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Updated: March 11, 1992 05:00 PM GMT
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The Portuguese ship, "Lusitania Expresso," failed to reach East Timor and had to abandon its mission after it was ordered by the Indonesian navy to leave East Timor waters on March 11.

The car ferry, chartered in Portugal, was headed for Dili, the capital of East Timor, where 150 passengers planned to lay wreaths in memory of 51 mourners and demonstrators killed on Nov. 12, 1991.

Col. Widodo, deputy assistant of the Indonesian Navy´s Eastern Fleet, told Radio Republik Indonesia from aboard the Indonesian warship "KRI Yos Sudarso" that the ferry entered Indonesian waters at 5:28 a.m. local time on March 11.

BBC´s correspondent on board the Lusitania Expresso reported that the Portuguese ship was confronted by three Indonesian warships while a helicopter flew over head.

"Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia" (ABRI, The Indonesian Armed Forces) center in Jakarta said the frigate "Ki Hadjar Dewantara" followed the ferry from the previous evening. As dawn approached the frigate was joined by the warship "Yos Sudarso" to flank the Portuguese ferry.

The warship "Teluk Banten" appeared later as the ferry entered Indonesian waters. All three warships continued to shadow the Portuguese ferry until it returned to the high seas.

At 6:07, the Lusitania Expresso had traveled two to three nautical miles into Indonesian territory and Captain Luis Dos Santos was ordered to leave immediately, Widodo said.

Col. Widodo said the Portuguese ship captain obeyed the order and turned his ship around and headed back to sea.

Widodo said the ship´s captain reported that the engine´s cooling system had broken down and asked for time to make repairs.

Ninety minutes later the captain informed the Indonesian warship that the ferry was ready to resume its voyage to Darwin, Australia, it´s last port of call on March 9.

Radio Australia´s reporter on board said passengers, who just hours before behaved as if they were having a party, looked "up tight."

As the ferry was leaving Indonesian waters, added the reporter, the passengers threw flowers into the sea.

The ferry´s 150 passengers included 75 students and activists, and 57 journalists from Australia, Portugal, England, New Zealand, Canada and Spain.

Antonio Ramalho Eanes, former president of Portugal (1976-1986), was among the passengers.

Salesian Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of Dili told UCA News March 11 that the situation in Dili was calm. "Nothing is happening here; the people are calm," he said.

Commenting on the ship´s failure to reach Dili, the bishop said, "I don´t have any special feelings on that. It´s all right if it does not come."

Bishop Belo in an interview with "Televisi Republik Indonesia" on March 3 said he hoped the Portuguese ship would cancel the plan to visit East Timor because it could create chaos.

"I personally refuse the visit because it would incite demonstrations. For nine years I have suffered from headaches because each time I have had to take care of people running to me for protection. I don´t want to receive the fugitives anymore," he said.


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