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Subject: East Timor Observatory
Date: Mon, 16 Nov 1998 19:00:17 +0100
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <>

East Timor Observatory / Observatório Timor Leste / Observatoire Timor-Oriental

All peoples have the right to self-determination... all armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence. (Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples - UN Gen.Ass. Resolution 1514, 14/12/1960)

Ref: FA01 - 1998/11/16eng

Subject: The withdrawal of Indonesian troops and need for UN observers.

Summary: The withdrawal of Indonesia’s Armed Forces would have a tremendous impact in East Timor because it would reduce the current climate of tension: "We hope the withdrawal improves the situation and eases tensions there", said military spokesman Brigadier General Syamsul Ma’arif. (AP, Jakarta, 24.7.98). Such a move would also create an atmosphere of greater confidence at the talks being mediated by the UN Secretary General: "the withdrawal of some troops would serve as a very important confidence building measure", according to Ambassador J. Marker, Kofi Annan’s special representative for East Timor. (Reuters, 22.7.98). Nobel Prize laureate Bishop Belo added that: "it is not good to talk about reform and dialogue while there is (military) action." (Reuters, Dili, 15.10.98). However, in spite of apparent agreement all round on this question, and President Habibie’s pledges to gradually withdraw Indonesian troops from the occupied territory, there has been no improvement in the situation.

Background: · Last June, the UN Secretariat General recorded that "official Indonesian sources stated that it had seven battalions in the Territory, with between 600 and 650 men per battalion". It also pointed out that other sources had reported that the Indonesian Government was maintaining an estimated 15,000 troops in the Territory. (UN Working Paper A/AC.109/2111); · The same month, East Timorese Catholic Bishops called for the withdrawal of troops in a letter addressed to President Habibie. After meeting with the President, Bishop Belo stated that the Indonesian leader had promised to gradually withdraw the troops; · A UN communiqué, released 5 August 1998 following meetings between the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia and Portugal, held under UN auspices, to discuss the question of East Timor, referred to "the Indonesian Government’s intention to further gradually reduce the level of its military presence in East Timor". It further referred to the Ministers’ agreement "to continue consideration" of this matter, within the framework of the talks.

