Subject: SMH: Former general admits he led attack on Balibo
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 11:52:11 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Sydney Morning Herald 29/05/99

EAST TIMOR Former general admits he led attack on Balibo

Yunus Yosfiah tells David Jenkins he led the 1975 raid, but saw none of the Australia-based journalists who died.

Indonesia's Information Minister has admitted for the first time that he led the 1975 attack in which five Australia-based journalists were killed in East Timor, adding that he stayed in the border town of Balibo for "maybe 10 days or two weeks" after the operation.

But he has rejected key aspects of a finding by the former chairman of the National Crime Authority, Mr Tom Sherman, who said he was the man "most likely" to have led the soldiers who killed the newsmen, dressed them in military uniforms for propaganda purposes then burnt their bodies.

In an interview, the former Lieutenant-General Yunus Yosfiah said he had never seen the TV newsmen "alive or dead". Nor, he said, had he received any reports that foreigners had been killed in Balibo.

"I have never seen the bodies," he said. "I've never seen [the journalists] alive or dead. Not even one. I haven't even [had a report about that from] my subordinates."

Mr Yunus was asked: "So you led the attack and you stayed in Balibo for 10 days. Five foreigners were killed but you didn't see them alive or dead? And nobody reported it?"

He answered: "Right!"

In an interview several years ago, the officer in charge of those operations, Lieutenant-General Dading Kalbuadi, revealed that Mr Yunus had led the attack on Balibo. But in interviews last year, Mr Yunus denied that he was in Balibo during the attack.

This week, Mr Yunus rejected an October 1998 claim by Orlandino Maia Guterres, a former East Timorese partisan who claims to have been attached to the Indonesian force, that the attackers knew in advance that there were foreign journalists in Balibo. "I never had any brief about that," he said. Mr Sherman accepted that while some Indonesian officers higher up the chain of command "knew of the possible presence of journalists in Balibo prior to the attack", there was no evidence that the attacking troops had been told about the journalists.

When asked about reports that the bodies of some newsmen had been dressed in Fretilin uniforms and photographed behind a machine-gun for propaganda purposes, Mr Yunus said: "Are there any photographs?

"You know, I have heard several stories about that. I have a brother-in-law in Australia and some family there. One of them mentioned that. The other story [is] that I asked the journalists to stand against the wall and I shot them. That is another story. Which story will you follow?"

Mr Yunus rejected suggestions that East Timorese partisans associated with the UDT political group had accompanied Indonesian troops during the attack on Balibo. The only partisans there that day, he said, were members of Apodeti, a tiny, pro-Indonesian party.

"No, there was no UDT," he said. "It is a bulls--- story. There is no UDT over there. Just Apodeti. The military guides of Apodeti."

General Yunus - who had six tours in East Timor, serving there for a total of "maybe seven" years, and is married to an East Timorese woman - insisted that the Habibie Government was determined to ensure that the East Timorese could vote freely in the August ballot on autonomy or independence. Nor, he said, were there groups in the Indonesian Army who were trying to sabotage the vote. If there had been any attempts, it would not have been the work of even small groups in the army but "just individuals".

"Because there are Timorese sergeants, privates [who think like that]. It is not [even] a small group or by ABRI", the Indonesian armed forces.

"Mr Habibie already stressed many times to all of the Cabinet that [anyone who sought to undermine the vote] would be gambling with our international reputation. Habibie is a democratic figure."

Mr Yunus said that at present foreign journalists in East Timor were sometimes failing to report that there was "a big group of people" who favoured integration with Indonesia. "That's why the ... pro-integration [side] sometimes perceive that the international journalists are very unbalanced," he said.

"That is why they make a reaction, because for a long time they have been treated not fair by the international journalists."

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