Subject: FEER: Ali Alatas backed the militias
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 08:57:10 -0400

Far Eastern Economic Review 09/23/1999

Spotlight: School's Out

By Dan Murphy

Indonesia's military isn't alone in lending assistance to the militias that have ransacked East Timor since it voted for independence on August 30. The REVIEW has learned that the Foreign Ministry organized at least two seminars for militia leaders in the art of public relations, including how to field awkward questions from foreign reporters. Ministry officials, speaking privately, say the most recent session was held in March at Bali's four-star Bali Padma hotel, costing taxpayers about 500 million rupiah ($60,000).

Dino Patti Djalal, who until recently was the Foreign Ministry's spokesman for East Timor, issued a flat denial when asked about the seminars. "No assistance of any kind has been given by the Foreign Ministry to these groups. Of course, we do have close relations with them."

But the ministry officials say Foreign Minister Ali Alatas backed the militias, hoping that independence could be headed off and broad autonomy could be given a try. They say the goal of the seminars was to soften the world's image of the pro-Indonesian militias ahead of the independence referendum.

Speakers at the three-day March session included Maj.-Gen. Adam Damiri, the senior military officer for East Timor, and Abilio Soares, the province's Jakarta-appointed governor. Damiri, dressed in civilian clothes, told the gathering that Indonesia "was behind them 100% and would never abandon them," say the ministry officials.

In the audience were Joao Taveres and Herminio da Cost da Silva, leaders of militias since accused by human-rights organizations of playing a major role in the violence in East Timor. Also attending were Basilio Aurojo, Domingos Soares and Filomeno Orai, leaders of the Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice, or FPDK, a pro-integration group established with Foreign Ministry aid.

Their media training clearly failed to take root. As soon as the vote tally was announced, the militias went on a rampage, often targeting foreign journalists.

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