Subject: SMH: Rumors Prabowo in W.Timor; Falantil leaders "disappeared"
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 09:37:45 -0400

Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, September 21, 1999

Falantil leaders disappear from camps in West Timor

Dr Crouch gives evidence yesterday. Photo by MIKE BOWERS


East Timorese resistance leaders had "disappeared" from militia-guarded refugee camps across the border, and the mainly women and children who remained were at risk of becoming hostages to other vigilantes, a Senate committee heard in Canberra yesterday.

Two top Falantil leaders had been hunted down in the camps and "could well be eliminated", according to Dr Harold Crouch, a senior fellow at the Australian National University and an Indonesian military expert.

Dr Crouch knew the "very senior" Falantil men only by their noms de guerre but said they included the leader who took command from Xanana Gusmao.

The news came amid warnings from Mr Bob Lowry, a former lieutenant-colonel and former assistant military attaché at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, that the refugees could be made pawns by the military or by mavericks operating with military consent.

Mr Lowry touched on rumours that General Prabowo Subianto - former president Soeharto's son-in-law who was dismissed from the military after his troops were found to have kidnapped and tortured dissidents in Java - was seen in Kupang, West Timor, in recent days. "If that is true, one would have to ask what he is doing there," Mr Lowry, a visiting fellow the Australian Defence Studies Centre at the Australian Defence Force Academy, told the Senate committee.

He said General Prabowo's presence certainly would have been sanctioned by the head of the Indonesian Army, General Wiranto.

"So [the military's] attitude to him and what he might be doing is fairly obvious from that," Mr Lowry said. "We would just hope our fears don't come to fruition in that regard.

"There may also be other retired members of the army who still have an ideological commitment, or even ordinary citizens or people from the civil administration, who want to seek vengeance for what has happened" in the East Timor vote for independence, he said.

Mr Lowry also questioned the continuing high-profile role of militia leader Eurico Guterres in the West Timor refugee camps.

"One has to ask what else he was doing there," Mr Lowry said. "Who he was making connections with, what plans he was making, what his future intentions are. One hopes he's not planning to keep these people hostage on that side of the border for any period of time."

Mr Lowry said the UN troops could quickly secure the centre and east part of East Timor. "The question is how quickly they will be able to get a grip of the western sector.

"As long as the border is controlled on the Indonesian side, and as long as there are no third parties who are allowed to supply money and equipment and training to the militia, then I think it will be resolved within several months.

"If that doesn't happen, then of course it could drag on for quite a while."

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