All praise Yudhoyono

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) visited East Timor, “during which he laid a wreath at the Santa Cruz cemetery where Indonesian troops massacred civilians in 1991.” The paper said that Yudhoyono pledged to respect East Timor’s independence.

Max Lane is convenor of the Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference (APISC). He released the following press release over the weekend which paints a less rosy picture of the President’s visit. It should be remebered that after Yudhoyono’s recent visit to Australia, our political and media establishment have fallen in love once more with our northern neighbour’s leadership. The Australian’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan calls the President “ordinary and extraordinary.” Then again, Sheridan was once fond of dining with the military leaders behind the invasion of East Timor.

“Around 200 East Timorese protesters were attacked this morning (April 9) by East Timorese police, including special branch paramilitary forces. The protesters had gathered at the Santa Cruz cemetery, the site of the 1991 demonstration and massacre by Suharto’s military, to commemorate the massacre but also to protest the decision by the government of Xanana Gusmao and Mari Alkatiri to invite President Yudhoyono to visit East Timor. Yudhoyono was scheduled to visit Santa Cruz cemetery.

The police stated that the demonstrators had no permit for a demonstration at the cemetery, although a law requiring such permits had not yet been passed by parliament. After seizing banners and using force to disperse the demonstration, the demonstrators relocated to the offices of the Socialist Party of Timor. They are now sealed off inside the offices of the PST which have been surrounded by police and vehicles from the Rapid Response Unit. The Secretary-General of the PST, Avelino de Silva, told APISC that he had tried three times now to enter his office but had been stopped.

Meanwhile inside the offices, students and youth from activist NGOs and from the Socialist Youth Organsation are putting up a banner outside the office which reads: “No Impunity – Justice for the Victims”.

Now inside the PST office, Tomas Freitas, from the Lao Hamatuk organization, told APISC contacts in Darwin that the demonstration was protesting against the East Timorese government’s policy of “reconciliation” with the Indonesian government, because it involved dropping the demand for an international tribunal to judge human rights violators during the period of the Indonesian occupation.

“Democracy is dead in East Timor,” Avelino told APISC Covenor, Max Lane, by phone. “In Jakarta you can demonstrate against SBY, but they have made him a god here. They have allowed no banners anywhere protesting SBY’s visit but have forced people to put up welcome banners everywhere. When people gathered outside our office just a while ago, they too were dispersed by force.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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