Subject: BBC: The Evidence Against Wiranto

British Broadcasting Corporation Sunday, 13 February, 2000

The evidence against Wiranto

PHOTO: Pro-Indonesian militia vowed integration or death

By former Jakarta correspondent Jonathan Head

It was at the beginning of last year that we first started to hear reports of attacks by new pro-Indonesian militia gangs in East Timor.

It was not, however, the first time the Indonesian army had used such a tactic.

Soon after their invasion of East Timor in 1975, local people were recruited to help fight the pro-independence guerrillas who continued to resist the occupation.

In the early 1990s, paramilitary youth groups were formed by the Indonesian military to counter the clandestine campaign against Indonesian rule being conducted by Timorese civilians in the towns.

PHOTO: The general has denied arming the militiamen

Army commanders routinely denied any connection with the groups, but according to official military documents obtained by the BBC in 1998, the paramilitaries came directly under the local army command structure.

Evidence that the military were behind the new militias became even clearer.

Last February I sat in the headquarters of the Indonesian garrison in Dili, waiting for an interview with Colonel Tono Suratman, the local commander.

Next to me was a group of rough-looking Timorese.

One had part of his ear missing. He explained that they were part of the Garda Paksi, a pro-Indonesian paramilitary group, and they had come to obtain more weapons from the army to combat the increasingly assertive pro-independence movement.

They were welcomed like friends by the soldiers. I have little doubt that they got their guns.

Integration or death

A few days later I met Cancio Cavalhao and Eurico Gutteres - little known back then, but later to become the two most notorious militia leaders.

Cancio explained how he had been given modern automatic weapons by the Indonesian military, and how he had used them in an attack on a village

Eurico was shy with us - it was only later that he developed an appetite for bombarding the media with emotional and often contradictory speeches - but Cancio was quite explicit about what they were planning, and who was helping them.

A good-looking former civil servant in the Indonesian Justice Ministry, he had just formed his own militia group, Mahidi, an acronym for Live or Die for Integration with Indonesia.

He explained how he had been given modern automatic weapons by the Indonesian military, and how he had used them in an attack on a village in which six people died, including a pregnant woman.

If President Habibie persisted with his plan to offer East Timor independence, he said, the militias would fight to the death, and destroy the country.

Our reports at the time were widely publicised in Indonesia, and General Wiranto, then the armed forces commander, was asked about them. He simply denied that they could be true.

He also supported the formation for so-called People's Defence Groups under the army's command, even though militia leaders like Cancio Cavalhao were allowed to lead these groups.

Blood-splattered church

Last April, the militias began expanding from their stronghold near the border with Indonesia towards Dili.

The local priest told us how Indonesian soldiers and riot police helped the militias in their attack.

In their path lay the seaside town of Liquica, a known pro-independence stronghold.

Three of my colleagues and I arrived there a few hours after they took it over.

There was blood spattered all around the church. Badly wounded men lay groaning on the ground. Several women wept hysterically, saying dozens of men had been slaughtered.

The local priest later told us how Indonesian soldiers and riot police helped the militias in their attack on the town's population - we could still see militia leaders and soldiers chatting and smoking together. The final death toll from Liquica may exceed 50.

We reported the army's involvement, and the way militias were killing with impunity.

General Wiranto did nothing. Against all the evidence, he described the incident as a clash between pro-and anti Indonesian gangs.

Soldiers cheered militias

On 17 April, hundreds of militiamen were allowed to rally in front of the Governor's office, waving their weapons.

PHOTO: Militia leader Eurico Gutteres

Anywhere else in Indonesia this would not have been tolerated. But in East Timor, the Indonesian soldiers cheered their paramilitary allies.

Led by Eurico Gutteres, the militias then went on a rampage through the town that left at least a dozen people dead.

We filmed him and his men, using automatic weapons with their Indonesian army serial numbers still clearly visible, firing into a house where more than 100 were hiding. The 17 year-old son of pro-independence campaigner Manuel Carrascalao was one of those killed.

When I tried to approach the house, armed Indonesian police blocked my way. Behind them, the militiamen could be seen using army trucks to take the bodies away.

I raised the clear collaboration between the two with several Indonesian officials, and was told to mind my own business.

General Wiranto was interviewed that night, and insisted that his men had done everything possible to control the violence.

No action was taken against any militiamen. They moved about Dili freely, displaying their Indonesian weapons as a warning to the rest of the population.

Strict hierarchy

The militia attacks, and the refusal of the Indonesian military to stop them, continued after the arrival of the United Nations in May.

It is highly unlikely that the order to back the militias did not have General Wiranto's direct approval

The UN complained frequently to General Wiranto. Just as often he promised to curb the militias, but although there were some lulls, they were never long.

The appalling scenes of destruction we witnessed last September were merely an escalation of what had been going all year, indeed throughout the Indonesian occupation.

We now have documents and tapes that show beyond doubt that the militias were being armed and directed by senior commanders of the Indonesian military.

It is inconceivable that General Wiranto did not know about this - in fact, given the strict hierarchy within the armed forces, it is highly unlikely that the order to back the militias, or perhaps even to set them up, did not have General Wiranto's direct approval.

There is some evidence that by last September, General Wiranto had started to lose control of the monster he helped create.

But from everything I witnessed during my seven trips to East Timor last year, there is a powerful case for him to be held responsible for many of the terrible events that took place there.

-----------

BBC, Monday, 14 February, 2000, 04:27 GMT

Newspaper backs Wahid

PHOTO: Abdurrahman Wahid: "Clear and explicit decision"

Jakarta daily newspaper Media Indonesia has praised President Abdurrahman Wahid's decision to suspend security minister General Wiranto.

The paper cautioned however that Mr Wahid would have to take a final decision on whether to sack General Wiranto or not at some point, and could not simply leave him indefinitely suspended. Here are some excerpts:

After two weeks of uncertainty and controversy concerning the position of Co-ordinating Minister for Politics and Security Wiranto, President Abdurrahman Wahid has finally made a decision - to stand Wiranto down from his position as minister.

This decision was made overnight, on a holiday, and a day sooner than planned, in view of the urgency of the issue.

The decision was clear and explicit, in contrast to the preceding controversy, which has bewildered us all - a controversy of President Wahid's own making.

But the president has now met face-to-face with Wiranto, and has taken a wise decision. The wisdom lies in Wahid's decision to suspend Wiranto, to facilitate the latter's investigation.

This way, Wiranto has not been dismissed outright, but also has not resigned. Gus Dur (pseudonym of President Wahid) wins, and Wiranto also wins. They both win, because the real winner is the supremacy of the law.

Wise decision

A president has the right to sack his ministers. On the other hand, he also has a responsibility to uphold the law.

One way of avoiding the perception of an egotistical, arbitrary administrative style is through careful attention to upholding the supremacy of the law.

That is why we regard the decision just taken as a wise one. This way, the assumption of innocence is also respected.

But we should caution that the Wiranto case should not eventually repeat what happened in the case of former Attorney General Andi M Ghalib.

He was suspended from his position after charges of bribery by business people in financial trouble were laid. Ghalib was never brought to trial, but he was never re-instated either.

The case was allowed to lapse, and in fact he remains attorney general (suspended) to this day - an unprecedented situation.

Aside from that, the Wiranto case will perhaps be a lesson for the president, so that he will think before he speaks, and refrain from issuing further bewildering and contradictory statements.


Back to February Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/