police chief in E.Timor during terror gets promoted
Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, November 3, 1999
I just followed rules, says head of police
By LINDSAY MURDOCH, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta
The Indonesian police officer in charge of East Timor at the height of this year's violence and destruction has been promoted to one of the important investigative jobs in Jakarta.
Speaking after his appointment as director of the police headquarters' anti-corruption force, Brigadier-General Timbul Silaen said he had upheld the law in East Timor.
"It's up to the people to judge it right or wrong."
While he was serving in East Timor, police under then Colonel Silaen's charge are accused of backing anti-independence militia responsible for killings, torture, rape and the destruction of 70 per cent of the buildings and infrastructure in the territory.
Human rights groups have documented cases of police changing into civilian clothes to join rampaging militia.
Only a handful of prosecutions were launched over thousands of acts of intimidation and violence against independence supporters and foreigners, including United Nations workers and journalists.
Human rights groups also have evidence of police involvement in the massacre of up to 60 people at a church in the town of Liquica, 40 kilometres west of Dili, in April.
Members of a police riot squad fired teargas into a priest's house where hundreds of people had taken refuge from militia attacks. When many of them ran from the house to escape the gas, they were massacred in the church grounds.
Asked if he was worried he could be charged with crimes against humanity after a UN investigation, General Silaen said: "I followed regulations where we needed to implement a state of emergency in East Timor ... I was the one on the ground who had to do the best for the country."
Under a UN agreement, Indonesia's police were responsible for security in East Timor before and after a UN-supervised ballot in which 78.5 per cent of Timorese voted to reject Indonesia's often brutal 24-year rule.
General Silaen warned it was now important to "take into account the aspirations" of the 20 per cent of East Timorese who voted against the territory gaining its independence.
"They think they have the right to be listened to," he said.
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