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Action Alert - East Timor Update

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

Issued 13 April 1999

From ETIC, a copy of Maire's letter to Don McKinnon is also available from PMA or from Maire.
12 April, 1999

MEDIA RELEASE: Visit to East Timor- peacekeepers needed

East Timor Independence Committee Spokesperson Maire Leadbeater has just returned from a visit to East Timor.

"I have come back totally convinced that a United Nations Peacekeeping force is a dire necessity, and should be being organised and dispatched with the great urgency."

"While I was there the country was wracked by the news of the Liquica massacre. In the capital Dili, and especially in the outer suburbs everyone was on high alert in response to threats of further attacks from the paramilitary gangs. The militia responsible for the Liquica deaths, Besa Merah Putih (which translates as "Red and White Iron") is particularly ferocious. Its latest victims were savagely wounded with samurai swords. No-one can be sure of the exact death toll - believed to be more than forty- but as in the case of the 1991 Dili massacre a far greater number are now missing."

"The evidence from eyewitnesses is that the paramilitary gangs are acting with the full support and encouragement of the Indonesian military . For Australia's foreign minister to attempt to soft pedal this military role in the most recent atrocity appears to me to fly in the face of all the reports I heard from those who had just returned from the area."

"I am extremely fearful that the situation is at boiling point and that further bloodshed is imminent. "

"While in Dili I not only spoke to people who had just returned from the Liquica area I also saw several of the wounded and traumatised survivors in the Motael Clinic. I visited places where scores of refugees from recent violence were sheltering - there are up to 7,000 of such people surviving in makeshift shelters in and around Dili."

"I witnessed the arrival of a new contingent of soldiers and their equipment to compliment the already overwhelming military presence."

"I also spoke to a wide range of human rights workers, church representatives, students and resistance leaders. "

"Their overriding call to New Zealand is a plea from the heart for New Zealand to be part of an urgent peacekeeping mission."

"The morning I visited the students they had just received death threats but had decided not to evacuate their offices but to stay and prepare a media statement. They emphasised that a fair and direct ballot was impossible under the present conditions. 'The situation is so tense and yet we are asked to just bear it. How can we remain patient?'

"I believe that playing nice diplomatic games and waiting for someone else to take the first step is just not on. New Zealand must call for the disarmament of these medieval killers, and for Indonesian military to begin withdrawal. We must act to spur the United Nations to take action as requested by East Timor's leaders, and send in a peacekeeping force. "

"I will be conveying this message today as strongly as I can to the Minister of Foreign Affairs."

for further information: Maire Leadbeater 09-849-3890

Maire Leadbeater,
East Timor Independence Committee,
P.O. Box 68-419,
New Zealand.

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