|Subject: JP: Da Costa denies plan to move
HQs to W. Timor
The Jakarta Post May 30, 2002
Da Costa denies plan to move HQs to W. Timor
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Maj. Gen. William T. da Costa, chief of the Udayana Military Command overseeing security in Bali and West and East Nusa Tenggara, denied on Wednesday reports that its headquarters would be relocated to West Timor.
"The reports are big lies. It has certainly been released by certain people who hate me and, then, spread," he was quoted by Antara as saying in Denpasar, Bali.
"I have been rumored not only to become a king in East Nusa Tenggara but also to be a governor in the province. Rumors are really not true. I have no ambition of becoming anything," an emotional da Costa said.
The plan to relocate to East Nusa Tenggara was first revealed last Friday by Kupang's 161 Wirasakti Military Commander Col. Inf. Moeswarno Moesanip and East Nusa Tenggara Vice Governor Johanis Pake Pani.
They said the planned relocation was a good decision considering that East Nusa Tenggara bordered Australia and the newly independent East Timor.
"For the sake of national defense, I find it suitable for a military command as a TNI strategic compartment to be established in Kupang," Moesanip said in Kupang, NTT.
Incumbent Army Chief of Staff Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, who would soon replace Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Adm. Widodo Adisutjipto, also spoke about the planned relocation during a recent fit and proper test at the House of Representatives.
But da Costa said the military and government leaders had no plans to relocate from its current base in Bali.
"The military does not plan to move the military headquarters ... beefing up the number of battalions in the province has not even been talked about ..."
He said the current two battalions of troops would still be enough to guard the border area between West Nusa Tenggara and East Timor.
Da Costa dismissed any possible security threats to Indonesia from East Timor after Indonesia's former territory officially became the world's newest nation on May 20.
"I know it precisely that East Timorese people would not attack us. On the contrary, they feel extremely friendly toward Indonesia.
"I was one of those accompanying (President) Mrs Megawati (Soekarnoputri) during her recent visit to East Timor. I saw East Timorese people showing their enthusiastic attitude towards the presidential entourage," he said.
"Moreover, when I took a walk in several locations in Dili, many people there asked to shake hands while saying 'how are you Pak'."
Military and defense analysts have criticized the plan, which they said was a spontaneous reaction to East Timor's independence.
They said that instead of moving the Udayana Military Command, which would only harm the country's image, the TNI would be better off solidifying its line of command which often overlaps.
TNI may shift Bali command to W. Timor
West Timor's government has welcomed the proposal, but analysts say it will send a wrong signal to E. Timor and Australia
By Marianne Kearney STRAITS TIMES INDONESIA BUREAU
JAKARTA - Indonesia's incoming military chief General Endriartono Sutarto has indicated that he would like to move the military's eastern command from Bali to Kupang in West Timor, signalling an aggressive approach towards sorting out border issues with its newest neighbour East Timor.
The plan has been enthusiastically backed by the Kupang military command and the provincial government which say it would ward off potential threats from either East Timor or Australia.
'At present, East Timor and Australia are not a threat, but in the future things may be different,' said Mr Johanis Pake Pani, Vice-Governor of the East Nusa Tenggara province where Kupang is located.
A stronger military presence in West Timor is necessary to maintain security along the border areas and create a feeling of safety among the local people, he maintained.
Gen Endriartono, the current army chief, had raised the idea last week when he outlined his plans for the military during a parliamentary hearing. His nomination to head the powerful armed forces (TNI) was subsequently approved by Parliament.
But the idea has drawn flak from military analysts here who say fears over security of the new border are clearly overblown.
And, worse, the move would send the wrong message to East Timor.
'The timing is not very good, it could well be interpreted as provocative by not just East Timor but also Australia,' said political and military analyst Kusnanto Anggoro from the University of Indonesia.
'They should focus on joint border control negotiations using diplomatic channels rather than military means,' he added.
Indonesia and East Timor are currently finalising the demarcation of their ill-defined border.
They are also considering allowing a regular bus service to link the East Timorese enclave of Oecussi - located in the middle of West Timor - with East Timor.
Analyst Bob Lowry, who recently wrote a book on the Indonesian military, suggested that the plan to beef up the number of troops on the border may be a tactic to increase pressure on East Timor as it negotiates with Indonesia over issues like property rights and private and public assets formerly owned by Indonesians.
'It is a hairy problem for a new government like East Timor to negotiate with Indonesia over facilities like telecommunication, roads and property rights,' he said.
Some Indonesian companies, including those owned by military generals, are demanding compensation from East Timor for their lost assets or property.
East Timor has rejected such claims, arguing that when the Indonesians invaded they did not respect property rights under Portuguese law.
Some military analysts said the proposal is meant to serve other purposes.
It could be a pre-emptive move to address fears that East Timor may fail as a state and create problems like the inflow of illegal immigrants and other criminal activities.
Or else, they said, the new nation could be richer than West Timor, thus fuelling a vibrant smuggling market.
But whether it thrives or fails, the resulting problems would be better handled by border police and immigration and Customs officials, they added.
Finally, since senior military commanders do not seem to think that any of the countries on Indonesia's eastern borders - such as Australia, East Timor or Papua New Guinea - posed a military threat to the nation, the proposal might just be way for the armed forced to create more positions for its top brass, said Mr Lowry.
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