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Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Wed, 13 Nov 96 14:32:08 CST
From: rich%pencil@cmsa.Berkeley.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH

/** reg.easttimor: 480.0 **/
** Written 8:57 PM Nov 9, 1996 by etio@ozemail.com.au in cdp:reg.easttimor **
From: etio <etio@ozemail.com.au>

Press release on Conference on East Timor in Kuala Lumpur

Authorised by Dr. Sanusi Osman, official conference spokesperson, 9 November 1996

More than 100 foreign and local participants attending the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor (APCET II) were arrested on Saturday, Nov 9, 1996, following an attack by a group claiming to be members of the Barisan Bertindak Rakyat Malaysia (Malaysian Public Action Front).

Eyewitnesses said the attack was unprovoked and occurred during an inter-denomination prayer session at the beginning of the conference. The participants were just chocked when about 200 disrupters stormed the conference room door and went on a rampage , said the eyewitnesses. They manhandled the women participants, hurled verbal abuses and destroyed hotel furniture, they added.

Many of the disrupters wore white shirts and dark blue trousers. On their shirts were button badges bearing the words Pemuda Umno (Umno Youth). Others were T-shirts with the words MCA or Gerakan Youth. Umno is the backbone for a coalition of political parties under the National Front ( Barisan Nasional ), the party in power in Malaysia. MCA and Gerakan are the affiliates in Barisan Nasional. Eyewitnesses said the attack lasted for about an hour. The intruders smashed glasses, threw around chairs and shouted verbal threats.

However, the conference participants did not retaliate. They huddled together to prevent getting hurt. The local participants formed the outer circle protecting their international colleagues in the inner circle, said the eyewitnesses who wish to remain anonymous for safety reasons. Two women conference participants were punched in the chest and another male perticipant sustained nose injury during the commotion.

Meanwhile, about 100 disrupters outside Asia Hotel, venue for the conference, held a banner which read East Timor urusan Indonesia, NGO jangan sibuk (East Timor is Indonesia's Affair, NGOs don't interfere); while chanting slogans and singing.

Senior police officers arrived at the conference hall an hour later and warned those present to disperse. One conference organizer, R.Sivarasa, requested for time to pack up and clear the conference room. He also wanted the police to evict the disrupters for intruding into a legal and private conference. Eyewitnesses said Sivarasa spoke to police for about an hour. The eyewitnesses claimed disrupters in the room kept on shouting verbal abuse at the participants to be rounded up at 12.30pm. With the cooperation from Immigration officers, the police rounded up over 40 foreign participants for deportation on the next available flight.

The international participants were from Bangladesh, Nepal, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Mozambique, Canada, Ireland, Thailand, Burma, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Australia. They were instructed to pack their bags and proceed to an awaiting police truck. They were later were sent to the Immigration Department Headquarters in Damansara and then onto the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport for deportation. Three foreign journalists and three local reporters were among the 60 participants and volunteers detained in the conference room and arrested about 3:00pm.

The 20 women were taken to the Wangsa Maju police station while the 39 men were detained at the Jalan Bandar police station. From the latest information received, they have been charged under Section 27 (A) (1c) of the Malaysia Police Act for illegal assembly and refusing to disperse. It is learnt that the women will be held overnight while the men will be released on Tuesday, the next working day.

Among the foreign media witnessing the incident were CNN and Reuters. Other international media , concerned friends and relatives of the participants have been calling the organisers for more information.