Subject: AU: Death recalls E Timor's past

The Australian

Death recalls E Timor's past

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent | October 27, 2007

INDONESIAN soldiers have shot dead an East Timorese man trying to illegally cross the contested border into west Timor in an incident that has rekindled painful memories of the 1999 Jakarta-led plunder of the small country.

The man was one of four discovered several metres inside Indonesian territory at Atambua, in Timor's north, shortly before dawn yesterday.

"When asked what they were doing, they tried to stab the soldiers while running away -- so we immediately opened fire," said Major-General Syaiful Rizal, head of the Udayana command which has military responsibility for eastern Indonesia.

General Rizal said the shooting was carried out according to procedure and to protect Indonesian sovereignty.

Many farmers and small traders from both countries constantly cross the ill-defined border, with great argument in some parts as to where the line actually lies. During violent eruptions over the past 18 months, Indonesia has regularly attempted to close the border altogether.

An autopsy was to be performed on the dead man, a 40-year-old identified only as Lukas, last night or today in Atambua, and his body then returned to East Timor, authorities said.

Indonesian military national spokesman Vice-Marshal Sagong Tamboen said in Jakarta that soldiers believed the men -- three of whom escaped -- were trying to smuggle a motorcycle across the border for sale in Indonesian Timor.

The killing capped a difficult week for relations between the two countries, after a key former general testified on Wednesday that the 1999 violence had nothing to do with the Indonesian military.

"There were no crimes against humanity in East Timor," retired Lieutenant General Kiki Syahnakri told a hearing of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission, which is investigating more than 1000 deaths, rapes and other violent assaults that followed the 1999 independence referendum.

General Syahnakri blamed the UN for the violence, saying it was "a combined result of widespread cheating from the UN administration for East Timor and the early announcement of results". He said former colonial ruler Portugal must also shoulder some blame.

Indonesian military units and pro-integration militias went on a rampage after the August 30 referendum, but witnesses to the commission have denied any involvement by Jakarta's troops.


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