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Delegation mobbed by demonstrators

Agence France Presse - June 28, 1998 (abridged)

Dili – Thousands of people shouting "independence or death" on Sunday mobbed a three-man European Uniondelegation in troubled East Timor, witnesses said. The chanting crowd, estimated at some 6,000 and made up mostly of students and youths, ran alongside and behind the car carrying the three ambassadors.

The massive turnout on a seaside boulevard in the capital of the former Portuguese colony annexed by Indonesia in 1976, followed the cancellation of the delegation's orginal plans because of security concerns.

The three, Britain's Robin Christopher, Austria's Viktor Segalla and Paul Brouwer, the Dutch ambassador representing Luxembourg, had been scheduled to attend early morning mass at the city's Roman Catholic cathedral. But that plan, and a visit to the University of Timor Timur were cancelled because the appearance of large crowds raised fears of a repeat of day-long street clashes that marred the ambassadors' arrival on Saturday.

Riot police used teargas and batons when pro-and anti-Indonesian groups clashed. An angry anti-Indonesian crowd marched through Dili behind an ambulance bearing the body of a man they said had been shot by Indonesian troops. But on Sunday, an AFP reporter said, riot police and mobile brigade soldiers who had lined the streets Saturday, were absent.

Chants of "Free Xanana!" and "Referendum Now!" rang out as the crowd, their numbers swelling by the minute, escorted a white mini-van carrying the ambassadors from their hotel to the house of a former governor.

Earlier, disappointed by the cancelled visits, crowds had swarmed from the Cathedral where the mass was to have been held and the university to the hotel, where the EU diplomats met student leaders. Despite pleas from the British ambassador to "let us get on with our schedule" the delegates' car was blocked for half an hour from leaving a parking lot, simply by the pressure of the anti-Indonesian demonstrators, an AFP reporter said. Bouwers said "we have have taken note of what they said, as we have taken note of what everyone said. It has been quite a day." Antero Bededito da Silva, one of the Timor Timur University students who met the diplomats told AFP he thought the talks had been "quite good." The 30-year-old political science student and head of the University Student and Youth Solidarity Council, said they had told the group that they would "accept the verdict of the people" if a referendum was held.