PRETORIA November 19 1997 Sapa

About 50 supporters of the Congress of SA Trade Unions on Wednesday protested outside the Indonesian embassy in Pretoria, accusing that government of committing gross human rights violations.

The protest, led by executive Cosatu members, precedes the arrival on Thursday of Indonesian President Suharto in South Africa.

Cosatu general-secretary Sam Shilowa said Suharto's treatment of political leaders and trade unions in Indonesia and East Timor was unacceptable.

"We will oppose whatever violation of trade union rights, wherever it may occur."

Shilowa accused the Indonesian government of inhumanity in its treatment of political prisoners, including East Timorese rebel Xanana Gusmao.

In a memorandum handed to Indonesian officials, Cosatu expressed its support for efforts by President Nelson Mandela to resolve the situation in East Timor. Mandela recently urged Suharto to release Gusmao.

Cosatu president John Gomomo said Suharto would be welcome in South Africa provided he displayed an open mind to Mandela's calls on him to restore peace in his own country.

Political leaders in other countries, including United States President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, should also intervene, Gomomo said.

"The East Timorese are suffering painful and brutal oppression. We were ourselves victims under apartheid and we know what they are going through."

Cosatu said the Indonesian army had killed more than 150000 people, or a third of the population, since it invaded East Timor in 1975.

"We are disturbed by the continuous massacres that have characterised the occupation of East Timor," the memorandum said. "We wish to express in no uncertain terms that we are totally appalled by this situation."

During Suharto's three-day visit to South Africa this week, Mandela was expected to renew his appeal for the release of Gusmao.

Gusmao headed a 17-year struggle for autonomy for East Timor, a former Portuguese colony which Indonesia invaded 22 years ago.

A life-sentence imposed on Gusmao after he was captured in 1992 was later reduced to 20-year imprisonment.

Several Cosatu affiliates joined in Wednesday's protest, including the National Union of Metal Workers of SA. Numsa released a statement urging Suharto to restore democracy in Indonesia.

Some demonstrators carried placards reading: "Mandela, no deals with murderer Suharto."

Similar protests are to be held in Cape Town, Klerksdorp, East London and Port Elizabeth on Friday.

TAPOL (Tapol)
Sat, 22 Nov 1997

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