The facts: · On 28 July, about 100 reporters were sent to Dili. "We have been asked to arrange a press tour for reporters to cover the sending home of troops from East Timor", a military press officer in Jakarta said. (Reuters, 24.7.98). 398 troops (Kopassus and infantry) were sent home. Later on, 600 more soldiers left but, at the same time, 400 BRIMOB (Mobile Brigade) Police were being sent into the territory. In the weeks prior to this (but still after President Habibie’s pledge to gradually reduce Indonesia’s troops in East Timor), military reinforcements had been sent in: · On 10 July, six Battalions crossed over the border into East Timor and set up camp near Balibó; · On 21 July, Vice Admiral Amonaris announced the sending of 10 naval ships to assist in any possible evacuation of Indonesian civilians and "also to support military operations". (AFP, Jakarta, 21.7.98). Over the following weeks, numerous sources (Timorese, an Indonesian NGO, and foreign journalists) reported further arrivals: · troops have disembarked on several occasions at the small port of Com, on the Northeastern tip of the island. Troops have also landed on the southern coast, near Iliomar and Uatulari · another disembarkation at the Carabelo beach (in the central zone), between Manatuto and Vemasse; · on 20 August, Xanana Gusmão stated that 2,000 men had entered East Timor from over the border near Maliana, and confirmed further arrivals in the eastern and central areas of East Timor. (AFP, Jakarta, 20.9.98); · on 21 September, during the Indonesian State Secretary’s visit, Bishop Belo called for transparency in the deployment and withdrawal of Indonesian troops: "they should leave and enter the territory in the daytime through the main port in Dili, and not by night through other ports." (AFP, Jakarta, 21.9.98). Such an influx could only mean the launch of a fresh military offensive. · The Indonesian military commander of East Timor, Col. Tono Suratman, stated that, in spite of the absence of a formal ceasefire, there had been no armed clashes in the past four months. He went on to say, however, that "an armed encounter could occur any time, if the group’s wishes are not accommodated". (Antara, 26.9.98). The first clash was reported near Lospalos on 28 September. On 5 October, thousands of soldiers surrounded Taur Matan Ruak, the Second-in-Command of the Timorese Resistance (the Commander-in-Chief is Xanana Gusmão, imprisoned in Cipinang). Reports of further outbreaks of fighting emerged. On 13 October, the UN expressed its concern: "...that (fighting) could jeopardise or unnecessarily complicate the delicate efforts to find a just settlement". (UN Press release SG/SM/6744). Indonesian military leaders denied both the increased numbers of troops and preparations for/launch of operations. There were, however, very obvious contradictions in statements by Indonesian officials: · The Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) has denied allegations it replaced the combat troops it had withdrawn from the troubled territory, the state news agency Antara said (AFP, Jakarta, 12.9.98); · Armed forces spokesman Brigadier-General Syamsul Ma’arif said in Jakarta that the reported influx of soldiers was part of routine troop rotation (ABC News, 25.9.98); · "It is correct that we haven’t reduced numbers. This is just a normal troop rotation", said Lieutenant Colonel Supadi, Chief of Staff in Dili (quoted by Louise Williams, Herald, 17.10.98); · Derek Fatchett of the British Foreign Office raised the reports of a military build-up with President Habibie and Foreign Minister Alatas: "They said to me that there had not been an increase in troop numbers". "President Habibie talks about it as a change from aggressive troops to ‘territorials’. " (Independent, 9.10.98); · "We have withdrawn 1,300 combat troops, and 300 territorial troops have been rotated back in - so a net reduction of 1,000", Ali Alatas told The Australian’s reporter in Jakarta. He went on to state that only 6 territorial battalions or almost 6,000 men - who do not have a combat role - remained in East Timor. (Don Greenless, The Australian, 24.10.98); · "The withdrawal of battle troops will be done continually, based on the condition and situation in East Timor", added Ali Alatas, who says he does not know how many combat troops are still in the territory, nor for how long they are to remain there. (Reuters, Jakarta, 28.10.98). By 29 October, confidential documents belonging to the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI), containing detailed information about the numbers of Indonesian troops in East Timor, were in circulation among foreign journalists in Jakarta. Western diplomatic sources confirmed their authenticity. (BBC, Jakarta, 29.10.98). The documents reveal that, in mid-August, there were over 17,500 members of ABRI (police also belong to the armed forces) stationed in East Timor. To that number, an additional 3,700 - the number of Timorese auxiliary troops, which are armed and controlled by ABRI - must be included, putting the total figure at 21,000 armed men. · "It is not true that the (number of) ABRI personnel (in East Timor) reach 17,000. That is a lie which is not supported by facts", ABRI Commander General Wiranto told reports. (AFP, Jakarta, 30.10.98). · "If we count, there may be 15,000 including both organic and non-organic troops", Lieutenant Colonel Supadi told AAP journalists. (Troops permanbently stationed in East Timor are known as "organic", while those brought in on a short-term basis for exercises and the like are considered "non-organic".) In reply to questions about assessments of 18,000 troops in the territory, Supadi said: "It may be true because now there are still many civilians who have been trained in military exercises and they also carry guns". (AAP, Jakarta, 30.10.98).

Conclusion: Such is the difference between Ali Alatas’s figure of 6,000 and the 17,500 (21,000 including auxiliary troops) revealed by ABRI’s own documents, that it cannot just be a mistake. These figures also tell us that the ratio of military presence in East Timor is ten times higher than in Indonesia: 1 soldier per 40 inhabitants in East Timor compared with 1 per 400 inhabitants in Indonesia (The Independent, 30.10.98). These facts call into question Indonesia’s good faith at the New York talks, and the UN and Portugal are bound, therefore, to take action accordingly.

Recommended Action: Letters of faxes should be sent to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, urging that UN observers be sent immediately to East Timor to monitor the withdrawal of Indonesian troops. Appeals should reach the UN Secretary General preferably before or during the next round of negotiations, to take place from 19 to 27 November. Please address appeals to:

Mr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, United Nations, New York, USA - Fax number: 1 212 963 48 79

Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor’s transition process a programme by the ‘Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere’ and the ecumenical group ‘A Paz é Possível em Timor Leste’ Coordinator: Cristina Cruz

Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE - 1050-176 Lisboa - Portugal ph.: 351 1 317 28 69 - fax: 351 1 317 28 70 - e-mail:

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