A GROUP of East Timorese youths who scaled the fence of the Japanese Embassy yesterday are trying to embarrass Jakarta ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum in Osaka this week, Indonesia's Department of Foreign Affairs has said.
'We have been observing closely events taking place lately on East Timor,' department spokesman Ghaffar Fadyl told the South China Morning Post.
'They are part of a pattern to damage Indonesia's image in the lead-up to the APEC meeting in Osaka.' Witnesses said the 21 youths caught guards by surprise when they climbed over the fence early yesterday morning.
A spokesman for the group reportedly said through the embassy fence that they were from Dili, the capital of the former Portuguese colony. The incident is the third of its kind involving East Timorese in two months and the fifth in two years.
Head of information at the Japanese Embassy, Kato Yoshiharu, said the 21 had said they wanted to 'inform the world on the East Timor issue' and hoped to seek asylum in Japan.
He said the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo was awaiting the results of further questioning by the embassy's political section before making a decision.
'The situation is, we're still trying to get information from these people . . . but as yet their overall intention is not clearly known,' Mr Yoshiharu said.
He added that no contact had yet been made with Portuguese authorities.
Mr Ghaffar's comments on Osaka appeared to be a reference to tactics used by East Timorese during the APEC summit in Indonesia in November last year.
On that occasion, 29 East Timorese scaled the fence of the United States Embassy to coincide with a visit by US President Bill Clinton for APEC.
In September, five East Timorese spent five days in the British Embassy before being granted asylum in Portugal.
Last week, eight youths were accepted by Portugal after entering the Dutch Embassy.
The fifth incident was in June 1993 when seven youths sought asylum in the Swedish and Finnish embassies.
They were turned away but were accepted by Portugal in December that year.
Mr Ghaffar said the asylum-seekers were not being persecuted in any way and were free to leave or stay as they pleased.
He also inferred they were part of a plot to destabilise Indonesia, recalling previous government claims that foreign detractors were behind East Timorese attempts to seek asylum.
'They have somehow been misinformed by those who are against Indonesia,' he said, refusing to elaborate.