Indonesia blocks Australian visit to East Timor in new wave of violence
January 27, 1999

Yahoo! News

SYDNEY, Jan 27 (AFP) - Shadow Australia foreign minister Laurie Brereton complained Wednesday that Indonesia had blocked a planned visit by him to East Timor amid reports of a fresh wave of killings in the disputed territory.

Brereton said Indonesia had told him it was not convenient for him to visit East Timor at the moment, because of "the current unruly behaviour of the pro-referendum elements in East Timor".

Indonesian authorities had also rejected a proposed visit by a European delegation and were prepared to allow only brief visits by military attaches supervised and orchestrated by the Indonesian military.

As reports emerge of at least 20 people killed in one border district, sources in the capital, Dili, say paramilitary groups armed by the Indonesian military are killing torturing and intimidating people in incidents across the territory, forcing hundreds to flee.

The East Timorese resistance has accused Indonesia of using the paramilitary to create the impression that the annexed province was wracked by civil war.

Resistance spokesman John Alvis said reports from Suai indicated four people, including a pregnant woman, had been shot dead by the militia.

Australian aid workers have been pulled out of southern East Timor.

Brereton said Indonesia was always finding excuses to defer his visits to East Timor since he succeeded in overturning Labor policy on the province to back self-determination for the East Timorese.

"It's fair to say that the Indonesians are being very choosy about who goes to East Timor," he told ABC radio. "In recent weeks they've knocked back a proposed European Parliamentary delegation, they've refused my visit.

"The fact is they are happy with visits for a few hours by military attaches that are heavily orchestrated, planned and looked after by the army authorities."

An Australian military attache recently visited East Timor for a few hours to investigate reports of a massacre by Indonesian troops. His finding that there was no evidence to support the massacre has been heavily criticised by human rights groups.

But Brereton said he would continue to press Indonesia to allow him to visit East Timor.

"We are mindful of the fact that there have been hundreds of thousands of deaths in East Timor over the last 23 years and there have been far too few visits and far too little scrutiny," he said.