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<nettime> East Timor Digest


Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999 17:34:25 +0200 (CEST)
From: Geert Lovink <>

East Timor: Army's Plot and A Human Tragedy.
By: Aboeprijadi Santoso

On August 30, 1999, after almost 24 years military occupation, the people
of East Timor have finally enacted their rights to self-determination in a
referendum held by the United Nations. They overwhelmingly chose to reject
autonomy under Indonesia, thus opting for independence.

But, soon as that result was announced on Sept. 4, a human tragedy took
place. Some five thousands members of militia units, joined and backed by
the Indonesian military, took their anger into the streets. The violence
sent hundreds of thousands fleeing from their homes and leaving scores
dead. The savagery took place under the guidance and protection of the
army's special troops. This state terror becomes Indonesia's greatest
shame in 1999.

The pro-Jakarta militia's acted at will persecuting youth, students, pro-
independence leaders, the clergy and the common people. A great number of
people became victims of unlawful killings or had to run for safety.
Hundreds of thousands fled to the hills around capital Dili and to the
eastern region as the militia's started to loot the shops, and destroyed
and burned the city. Within a few weeks the barbaric scorched earth
operation has leveled a number of towns - from Dili, Manatuto, Baucau to
Los Palos and to Maliana. In the western region, another hundreds of
thousands were forced to join public and military vehicles and transported
to West Timor, part of the Indonesian province of NTT (Eastern Nusa


As a result, some two thousands or so people are dead or missing. (UN
early report of 7.000 deaths may be exaggerated). Almost half of the total
population of East Timor of 780.000, is displaced. Around two hundreds of
thousands people stayed in the mountain for weeks without foods. As the
multinational troops INTERFET arrived on Sept.20, the refugees started to
come down and received assistance.

Most worrying is the fate of another two hundreds of thousands people
displaced in the western regions. Some departed freely (since March), but
most were forced to leave their homes very recently by the militia's,
offered free transport organized by the authorities, and remain ever since
surrounded by these rogue elements in camps mainly in and near Atambua and
Kupang, in NTT. With their ID cards taken by the militia's, they can be
easily deported to other Indonesian provinces at any time. In fact, some
have already become "transmigrates" in Flores, Irian Jaya and Ujung
Pandang, Celebes. The transmigration minister plans to evacuate at least
half of them to elsewhere in Indonesia.

The UN organization for refugees UNHCR has inspected the refugee camps in
both regions, but the western camps are not freely accessible due to the
presence of the army and militia's. It should be assumed that most wish to
return home, but without honest cooperation of the authorities, it is
almost impossible for any international relied agency to guarantee their
safety and re-evacuate them safely to East Timor.

In effect, they become hostages of Jakarta's plan. Any attempt by the
authorities to force them to stay in NTT or to be transported to Flores,
the Molucca's or Irian, or even to return home, may be part of future
political scenario's to challenge the result of the votes and the prospect
of peace in East Timor.

Another category deserving public concerns is East Timorese students and
workers in Indonesia, in particular in Java and Bali. They too face some
danger as the army intelligence and pro-Jakarta militias are also active
in Indonesian cities to persecute pro-independence symphatisers. Two
Timorese have been found dead and others injured near Jakarta. Unlike the
refugees in East Timor and NTT, these students and workers are not taken
care by the UNHCR and do not therefore acquire UNHCR-ID cards.


The issue of East Timor - a former Portuguese colony invaded by the
Indonesian army in 1975 - became a greater burden as the Habibie
government took over the state power from Soeharto and had to tackle the
economic and credibility crises. When the president on Jan. 27 took the
world by surprise by offering independence as second option next to
autonomy, the army leaders were shocked and hurt. They only got two days
to response, and their answer was officially 'yes', but the issue was too
sensitive to take this at face value. Their careers (like those of most
Indonesian generals), the death of tens of thousands Indonesian soldiers,
the army's worst military performance and its greatest human rights
atrocities - all of these were associated with the war in East Timor. East
Timor has become the Achilles heel of the Indonesian military as its
personal pride, esprit de corps and material interests are at stake.

Even prior to the new policy, some army officers had started to reactivate
and organize armies of thugs to consolidate the pro-Indonesia forces in
East Timor. They privately resisted the second option, but openly colluded
with the militias. They trained, armed and financed them. No militias'
members had been arrested in spite of their violent actions since March.
But the Habibie government and the Indonesian public were not really aware
of the magnitude of the army's disobedience and insubordination, which
only grew as the ballot day drew closer. By July, these armed local gangs
of mostly illiterate, drunken and unemployed youth were already active in
thirteen districts and terrorized the population. These state-sponsored
warlords were ready to challenge and disrupt the implementation of the
vote should the people choose for independence - which is indeed what
subsequently happened.

