Subject: IHT: Timor Militia Killings Raise Doubts on Future
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:21:14 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

Paris, Monday, April 19, 1999

Timor Militia Killings Raise Doubts on Future

Plebiscite Seen In Jeopardy After Rampage 

By Michael Richardson International Herald Tribune

SINGAPORE - A bloody weekend rampage by militiamen who want East Timor to remain part of Indonesia threatens to undermine talks this week on the future of the territory and raises new doubt about whether the Indonesian government can control the military, foreign officials say.

Militia groups loyal to Indonesia stormed through Dili, the capital of East Timor, on Saturday. Indonesian military officials said the attacks on houses and offices of pro-independence leaders had left at least a dozen people dead and many more wounded.

The killings prompted renewed calls from the United Nations, Portugal and Australia for the Indonesian authorities to disarm the militia and restore order.

Prime Minister John Howard of Australia said Sunday that he would contact President B.J. Habibie of Indonesia to express Australia's ''deep concern'' over the killings in Dili and the ''growing evidence'' that Indonesian security forces had failed to prevent repeated attacks by pro-Jakarta militia groups on supporters of independence.

''You would have to wonder whether these pro-integration militiamen are not getting some kind of permissive response from the Indonesian Army,'' Mr. Howard said on Australian television. ''I am very concerned at the way in which the situation has deteriorated, and the Indonesian government cannot escape responsibility for at least some of that, if not all of it.''

Mr. Howard said that the increased violence in East Timor was threatening a UN-organized plebiscite scheduled for July to enable people in the territory to chose between autonomy within Indonesia or independence.

Mr. Habibie reversed in January a policy of long-standing Indonesian opposition to independence when he offered the possibility of autonomy.

The foreign ministers of Indonesian and Portugal are to meet Thursday and Friday in New York under the auspices of the United Nations to finalize details of the Indonesian autonomy offer and how it is to be put to the people of East Timor.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year. But the United Nations has never recognized the takeover of the former Portuguese colony.

Indonesian news organizations, quoting local police and military officials, reported that more than 20 people, including the teenage son of a prominent independence leader, Manuel Carascalao, had been killed in Dili over the weekend. The violence occurred after more than 1,000 East Timorese militiamen armed with guns and machetes rallied Saturday in front of the office of the Indonesian-appointed governor.

A militia commander, Eurico Guterres, told his followers to clear the territory of groups supporting independence, journalists present at the rally said.

''Starting today, I command all pro-integration militias to conduct a cleansing of all those who betrayed integration,'' the commander said.

The mob also beat several foreign journalists and ransacked the office of a local newspaper, as well as other buildings and vehicles.

Police officers and soldiers appeared to make no effort to stop the violence, Reuters reported from Dili.

An aide to the spiritual leader of East Timor, Bishop Carlos Belo, said that the situation in Dili remained tense Sunday, with reports of gunshots in some parts of the town.

The Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, said it was ''imperative'' that Indonesian armed forces ''begin the process of disarming the militias and that those responsible for the violence and killings be brought to account.''

The Portuguese leader, Antonio Guterres, said in Lisbon that the latest killings underlined the need for a UN presence in East Timor to help halt the violence. The UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, said in New York that he regretted ''this apparent inability of the Indonesian authorities to control the violence by militias and to protect the civilian population.'' Mr. Annan called for an immediate end to the escalation of violence ''by all sides'' in East Timor.

But the differences between Mr. Habibie's government and the security forces were underlined Sunday when civilian and military officials issued conflicting accounts of the Dili rampage.

A senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Habibie said that Indonesia must accept the blame for the violence. By contrast, the military put the blame for the rampage on pro-independence groups.

There is increasing international concern that the Indonesian military regards the independence offer by the Habibie government as a serious threat to national unity and the honor of the armed forces, which analysts say has suffered thousands of casualties in fighting with pro-independence guerrillas in East Timor since 1975.

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