Subject: Rein in militia: UN commander

The Australian 10 March 00

Rein in militia: UN commander

By Jakarta correspondent DON GREENLEES

INDONESIA'S military commanders came under pressure yesterday to rein in militia still operating in West Timor and demonstrate greater control over their own troops after protests over a series of shootings and incursions across the border with East Timor.

The head of the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor, Lieutenant-General Jaime de los Santos, flew to Jakarta yesterday to meet Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab and armed forces commander Admiral Widodo Adisuciopto to raise concerns about increased tension on the border.

Australian diplomats and military officers have separately raised concerns with senior counterparts over the border incidents, including shots fired at an Australian aircraft and near Australian-manned border posts.

Both the UN Transitional Administration East Timor (UNTAET) and Australia are concerned the heightened militia activity is taking place with the tacit support of Indonesian military personnel in West Timor.

There are widespread fears militia will begin to build up attacks following the withdrawal of the Australian-led International Force in East Timor (Interfet), which pulled out of February 23. About 2000 Australian troops remain on the ground, mostly in sensitive border areas, with the the new UN force.

At least two East Timorese civilians have been killed during the recent incursions. Pro-Jakarta East Timorese say there is a continuing split in tactics between moderates who want to start reconciliation and hardliners associated with militia.

Although the militia groups were supposed to have been formally disbanded and their access to training cut off, they are still clustered in large numbers in towns and villages near the border. Militia commanders have relocated to either Kupang in West Timor or Atambua, closer to the border.

Sources said UNTAET and Australian officials had requested the Indonesian armed forces take action to prevent militiamen crossing the border or staging attacks from the border.

General de los Santos is expected to meet Admiral Widodo today and later hold talks with the Bali-based commander responsible for West Timor, Major-General Kiki Syahnakri.

The freedom of the militia to move in the border area reawakens concerns that elements of the Indonesian armed forces may be deliberately defying the orders of the civilian government. It comes after President Abdurrahman Wahid made a visit to Dili in which he apologised for actions by the military.

But UNTAET has agreed with Jakarta to try to solve the issue through quiet negotiations and has been receiving good co-operation, according to UNTAET sources quoted by AFP.


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