Subject: ETO: FA07 - SGI and ABRI in East Timor
Date: Thu, 08 Apr 1999 20:13:42 +0200
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <>

East Timor Observatory / Observatório Timor Leste / Observatoire Timor-Oriental

All peoples have the right to self-determination... all armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence. (Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples - UN Gen.Ass. Resolution 1514, 14/12/1960)

Ref.: FA07-1999/04/05

Military Intelligence Services (SGI) and the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) in East Timor

Summary: · In October 1998, official ABRI statistics were smuggled out of East Timor, revealing that the true number of Indonesian military personnel in the territory was neither 6,000 (as Ali Alatas had claimed) nor 10,700 (as Col. Suratman had assured the world), but 20,000. The man responsible for leaking those statistics, Manuel dos Martires (MdM), has revealed that there are many more sectors of the Indonesian armed forces, that are not included in the official statistics, but are, nonetheless, operating in East Timor. They come under the direct control of the SGI (Military Intelligence Services), which keeps its own, entirely separate (and secret) set of personnel figures. This latest revelation raises the soldiers per inhabitants ratio from 1:40 to 1:25.

ABRI recently decided to arm some sectors of the Timorese civilian population, allegedly for their own protection. However, the intense military presence would refute any such need. The large numbers of military involved, together with the "institutional" mechanisms in place to conceal the true figures, leave no doubt that this policy is being endorsed at the most senior levels of both the Indonesian Armed Forces and State. This means that there are fundamental contradictions between what the Indonesian Government is saying, especially within the framework of the talks underway at the UN, and what it is actually doing in East Timor itself.

Indonesia’s military presence in East Timor is extremely high. While the Government and military authorities were putting the figure between 6,000 (Ali Alatas) and 10,700 (Col. Suratman), leaked military documents made public in Australia showed the real number to be over 20,000 men: one soldier for every 40 inhabitants in East Timor, which is seven to nine times more than in Indonesia (see "Breakdown of Indonesian Armed Forces stationed in East Timor", East Timor Observatory, FA03-1999/02/09).

In spite of all its military weight, ABRI decided to arm Timorese civilians, thereby escalating the violence ("Militias & paramilitary groups armed by Indonesia", East Timor Observatory, FA04-1999/02/17).

In various interviews and statements, Xanana Gusmão accused the SGI (the intelligence wing of the Indonesian Armed Forces) of being behind the violence perpetrated by gangs of armed civilians that "intimidate, terrorise and kill the people" (Público, Lisbon, 3.2.99).

Col. Suratman, military commander of East Timor, has accused pro-independence activists of killing their own supporters in order to pin the blame on the armed forces: "They offer the lives of their own members to discredit ABRI or the Indonesian government" (Indonesian Observer, 23.3.99).

The Facts:
MdM is a Timorese who worked with Indonesian military services for over 10 years, the last five of which were spent in the military personnel statistics section at the KOREM (regional military command) in Dili. He has revealed hitherto unknown information about the numbers of Indonesian military posted to East Timor:

The statistics, which MdM managed to smuggle out, were made public in Australia in October 1998. They revealed that the true numbers of military personnel in the territory were, in fact, 2 to 3 times greater than the figures being given by the Indonesian authorities.

The exact total in November 1998, according to ABRI’s own statistics (which MdM was responsible for keeping updated), was 21,610 (although this figure included 1,589 civil servants who, like MdM, worked for the armed forces). The documents supplied by MdM provide breakdowns of military personnel according to district, unit and services, and there is even a diagram showing the chain of command and names of the respective officers.

MdM, who left his job after the documents became public in October, has revealed that even these figures, which took most observers by surprise, still fall short of the true total. In the KOREM building, where he was working, there were separate offices for the Military Intelligence Services (SGI), whose members are known in Timor as "Intel / Inteis". At his workplace, MdM over the years made a few friends among the "Inteis" and was, eventually, used to enter their offices. On the wall of one office there was a large chart (usually covered by a curtain), on which the movement and numbers of troops were recorded. MdM soon realised that the figures on the chart bore no resemblance to the numbers he was dealing with every day in his job. He became aware that although entire Battalions were entering East Timor, at no stage were they ever entered into the official personnel figures which he himself was in charge of keeping up to date. When MdM resolved to leak the official (confidential) figures, he decided he would also take notes from the SGI information on the wall chart.

