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Indonesia & East Timor Digest

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March 20, 1999

Agence France Presse - March 20, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian police fired warning shots to disperse a mob of hundreds of villagers in North Sumatra demanding the closure of a pulp and rayon mill they charge is polluting their land and a nearby resort lake, reports said Saturday.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 20, 1999

John Martinkus, Atambua – The ragged group of pro-Indonesian militia, armed with spears and knives, were clearly enjoying their task.

March 19, 1999

Agence France Presse - March 19, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian's privatisation of state firms in the year to March 31 is likely to raise less that half the targetted one billion dollars, reports said here Friday.

The privatisation scheme is expected to raise just 380 million dollars, the Jakarta Post daily quoted an unnamed official as saying.

Jakarta Post - March 19, 1999

Jakarta – Attorney General Andi M. Ghalib played down on Wednesday media reports on the planned sales of three luxurious mansions in London owned by relatives of Soeharto, saying it was irrelevant to the government's investigation into the wealth of the former president.

Agence France Presse - March 19, 1999

Jakarta – Four days of ethnic violence in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan has left 51 dead and thousands evacuated, a report said Friday.

The heaviest toll in the daily carnage came Thursday when 33 died, the Kompas daily said, adding 1,900 troops and police had been sent to the Sambas district to prevent the violence from spreading further.

Reuters - March 19, 1999 (abridged)

Lewa Pardomuan, Jakarta – East Timor guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao on Friday rejected an invitation to attend a reconciliation meeting organised by pro-Indonesia Timorese.

Lusa - March 19, 1999

Dili – The commander of a pro-Indonesia paramilitary force in East Timor, Joao Tavares, said Thursday that autonomy within Indonesia was the only course that would avoid a new civil war in the territory.

Australian Financial Review - March 19, 1999

Rowan Callick, Hong Kong – The East Timorese independence movement is prepared to see the United Nations-supervised referendum, scheduled for later this year, postponed if militias in the territory are not disarmed, and if the 20,000-strong Indonesian military deployment is not substantially reduced.

Reuters - March 19, 1999

Jakarta – Around 100 people protested in Jakarta on Friday calling for top economics minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita to resign over Indonesia's economic crisis.

A group calling themselves Economic Solidarity with the Indonesian People gathered in the afternoon outside the National Planning Board building, where Ginandjar has his office.

March 18, 1999

Far Eastern Economic Review - March 18, 1999

John McBeth, Jakarta – Ever since then-President Suharto dumped him from the cabinet six years ago, former Defence Minister Benny Murdani has clung to the shadows of Indonesian politics. Some of his critics have refused to believe he had ceased to be a player, seeing his hand in all manner of backroom machinations.

Dow Jones Newswires - March 18, 1999

Kate Linebaugh, Jakarta – As Indonesia's June parliamentary election nears, trading volumes on the Jakarta Stock Exchange are drying up, threatening the country's already shrinking brokerage industry.

With few expecting any substantial spurts of investment in the coming months, analysts say the Indonesian securities industry may see a gradual contraction.

Reuters - March 18, 1999

Sydney – Amnesty International said on Thursday that torture, disappearances and unlawful killings continued in Indonesia despite President B.J. Habibie's human rights reforms since coming to power in May 1998.

Far Eastern Economic Review - March 18, 1999

Gerry van Klinken – Is Indonesia's social fabric disintegrating? Or are the peasants simply in revolt? It's time to take a serious look at the accepted wisdom on what lies behind the epidemic of social unrest in this vast archipelago. Those outside Indonesia have seen their TV screens filled with images of smoke-blackened shops and Indonesian parents weeping over dead children.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 18, 1999

Karen Polglaze, Jakarta – An East Timorese political party called yesterday on Indonesia's peak human rights body to help release resistance leader Jose Xanana Gusmao just as people rallying outside the house where he is being detained demanded he be hanged.

Agence France Presse - March 18, 1999

Jakarta – An attack on a village in Sumatra left one man dead and 25 houses burned down, police and reports said Thursday, amid conflicting reports of who was responsible.

Truckloads of migrants arrived at the village of Dalu-Dalu, in Riau province, early Thursday following a row over unused land on a private plantation where they had settled, the Antara news agency said.

