Subject: SMH: Don't blame us for the militia attacks: Jakarta

Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Don't blame us for the militia attacks: Jakarta

By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta

Indonesia yesterday denied responsibility for intensified attacks by militias on international forces inside East Timor.

The Foreign Minister, Mr Alwi Shihab, told journalists in Jakarta that his Government was not willing to take the blame for continuing violence and intimidation by the militias operating from refugee camps inside Indonesian West Timor.

"Actually, the Defence Minister [Mr Juwono Sudarsono] has stated if any incident happens in East Timor it is the responsibility of UNTAET [the UN Transitional Administration for East Timor]," Mr Shiwab said.

The United Nations has made clear in high-level representations to Jakarta over the past fortnight that it expects Indonesian authorities to hunt down, arrest and punish militiamen responsible for the killing of two UN peacekeepers, a New Zealander and a Nepalese, in the past three weeks.

The head of the UN in Dili, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, has launched a blistering attack on the inability or refusal of Indonesian authorities to disarm and remove bands of militias from the border areas.

Mr Vieira de Mello said he believed between 200 and 300 people in West Timor were committed to violence against UN troops deployed along East Timor's border.

"Surely they are easily identified," he said. "Remove them from the border. Remove them from refugee camps, if that is where they are. Or remove them from West Timor altogether."

Mr Vieira de Mello said repeated pleas to Indonesian military regional commanders to disarm the militias were supported by the UN Security Council. He did not say what action would be recommended to the council if attacks continued.

UN officials say privately that they have lost faith in Indonesia's repeated promises to disband the militias and close the camps.

"Enough is enough," one of UNTAET's top military commanders said from Dili. "Punish the killers of our people. Disband the militias. Close the camps or else the UN will be forced to act."

After meeting West Timor-based pro-Indonesian figures in Jakarta, Mr Shihab said a "comprehensive plan of action" to clear the camps of an estimated 120,000 East Timorese would be completed within three to six months.

But yesterday's announcement comes 10 months after Mr Shihab's Government first promised to close the camps and end militia violence and intimidation.

Staff of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Migration Office were forced to leave West Timor last weekend because of intimidation and violence directed against them by militias.

Mr Shihab said: "We would like to close the camps in order to demonstrate that we as a government are not willing to be accused as the culprit."

The military was annoyed at being blamed for the violence and intimidation. "There are many factors," he said. "Bitterness sometimes comes out past experience ... even if you close the camps you will still find such bitterness."

But UN officials have information, including from a captured militiaman, that elements of the Indonesian armed forces are behind the attacks.

Mr Sudarsono was reported by a German newsagency last weekend as saying rogue elements of the Indonesian armed forces were backing militia groups.

Asked why the camps had not been cleared of troublemakers, Mr Shihab said there was not have enough money to separate and repatriate former soldiers and their families from other refugees in the camps.

"Until now we did not get sufficient funding from the international community," he said. "We are not quite convinced they [former soldiers] are the culprits.''


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