Between 5 August and 10 November 1998, he copied from the SGI chart the following information about numbers of troops entering East Timor – numbers which had never been included in ABRI’s confidential figures. Entering East Timor :

  • by sea via Seical (Baucau) on 5.8.98, Battalion Yonifter 521, with 984 men;
  • by sea via Com (Lospalos) on 7.8.98, Battalion Linud 700, with 986 men;
  • by sea via Oecussi on 15.8.98, and by road from Oecussi to Balibo (Bobonaro), Battalion Yonifter 123, with 984 men;
  • by sea via Betano (Same) on 28.8.98, Battalion Yonifter 511, with 984 men;
  • by land via Balibo (Bobonaro) on 17.9.98, 200 men from Battalion 741 transferred from Denpasar, 200 men from Battalion 742 transferred from Lombok, 200 men from Battalion 743 transferred from Kupang. These 600 men, who came via the Kupang-Batagade road, were reinforcements for the local 744 and 745 Battalions (744 and 745 remained unchanged after the reinforcements arrived).
  • By land via Balibo (Bobonaro) on 10.11.98, 400 men from Kopassus, Group 4. They had been transported in Hercules aircraft from Jakarta to Kupang, then continued the journey by road to Batugade. (The Kopassus Group 4 are special elite troops, usually plain-clothed, and specialised in intelligence gathering.)

The above troops – a total of 4,938 men – entered East Timor in just over 3 months. They were not included in the official statistics. MdM insists that there have always been Indonesian military units controlled by the SGI which were never included in official ABRI figures for East Timor, but that, following Indonesia’s promise to progressively withdraw its troops, the number of these units increased. MdM estimates that the total number of these "off-the-record" troops was about 11,000 men in November 1998. They must be added to the 21,610 men who appear on the November statistics that MdM smuggled out when he left the territory.

The delay in making public this new information about the SGI’s "off-the-record" troops is due to the fact that MdM could supply no original written documents with which to back it up. For it to be believed, the information would have to be revealed by MdM himself. It was for this reason that MdM had to leave East Timor and Indonesia.

1. MdM’s information ties in with some of the reports about Battalions entering East Timor at the very time that President Habibie was promising to reduce troop numbers in the territory. His revelations would also explain why there was no mention of these Battalions on the leaked official statistics made public in Australia in October.

2. In light of this new data, we are going to have to look again at all previous assessments of Indonesian military presence in East Timor. The troops-to-population ratio has now risen from 1:40 to 1:25 – unquestionably one of the highest in the world.

3. Such an intense military presence refutes statements by military commanders about there being a need to arm Timorese civilians for their own security.

4. If such need does not exist, then why are ABRI supplying weapons to civilians?

5. Given that Indonesia has already admitted to the UN Secretary General that it is prepared to pull out of East Timor if that were the will of its people, why is Indonesia still arming civilians and still hiding the real numbers of its troops?

6. On 14 and 15 April, the UN, Indonesia and Portugal are to set the date, and decide on the form of the ballot, through which the East Timorese will be able to choose their own future. The people must be allowed to choose freely, without any pressure on them from weapons - whether they be Indonesian weapons, or those of any sector of Timorese society.

7. It is, therefore, essential that, before the election campaign,

  • civilian militias are disarmed
  • ABRI are withdrawn and replaced by a UN supervised international force
  • Timorese factions that have been involved in the war (the "Tim", wanra and Falintil) are disarmed
  • essential services and supplies needed for the people’s well being are secured, and there is total freedom of movement for people and organisations.

Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor’s transition process a programme by the ‘Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere’ and the ecumenical group ‘A Paz é Possível em Timor Leste’ Coordinator: Cristina Cruz

Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE - 1069-069 Lisboa - Portugal ph.: 351 1 317 28 60 - fax: 351 1 317 28 70 - e-mail:

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