March 17, 1999

World Socialist Web Site - March 17, 1999

Peter Symonds – UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced last Thursday that Portuguese and Indonesian representatives had agreed to a "direct" ballot for the people of East Timor to decide on an autonomy plan being drawn up by the Indonesian regime.

Inter Press Service - March 17, 1999

Melbourne – Australia's defence forces have been placed on their highest level of military preparedness since the Vietnam War, in what analysts see as a clear sign of Canberra's growing unease with regional instability across Asia.

Agence France Presse - March 17, 1999

Jakarta – Indonesian authorities are to investigate whether relatives of former president Suharto are selling lavish London properties, and have called back his son-in-law from abroad for questioning, officials said Wednesday.

Detikcom - March 17, 1999

Jakarta - The links between Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the People's Democratic Party (PRD) go back some time, starting in 1996. This matter was raised by the PRD's representative in the General Election Committee (KPU), Hendri Kuok, in a special interview with Detikcom at the KPU offices on Wednesday, March 17.

Agence France Presse - March 17, 1999

Canberra – Indonesian soldiers sent to quell religious rioting on Ambon worsened the violence because they were not trained in non-lethal crowd control, the US-based Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

March 16, 1999

Jakarta Post - March 16, 1999

Jakarta – Scattered protests by bank employees greeted the weekend closure of 38 private banks here on Monday as owners of the closed banks mulled whether to sue the government over the move.

Straits Times - March 16, 1999

Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, quietly confident of securing the presidency this year, has vowed to put up a "clean and respectable" government with the will to restore confidence to a country rocked by a financial crisis and ethnic bloodshed.

South China Morning Post - March 16, 1999

Vaudine England, Jakarta – Only three per cent of Indonesians see any connection between democracy and elections – but nearly everyone intends to vote in the country's June poll.

Indonesians also feel cautiously optimistic about their country's direction and future despite their concerns about the economy, according to the first nationwide survey of Indonesians' views.

Lusa - March 16, 1999

Jakarta – More than 200 East Timorese have reportedly been paid sums equivalent to between 50 and 100 euros to take part in a Wednesday pro-Indonesia demonstration in front of the Jakarta residence where East Timor resistance leader Xanana Gusmao is held under house arrest.

Jakarta Post - March 16, 1999

Jakarta – The General Elections Commission (KPU) has set up a seven-member team, called the Team of Seven, to make a draft electoral code of conduct and stipulate internal rulings.

Commission chairman Rudini said it selected seven names from the 53-member commission to form the small team on the issues.

Dow Jones Newswires - March 16, 1999

Jay Solomon, Jakarta – Abdurrahman Wahid, the chairman of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, ruled out supporting opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri for president. Instead, he said NU and its main political arm, the National Awakening Party, or PKB, would back either himself or the Sultan of Yogyakarta, Sri Sultan Hamungkubuwono X.

March 15, 1999

Jakarta Post - March 15, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta – The 53 members of the newly established National Elections Committee (KPU) are to convene on Monday morning to discuss a draft code of conduct for election campaigning, which includes a ban on mass mobilization of supporters.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 15, 1999

Michelle Grattan – Australians could be in East Timor by late next month as part of a United Nations contingent helping to plan for a July-August election on independence.

Agence France Presse - March 15, 1999

Jakarta – Leftist author Pramudya Ananta Toer hailed by international critics as Indonesia's leading modern novelist but gagged here until the fall of Suharto, is travel abroad for the first time in 40 years, Fordham University said Monday.

Toronto Star - March 15, 1999

Martin Regg Cohn, Pusong – As Muslim worshippers ambled toward the onion-shaped domes of the village mosque, truckloads of combat troops moved into position. For the soldiers lying in wait, the noon call to prayer was their cue to attack.

Kompas - March 15, 1999 (BBC summary)

Jayapura – Irian Jaya Governor Freddy Numberi has confirmed that the government has rejected the Irian Jaya people's demand for the independence of West Papua (Irian Jaya) which representatives of the Irian Jaya people conveyed to President B.J. Habibie during a recent dialogue.

Reuters - March 15, 1999

Ambon – Indonesian forces on the ravaged island of Ambon have been ordered to shoot residents who refuse to surrender weapons, a senior commander said.

"The security apparatus will take the policy of asking the people to surrender their weapons voluntarily at least three times," Colonel Karel Ralahalu told a news conference late on Sunday.

