Howard Williams, Vancouver – Two Indonesian nationals suspected of being government agents were arrested here Tuesday during an anti-Jakarta protest on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim summit, security officials and sources said.
"It would seem they were members of the Indonesian delegation," a senior Canadian security official told AFP.
He was referring to two Indonesians who were among 16 demonstrators arrested hours earlier at a protest near the site of a summit of leaders from the 18-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
The arrests were made when demonstrators accused the two Indonesians of being "agents" of the Indonesian government, sent to infiltrate the protesters opposed to President Suharto.
Police said they would look into charges from other demonstrators that the two were special agents sent to infiltrate the protest.
Both were wearing ski masks, and Staff Sergeant Hugh Stewart of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said they would be held until authorities could confirm their identities.
Witnesses said one of the arrested Indonesians asked police to pull down his ski mask to hide his face as they escorted him away.
The two were also carrying walkie-talkies at the time of their arrest, Stewart said.
"I did not have time to question them before they were taken away," Stewart added when asked about assertions the two were working for the Indonesian government. "But this is undoubtedly something we are investigating now."
Another officer, who would not identify herself, said eight of the demonstrators taken into custody were apprehended as they tried to make a "citizen's arrest" of the two Indonesians.
She said police intervention was necessary to head off a major confrontation.
Some Indonesian activists have expressed fears of reprisals at home for involvement in protests here against the policies of Suharto.
Stewart said 16 of an estimated 150 demonstrators had been taken into custody after being arrested for failing to obey police orders to remain behind demarcation lines. Most would not be charged, he said.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas described as "nonsense" Monday claims by Indonesian activists that he had in Jakarta threatened action against Indonesian citizens who participated in protest activities on Canadian soil.
"I was just answering a question then in a very low key. There was no threat, nothing. I am surprised to see that I was quoted here as threatening them with arrest, which is nonsense," he said.
"It was completely exaggerated and distorted because my remarks were general in nature in response to a general questions. It was not related specifically to the people's summit," he added.
Alatas said demonstration alone was no reason for arresting anyone, but made it clear "there were certain provisions of course in Indonesia's penal code that could be reason for them to be held accountable."
An alternative "People's Summit" held on the sidelines of the APEC meeting filed a petition to Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, asking Ottawa to seek a commitment from Jakarta that Indonesians attending protests here were not harassed, detained or prosecuted on their return home.
Alatas said the protests, spearheaded by the People's Summit that named Suharto as one of the worst violators of human rights within APEC, were a ploy to embarass Jakarta.