Subject: SMH: Scuffle after Megawati refuses to meet militiamen

also: [AFP] Top Indonesian officials witness militias hand over arms in West Timor

Sydney Morning Herald Monday, September 25, 2000

Scuffle after Megawati refuses to meet militiamen

Jonathan Thatcher in Jakarta

Indonesia has persuaded pro-Jakarta militias in West Timor to begin disarming, in the hope this will calm international anger over the recent murder there of United Nations aid workers.

But militiamen scuffled with security forces on Sunday after Indonesia's visiting Vice-President, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, refused to speak to gang members about what would happen to them if they disbanded.

The incident took place after the militias surrendered hundreds of weapons as part of a campaign by the Government to end violence in the territory. About a dozen militiamen attacked police officers and tried to grab their guns, but security forces managed to push them back and no-one was injured in the clash.

Later the militia marched on a local police station, demanding that the authorities return their arms. The police refused and a tense stand-off followed.

The scuffle happened after the Vice-President visited Atambua to witness the hand-over of arms. When militiamen tried to speak to her about what would happen to them in the future, she refused to meet them.

Police in Atambua said 12 small groups of militias surrendered three car-loads of of weapons on Saturday and another four groups had come in on Sunday. It was in Atambua where the militias, opposed to last year's overwhelming vote for independence in East Timor, hacked to death three foreign UN aid workers earlier this month.

The murders provoked the anger of the UN Security Council, which demanded the militias be disarmed and disbanded. The United States also has warned that aid could be at risk if Indonesia's military does not bring the gangs under control.

On Saturday, President Abdurrahman Wahid berated his police force for releasing six suspects in the inquiry into the murder of the aid workers, saying it would unravel diplomatic efforts to repair the damage the killings had done to Indonesia's international image.

Meanwhile, violence continued in Indonesia's northern province of Aceh, as Jakarta and members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) held two days of talks in Switzerland on whether to extend a truce between the two sides, the Swiss-based Henri Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue said. Both sides accuse each other of breaking the ceasefire.

On Saturday GAM guerillas ambushed an army convoy in the Lhoksukon area of North Aceh, the local police chief Superintendent Abadan Bangko said.

One of the attackers was killed in a shootout, Superintendent Bangko said. GAM spokesman Abu Sofyan Daud said 10 soldiers had been killed in the attack.

In Jakarta, police arrested 25 people suspected of carrying out a spate of bombings that have terrorised the capital.

Brigadier General Dadang Garnida, who heads the police information department, said one suspect had confessed to detectives that he had also planned to bomb the US Embassy and a department store in Jakarta. On September 13 a car bomb exploded in the basement garage of the Jakarta stock exchange, killing 15 people. There have also been bomb attacks on the Philippine ambassador's residence, the Malaysian embassy and the office of Indonesia's Attorney-General.


Top Indonesian officials witness militias hand over arms in West Timor

ATAMBUA, Indonesia, Sept 24 (AFP) - Top Indonesian officials on Sunday witnessed militiamen hand over hundreds of weapons, in the same border town where three UN humanitarian workers were hacked to death by militias on September 6.

Indonesian Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, armed forces chief Admiral Widodo Adisucipto and ministers witnessed the handover, as did two top militia leaders, Eurico Guterres and Joao Tavares.

The militias submitted hundreds of home-made weapons and dozens of guns to the police in this refugee-swollen town, which borders East Timor.

Indonesia has been under intense international pressure to disarm and disband the militias since the UN killings, which drove some 400 UN and other aid agency employees out of West Timor and prompted an international outcry.

Also present at the ceremony were Indonesia's top security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Law and Human Rights Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra, and regional military chief General Kiki Syahnakri.

The ceremony became tense when a policeman whisked Guterres, the head of the feared Aitarak (Thorn) miltia, to the police station to prevent him from meeting Megawati, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

It was not clear why the police wanted to prevent the meeting, but angry militiamen took back their weapons and handed them instead to the local military headquarters.

Bowing to international pressure following the killings of the UN workers, the military started a four-day operation on Friday during which weapons are voluntarily handed in, as "phase one" of Indonesia's pledge to the United Nations to disarm the militias.

This will be followed, the military has said, by forcible seizure of any remaining weapons.

The disarmament pledge was made in New York on Tuesday by Indonesia's chief security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in a closed-door meeting with members of the UN Security Council.

The militias hacked to death the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) workers -- an American, a Croatian and an Ethiopian -- a day after one of their own leaders was found murdered.

The UNHCR and other aid agencies had been working with some 120,000 East Timorese refugees who are living in squalid camps in West Timor. They have been stranded there since last year's vote in East Timor for independence from Jakarta unleashed a violent rampage by the pro-Jakarta militias.

The militias, one group for every district of East Timor, were raised and trained by the Indonesian military. They fled west when UN-sanctioned international troops arrived in East Timor last September.

Armed forces chief Widodo has warned that the disarmament process will be slow and difficult.

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