March 14, 1999

Reuters - March 14, 1999

Andrew Marshall, Dili – East Timor, according to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, is "nothing but rocks." And if this impoverished region chooses independence, it faces the daunting task of building an economy from rubble.

Agence France Presse - March 14, 1999 (abridged)

Dili – The first Portuguese diplomat to visit East Timor since Indonesia's 1975 invasion met with the troubled territory's two Roman Catholic bishops Sunday, amid reports of renewed factional violence.

Agence France Presse - March 14, 1999

Sydney – The Indonesian government remained committed to releasing jailed resistance leader Jose Xanana Gusmao from house detention, possibly before a vote on the future of East Timor, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an interview screened here.

Reuters - March 14, 1999

Soraya Permatasari, Jakarta – Indonesia's textile industry, once a significant national breadwinner, has withered into a shadow of its former self under the strains of the country's deep economic crisis.

Huge exposures to foreign borrowings and expensive raw materials have undermined what was a major export earner.

Associated Press - March 14, 1999

Geoff Spencer, Ambon – Indonesian soldiers raided homes and searched boat passengers Sunday in a security crackdown on the island of Ambon to quell fighting between Christians and Muslims that has killed more than 200 people in less that two months.

Despite their efforts, 15 houses were burned near a military hospital after nightfall.

Sunday Times (London) - March 14, 1999

Labour is exporting more guns and other military equipment to Indonesia than the Tories – in spite of Robin Cook's much-vaunted "ethical" foreign policy. Sales of small arms, including machineguns, have even doubled under Labour.

March 13, 1999

Reuters - March 13, 1999

Gde Anugrah Arka, Jakarta – Indonesia said on Saturday it had closed 38 banks as part of a cleanup of the debt-laden industry considered crucial to efforts to rescue its ravaged economy.

Australian Associated Presse - March 13, 1999

London – The Blair Labour Government is exporting more than its predecessors, a British newspaper has revealed, despite Indonesia's ongoing illegal occupation of East Timor.

Financial Times (UK) - March 13 1999

Sander Thoenes – The prospect that Indonesia may annul the 1975 annexation of East Timor before the end of this year, following a vote in which Timorese are expected to reject an offer of autonomy, has sent thousands of non-Timorese packing.

March 12, 1999

Agence France Presse - March 12, 1999

Jakarta – Former president Suharto's youngest son, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, was slapped under city arrest for 20 days Friday pending trial for his alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar land scam.

Reuters - March 12, 1999

Andrew Marshall, Maubara – A pro-Indonesia militia controls this town. Men armed with rifles, spearguns and knives patrol the streets.

Maubara has been torn apart. Thousands have fled in fear for their lives. But the men accused of causing the trouble say it is not their fault.

Agence France Presse - March 12, 1999

Jakarta – Jailed East Timor rebel leader Xanana Gusmao on Friday led international praise for Indonesia's agreement to hold a direct vote in East Timor that could speed the process to independence.

Agence France Presse - March 12, 1999

Jakarta – Rock-throwing students damaged at least four churches and four Catholic schools in Ujunagpandang, the capital of Indonesia's South Sulawesi province, witnesses said Friday.

Agence France Presse - March 12, 1999

Jakarta – A human rights group has called on the government to unconditionally release jailed Indonesian political party leader Budiman Sujatmiko, dismissing an offer of clemency as unacceptable, press reports said Friday.

March 11, 1999

Indonesian Observer - March 11, 1999

Jakarta – Opposition leader Megawati Soekarnoputri has claimed her party won't oppose independence for East Timor, but as long as the province remains part of Indonesia, the military has every right to defend it, says one of her aides.

Associated Press - March 11, 1999

Ambon – Religious violence worsened on riot-torn Ambon Island after outnumbered troops opened fire on Muslim and Christian mobs fighting each other with spears, knives and gasoline bombs. Religious officials said 12 people were killed.

Agence France Presse - March 11, 1999

Jakarta – A former general and minister in the Suharto administration was elected chairman of Indonesia's newly-established election commission Thursday and sworn in hours later by President B.J. Habibie.

Agence France Presse - March 11, 1999

Jakarta – The Indonesian government is uncertain whether this year's landmark national election will be able to go ahead in East Timor or the troubled city of Ambon, a senior official said Thursday.