=Subject: etpost - AFR: Army is lying in wait for independence voters
Date: Sat, 01 May 1999 09:00:26 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Australian Financial Review Saturday, May 1, 1999

Asia Pacific, By Peter Hartcher

It's been puzzling governments around the world. How can you reconcile the reassuring words of Indonesia's top army brass with the reality that they have been allowing thugs to butcher civilians in East Timor in recent weeks?

Easy, says a leading expert on the Indonesian army: "They are lying through their teeth the whole time." Bob Lowry is a former major in the Australian army, the man who literally wrote the book on the subject ~ a 1997 volume called The Armed Forces of Indonesia.

Lowry knows his subject. He's had nearly 30 years of close contact with them. He graduated from the Indonesian Army Command and Staff College in Bandung in the same year as the current commander of the armed forces, General Wiranto.

And while less-informed Australian observers laud Wiranto for playing a jolly good hand of bridge and for giving fine-sounding commitments to maintaining order, Lowry suggests that we "judge Wiranto according to what he does, not what he says".

So what is the army's game? The objective is clear, says Lowry, today a visiting fellow at the Australian Defence Studies Centre. The army took East Timor in 1975, has held it by force and is not interested in relinquishing it. The army is determined to preserve East Timor as the 27th province of Indonesia.

While President B.J. Habibie has decided to allow East Timor the option of independence, the army ~ formerly known as ABRI but now renamed the TNI ~ has decided to subvert his Government's policy, say Lowry. And here's how:

"When Soeharto fell, the independence movement in East Timor thought that it was their big opportunity to break away, and expectations were raised. People in East Timor, in the civil service and elsewhere, who had been in the closet for years, came out and revealed themselves to be independence supporters.

"In the old days, ABRI would have dealt with them openly. But it's harder to do that these days, so the militia came out." In October the army began secretly giving guns to sympathisers in East Timor, equipping them to wage a proxy war on the army's behalf against the independence forces.

"The pro-Indonesia militia is fundamentally an extension of the TNI,"says Lowry. Army commanders deny this. When the integrationist thugs roamed the streets of Dili killing independence activists at will on April 17 and 18, they were unchecked by the army.

Lowry says: "There's no way in the world these militias could do what they are doing unless they were protected by TNI. To see the logic of this, can you imagine the independence militia doing the same thing in the streets of the capital?

"The aim is to separate the leadership of the pro-independence movement from the people. By repressing, terrorising and killing, they will make sure there is no leadership left to promote the cause."

For example: The pro-Indonesian militia raided the Dili home of independence activist Manuel Carrascalao and murdered his 12-year-old son two weeks ago.

Carrascalao took the hint and flew out of East Timor on Thursday.

Habibie has committed Indonesia to holding a ballot in East Timor on August 8, offering the people a choice between limited autonomy within Indonesian sovereignty on the one hand, and complete independence on the other.

Lowry says it will be extremely difficult for voting to be even remotely free. The pro-Indonesia thugs have been complicit with the local administration in purging independence sympathisers from the civil service in East Timor. And they have been intimidating voters who might be toying with the idea of voting for separation from Jakarta.

Says Lowry: "These people have participated in Indonesian elections under Soeharto for 15 or 20 years. In these elections it's normal to intimidate people, so they will be very suspicious of any promise that this time it will be free and fair. They will fear and expect retribution if they vote for independence."

What about the hundreds of UN observers who are supposed to supervise the voting? "You'll have these observers going in who don't speak a word of the local Tetum dialect ~ they could be standing next to a soldier intimidating the shit out of a voter and have no idea what's going on right under their noses."

Is this army subversion of East Timor's independence option the product of just some local TNI commanders, or does it have the support of the top brass in Jakarta?

Australian intelligence says the TNI region commander, based in Den- pasar, is particularly determined to deflect any move to independence. Lowry says that if Wiranto did not approve, it would be simple for him to replace the recalcitrant officer.

"After Soeharto's resignation last May, Wiranto was in a reasonably precarious position. But since then, he has made significant rotations of commanders and he now has a relatively free hand.

"No Indonesian military leader can move entirely on his own ~ he needs to keep the support of his officers ~ but he could easily replace a regional commander. With Habibie in office as president, Wiranto is not subject to any effective presidential direction."

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