Under the secret guidance and participation of (ex) members of the special
troops - Kopassus - the pro-Jakarta militia's systematically carried out
their job in an operation similar to the US Phoenix mission against the
Vietnamese peasants and the Contras violent campaign in Nicaragua. Once
the local government collapsed, families of army and police were moved to
Kupang and Jakarta officials returned home - leaving only few foreign
journalists and UNAMET staff in Dili - the militia's started to harass the
refugees. The great terror campaign, which began only two days after the
results of the ballot was announced, on Sept. 6, was directed against
students, pro-independence activists and the Catholic clergy. The
operation involved forced evacuation, unlawful killings, rapes, and the
destruction of public and private properties. The INTERFET troops came
only two weeks later, too late to save many lives.

Not A Civil War

The army unit most often associated with killing and torture is S.G.I.,
the army intelligence task force formed by Kopassus units led by
Soeharto's son in law, Prabowo Soebijanto, in 1986. The S.G.I., which only
exists in East Timor, runs a hierarchy parallel to the organic local
command, with a direct authority over some army units. The notorious
paramilitary units, authorized by the SGI in early nineties, are the
forerunners of the present militia's operating since March, which are
recruited from East Timorese soldiers as well as West Timorese and other

As early as Oct. or Nov. 1998, some officers in Jakarta have reportedly
drawn two plans to "rescue" East Timor. The so-called "Plan A" points to
the build up of armed militia's to strengthen the pro-integration force to
win the ballot, and "Plan B" should recover East Timor if Jakarta looses
the ballot, by eliminating the CNRT leaders and destroying public
utilities. Except the latter, the devastation of Dili and other towns,
both plans have failed to a great extent.

Another Jakarta plan, the so-called "Garnadi Document", is a contingency
one, drawn up only a month before the ballot, which predicts that the pro-
autonomy will loose the vote. In that case, it emphasizes, Jakarta should
quickly prepare mass evacuations and refugee accommodations in NTT and,
"if necessary", destroy the infrastructure built by Indonesia. While
annulling the ballot's result, if that is its objective, is obviously
foolish, this plan may be part of some future scenario's to destabilize
independent East Timor from the NTT borders.

Once their links with the army are cut, the militia units will obviously
be powerless. If that happens, some officers have reportedly claimed, the
army will risk a serious internal conflict, if not war. Instead of solving
their own issues, the Indonesian army leaders punished the East Timorese
for their resistance, and blamed them for the problems. In reality,
however, there has never been a civil war among East Timorese
("pro-autonomy against anti-autonomy camps") as the government in Jakarta
and some Indonesian media repeatedly claimed. It is a war of some army
units and militia's against the people of East Timor, whose only 'sin' was
to have humiliated the Indonesian army by massively voting for

No more impunity

The September tragedy in East Timor is essentially a replay of 1965 and
1975 bloodbaths. In 1965 the army persecuted and killed hundreds of
thousands people who were allegedly communists; in 1975 they did the same
to East Timorese many of whom supported the independence movement
Fretilin. At the height of the Cold War era in the sixties and seventies,
the West applauded, if secretly, Jakarta, and the perpetrators enjoyed
impunity.  Now, however, the international community does not support
Jakarta, and the UN High Commissariat for Human Rights is ready to
investigate the atrocities, which, if the UN Security Council agrees, may
bring about an international East Timor tribunal to prosecute the
Indonesian generals and the militias' members.

If that happens, it will be a great lesson, which may improve the
political climate and human rights awareness in Indonesia.

@ The writer is a journalist with Radio Netherlands and witnessed recent
events in East Timor, Aug.17 to Sept. 6, 1999.


Villagers fear new slaughter
Date: 09/10/99

Dili: One of East Timor's most notorious militia leaders has vanished,
prompting fears among local East Timorese of a revenge killing rampage
after multinational forces killed two pro-Indonesian rebels this week.

The whereabouts of pro-Jakarta militia leader Cancio Lopes De Carvalho are
unknown after he left his base in the town of Cassa, in the central
highlands, this week.

Local residents fear he could return to continue a killing rampage in the
area, which has not yet been secured by Interfet.

Residents near the town of Hataudo, south of Cassa, said some militia
returned early on Thursday to scavenge for food. They decapitated a woman
and left her head on a petrol drum in the middle of the street.

De Carvalho's militiamen were believed to be among those involved in
Wednesday's ambush on Interfet forces in which two Australians were wounded
and two rebels killed.

About 124 militia were detained and questioned after they refused to stop
at an Interfet roadblock near south-western Suai shortly before the ambush.
Nine were sent to Dili for further questioning but 115 were released and
sent back to the border with Indonesian-controlled West Timor.

Interfet spokesman Colonel Mark Kelly said the militia released near Suai
had only been scavenging for food, and he was confident the Australian
soldiers did not ship any murderers across the border.

Reports of continuing activity by small groups of militia operating around
Suai continued to be received, he said, but that was expected to "dry up"
as Interfet troops fanned out across the volatile western border region.

However, refugees repatriated by the United Nations to Dili yesterday said
militia had threatened that if they returned to East Timor they would be
attacked as soon as Interfet withdrew.

- Mark Dodd and AAP

Story Picture: Jubilant East Timorese return to Dili from a refugee camp in
West Timor. Photo by AFP.

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