key officers deny role in E. Timor mayhem
Jakarta Post January 13, 2000
Former key officers deny role in E. Timor mayhem
JAKARTA (JP): Two key officers who were assigned territorial responsibility in East Timor claimed they had been "relieved" of their duties before violence broke out in the territory.
Lt. Col. Tatang Zaenuddin SW, commander of the western region of East Timor, and former East Timor Police chief Brig. Gen. Timbul Silaen said during questioning by the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in East Timor (KPP HAM) here on Wednesday they were no longer in command when the violence occurred.
Tatang claimed that he was "withdrawn to Jakarta" some two months before the violence started.
"I was assigned there for about a year, from the middle of August 1998 up to July 21, 1999.
"So I wasn't involved in the post-ballot mayhem," Tatang told journalists after his morning questioning adding that he was not ordered to handover his responsibility to any other officer.
Violence erupted in the former Indonesian province following the Aug. 30 self-determination referendum. The violence prompted the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force to East Timor.
Following numerous accusations of human rights abuses in the wake of the ballot, the government formed an inquiry under the supervision of the National Commission on Human Rights to investigate the charges.
The inquiry has already questioned former Indonesian Military chief Gen. Wiranto and other top military and police brass believed to have information about the violence.
Tatang's area of authority in East Timor included the regencies of Ainaro, Aileu, Liquica, Ermera, Bobonaro, Ambeno, Sema and Suai, where several killings were reported to have occurred.
Among these was an incident on Sept. 6 when a pro-Jakarta militia allegedly attacked a church in Suai. An inquiry team in November exhumed 26 bodies believed to be of victims of the attack on the church from a mass grave just across the border in West Timor.
Tatang said he had little knowledge on the activities of the prointegration militias, contending his office was merely charged with territorial defense.
"We were not training militias, but were there to help locals enhance their lives, both physically and mentally."
Tatang said his office helped build houses and churches for the community and opened farm land. He said his command also provided much needed medical services, sanitation and school teachers to the community.
"If you need confirmation, just go there and ask the locals yourselves," he said.
Tatang conceded that some militias were trained in the area, but said this was under the direct authority of the East Timor military commander.
"We were just overseers of the training and not directly involved."
While speaking with journalists, Tatang, now a lecturer at an Army training facility in Bandung, West Java, questioned the inquiry's work, which he considered one-sided.
"Military officers also got killed and badly injured during the violence. Which institution is authorized to look into their deaths," he asked.
Later in the afternoon the inquiry questioned Timbul Silaen for the second time. Timbul testified that his responsibility had only been to provide security ahead of the ballot.
He said the Indonesian Military (TNI) had assumed security and operational control on Sept. 7, before the majority of the violence took place.
"If what is being questioned are incidents after Sept. 7, then ask the military. Before that we controlled the situation; even the international community acknowledged our efforts," he said.
The government-sanctioned inquiry is scheduled to summon Gen. (ret) Feisal Tanjung, the former coordinating minister of political affairs and security, on Thursday morning.
In a related development, Reuters reported that United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan and his staff reviewed on Tuesday a report from a special UN commission investigating atrocities in East Timor and planned to issue recommendations for further action.
The four-member commission of inquiry, led by Sonia Picado of Costa Rica, has reportedly not drawn any conclusions from its nine-day probe, which began on Nov. 25.
But Picado said last month her team had found evidence of "systematic" killings in East Timor, where militias created and aided by Indonesian troops conducted an orgy of killing, burning and looting after the territory voted for independence from Jakarta on Aug. 30.
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said the commission's conclusions would enable Annan "to make recommendations for future action".
He did not say when the report, to be given to the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Commission, would be released. (emf/01)
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