DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     February 1, 1999     vol. 10, no. 21

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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EAST TIMOR GROUPS CLASH FOLLOWING INDEPENDENCE PROPOSAL AS SPICE ISLANDS DEATH TOLL REACHES 65

          JAKARTA (CWNews.com) - Pro- and anti-Indonesian groups in East Timor clashed on Thursday, following the floating of a proposal for Timorese independence next year, resulting in at least six deaths and the displacement of thousands from their homes.

          Fighting between the groups flared in Kovalima district on Wednesday. "I've heard reports that 4,000 people sought refuge at the church in Suai to escape the killings," according to Reuters. Suai is the Kovalima district capital. Fighting between the two factions over the last six months has resulted in at least 50 deaths.

          Mainly Muslim Indonesia invaded East Timor -- a Catholic former colony of Portugal -- in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. Decades of military oppression and human rights oppression have ignited international pressure on Jakarta to resolve the situation. Pro-Indonesia Timorese said this week they will fight to protect themselves if Indonesia grants independence. "If East Timor decides to be independent, then we are ready ... we are ready to fight," said Basilio Dias Araujo, a pro-Indonesia activist working in the governor's office. "We just don't want to die."

          Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said on Wednesday the government may ask the nation's top legislative body, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), to consider letting East Timor go after the June 7 election if Indonesia's offer of special, limited autonomy is rejected.

          Indonesian military and police officials said on Friday that the death toll on Ambon Island -- one of the Spice Islands -- from last week's Christian and Muslim riots had reached 65.

          As more bodies were pulled from destroyed buildings, authorities said damage to the area was estimated at $62.5 million. Local military commander Major-General Amir Sembiring said the city of Ambon, 1,440 miles east of Jakarta, could take up to two decades to rebuild after much of it was destroyed earlier this month in Indonesia's worst religious violence in 15 years, the official Antara news agency reported.

          Indonesia has been hit by waves of religious, ethnic, and political violence over the past year as the world's fourth most populous nation -- as well as the most populous Muslim nation -- has suffered its worst economic and social crisis in three decades.


Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

February 1, 1999       volume 10, no. 21
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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