.

Civil unrest is not uncommon in the world's newest nation but
yesterday's clash was the most serious to date and a blow to efforts
to establish a peaceful democracy. Mr Ramos Horta, speaking by phone
from Madrid, said: "We have been used to having a very stable
[country] here for the last 2 years. I believe it will be brought
under control today."

The UN ran East Timor for nearly three years after the territory
voted in 1999 to break from 24 years of often harsh Indonesian rule.
East Timor is still struggling to get on its feet following the
independence vote, which triggered a bloody backlash by pro-Jakarta
militia gangs, backed by elements of the Indonesian military.
The UN estimates more than 1000 people were killed.

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