Peace Activists Prepare for Confrontation with Indonesia
DARWIN, Australia (AP) _ Peace activists said Saturday that threats of arrest and deportation by Indonesian officials would not deter them from their planned voyage this week to violence-torn East Timor.
Indonesia has said it will block passage of a boat setting sail from Australia Monday with the peace delegation aboard.
″It’s getting a little scary,″ said Tiffany Romain, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of California at Berkeley and one of six American students planning to make the trip. ″I’m kind of hoping we get turned around because that’s the safest situation and we still will draw media attention to the Timorese people.″
The students plan to lay wreaths in memory of those who died Nov. 12 when Indonesian troops opened fire on pro-independence marchers taking part in a funeral procession in the village of Santa Cruz.
Indonesia has said 50 people were killed, but human groups put the toll much higher.
About 100 students from more than 20 countries plan to board a car ferry for the former Portuguese colony, forcibly annexed by Indonesia in 1975.
The peace delegation, which also includes former Portuguese President Antonio Remalho Eanes and about 30 journalists, is expected to reach Indonesian territorial waters less than a day after it sets sail. Darwin is about 450 miles southeast of Dili, the capital of East Timor.
The government has banned foreign journalists from East Timor.
Indonesian Armed Forces Chief Try Sutrisno warned that passengers would be arrested and deported if they tried to enter Indonesian waters. East Timor’s military commander, Brig. Gen. Theo Syafei, said Friday that a naval blockade will be organized.
″If any of them manage to sneak past the special task force, they will not be able to reach their destination or carry out their objective of laying wreaths at the Santa Cruz cemetery,″ he said Friday in Dili.
Syafei said four people, including Santa Cruz’s mayor, have been arrested for trying to form a committee to welcome the ship.
Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., sent a letter Friday to Indonesian President Suharto, saying he hoped the delegation would be allowed to carry out its mission.
Human rights groups maintain that about 200,000 people have been killed since Indonesia invaded and annexed East Timor. They also say Indonesia is actively trying to wipe out the Timorese culture by forcibly sterilizing women and forbidding instruction of the Timorese language.