Sun, 05 Sep 1999

Restrained expressions follow result announcement

DILI, East Timor (JP): Cries of "Viva!" greeted the announcement of the results of the Aug. 30 ballot here on Saturday morning, while tears were shed for the thousands of relatives who did not live to see the day.

Following the announcement by chief of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) Ian Martin, prayers were said at the Dili Seminary. But that about capped the celebrations -- Dili was a ghost town throughout the day. The silence was broken only by gunshots from men roaming freely through the streets.

The armed men in civilian clothing were believed to be members of prointegration militia who were disappointed with the results, in which 94,388 voted for autonomy and 344,580 rejected it.

The police headquarters was inundated by people wanting to flee the province shortly after the announcement.

UN staff and journalists also prepared to leave. One UNAMET civilian police officer was shot in the abdomen on Saturday in Liquica regency, some 40 kilometers west of the provincial capital.

"I can not say that he was shot by the militia, but definitely an American civilian police has been shot and wounded ... we now have a helicopter on the way there to evacuate him," a UNAMET staff told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. The unidentified victim told CNN that he was shot "by a military rifle".

More than 120 UN staff were evacuated from four towns.

Dili-based Aitarak militia leader Eurico Guterres also left from the Comoro airport, saying he had to take care of his family. "I am leaving for Jakarta but I will be back tomorrow," he said as quoted by AFP.

On Saturday afternoon, police helped to evacuate some 15,000 people coming from various shelters in town including the police headquarters itself. They were transported to Atambua, over the border in East Nusa Tenggara. Others have fled into the hills.

From Surabaya, Antara reported at least four warships from the eastern fleet were standing by in the East Java capital while one had departed on Friday for Dili to transport refugees.

Indonesian police and soldiers were seen in Dili watching civilians firing shots around town. The UNAMET headquarters and the main Mahkota Hotel were tightly guarded by security personnel, apart from banks, state PT Telkom telecommunications firm, and the PLN electricity company.

Prointegration militia attacked the Mahkota, which was housing many UN staff and journalists, despite a strong cordon of Indonesian troops stationed outside, a witness said.

A hotel staff member told the Post that the attack started about noon when two men pelted the front window after being barred from entering the hotel by security guards.

About three hours later, four men approached the hotel. One fired at the lobby and rooftop, where several TV satellite dishes are located, while the others smashed the windows with stones.

Later the militiamen broke through the cordon with a motorbike and charged through the lobby as journalists fled. One waved a sword and smashed a window, the witness said. No one was injured.

"We were to lay on the floor ... None of us dared to go out," the source said late Saturday. SCTV said later that a number of armed men were questioned by police.

In the tense situation residents' expressions of either joy or disappointment were confided separately to journalists.

"We could have stayed if (the winning choice) was autonomy," a departing family told AFP.

"I'm so happy," the news agency quoted a tearful hotel employee as saying.

A trader at the Mercado market told the Post, "I'm only a vendor but I'm happy that East Timor will be a nation. Every day we've been chased around by militias, our lives have been increasingly insecure."

Celebrations were more evident among East Timorese in exiles as they danced, cried and shouted in joy on the streets of Lisbon, Sydney and Canberra among other places, reports said.

"We miss home but we're not sure how to go back," a reveler told Antara in Lisbon, citing the insecurity.

In Ujungpandang, South Sulawesi, 1,808 refugees disembarked at the port on Friday night, including eight pregnant women. Another woman had given birth on the KM Awu ship. Looking exhausted and frightened, the migrants and East Timorese natives carried mattresses, stoves, chairs, clothes and other household goods. Some said they had relatives in Ujungpandang. Others had only heard that shelters in the province such as in Buton were safe.

At least 15,000 refugees had arrived in East Nusa Tenggara in the past few weeks, and many more were expected. They headed toward Belu, North Central Timor, South Central Timor, Kupang, Alor and East Flores.

Thousands have already fled East Timor, particularly migrants. (33/anr/yac/27/byg/gis)