Wed, 03 Aug 1994

Street demo banned in East Timor

DILI, East Timor (JP): The military has slapped a ban on all street demonstrations in East Timor, saying that any complaints must be channeled through the local legislature.

Maj. Gen. Adang Ruchiatna, the chief of the Udayana Military Command which also oversees East Timor, said demonstrations have been banned because they have proven destructive.

He said that people who oppose East Timor's integration with Indonesia have taken advantage of demonstrations in the past to promote their separatist cause.

He cited, in particular, the Nov. 12, 1991 protest in Dili that turned into a riot and led to fatalities. This incident traumatized East Timor and has not been erased completely to this day, he said.

The ban came a few weeks after a protest held on the campus of the government run East Timor University turned violent when police tried to disperse the demonstrators. Fortunately, there were only a few injuries.

Adang said the authorities now plan to prosecute several people believe to be the perpetrators of the July 13 protest.

He said people should channel their complaints to the local legislative assembly to ensure no disruption or disorder in the future.

If they wish to march to the legislature, they can notify the police who will provide them with an escort, or even provide them with transportation. "But don't bring banners," he warned

He said that street demonstrations are not part of the East Timor culture and is a new phenomenon. "Their culture does not teach them to demonstrate to express their wishes to their leaders. It didn't even exist during Portuguese times."

The ban on street protests comes ahead of a visit by Japanese parliamentarians and journalists, the first foreigners to visit since the July 13 demonstration, according to Reuters in Jakarta.

Diplomatic sources said a delegation of Japanese legislators, journalists and translators have been permitted by the Indonesian government to visit East Timor but no date has been set. (yac/emb)