Subject: SMH: Observer sceptical of military's neutrality
Date: Sat, 22 May 1999 10:26:52 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

22/05/99

Sydney Morning Herald INDONESIA

Observer sceptical of military's neutrality

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Indonesia appears to be stalling on its commitment to the United Nations that its security forces will remain "absolutely neutral" in East Timor in the period before an August ballot on self-determination, a senior UN official said yesterday,

"All the reports I receive are not very encouraging," said Mr Soli Sorabjee, head of a visiting UN Commission on Human Rights delegation.

The East Timorese do not see the Indonesian military as neutral, Mr Sorabjee said. "They feel they are biased in favour of the pro-integration groups and support only one point of view."

He thought it was "odd" that there was a multitude of banners strung across many parts of Dili advocating autonomy with Indonesia, but none supporting independence.

Referring to recent incidents of militia violence in East Timor, Mr Sorabjee said he had noted that most of the casualties so far were pro-independence supporters.

"I'm not here as a judge. I'm not here as a policeman. I am only here to assess the situation after I get all the facts from various sources."

Mr Sorabjee, a former attorney-general of India and vice-president of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, said he was concerned about recent threatening statements issued by pro-Indonesian groups in East Timor.

"These statements are very provocative, almost threatening the people who vote for pro-independence with dire consequences. There is no action taken against them and that is rather disturbing."

He was also alarmed that no action had been taken by Indonesian security forces to disarm the militias.

Under the May 5 East Timor accords signed by Portugal and Indonesia all militia activity is supposed to be banned. East Timorese will vote in a UN-organised ballot on August 7 for either autonomy within Indonesia or outright independence.

"If the law in Indonesia is that you cannot carry any weapons and that is breaking the law, I do not see any difficulty in apprehending those who break the law in front of the police and the military," Mr Sorabjee said in a reference to the impunity of the army-backed paramilitaries.

Mr Sorabjee is the second senior UN official to criticise the current human rights situation in East Timor. The spokesman for the UN's East Timor mission, Mr David Wimhurst, protested at contradictory Indonesian explanations for a militia massacre in Atara village last Sunday in which at least six unarmed civilians were killed while they prepared to attend Mass.

UN officials and local human rights workers have been prevented from reaching Atara, about 100 kilometres south of Dili, by militia roadblocks. They fear the death toll could be much higher than so far confirmed.

"We expect from the Indonesian authorities a full accounting of the situation so that events can be clarified," Mr Wimhurst said yesterday.

He also expressed concern over threats to local staff hired by the UN to work in Dili. They have been accused of being independence supporters.

"People who have been recruited by us have come under threat. Their lives have been threatened and their families' lives threatened. For us that is intimidation and is completely unacceptable," he said.

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