Castigates 'Reactionary' Indonesian Military
Timor Camps Test for Jakarta-Holbrooke
By Tim Johnston
ATAMBUA, Indonesia (Reuters/Nov 22, 1999) - The United States warned Indonesia on Monday that the international community would judge the success of its transition to democracy by its behavior toward East Timorese refugees.
``The Indonesians have to move into their new democratic era and they cannot do that as long as they are stuck in the mud -- literally -- of the refugee camps, which is the mud of the crimes of the past,'' Richard Holbrooke, Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters.
Holbrooke, who was instrumental in negotiating the Dayton agreement which brought peace to Bosnia, visited refugee camps in West Timor on Monday which are home to thousands of displaced East Timorese.
Holbrooke said there were two factions in the new Indonesian government -- a reformist wing led by President Abdurrahman Wahid and a reactionary military.
Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur, was trying to get to grips with the military, he added.
STRUGGLE WITHIN INDONESIA
Holbrooke said within the government there were those who looked backwards in a bid to defend their history.
``Most of those (people) are in uniform, and some are corrupt and some are probably war criminals,'' he said, adding it would be up to a war crimes investigation to decide if there was sufficient evidence to find senior government and military officials guilty.
``Others like President Gus Dur and most of his government -- the human rights activist who is now attorney-general -- these people are trying to move forward.''
Marzuki Darusman, who formerly headed Indonesia's human rights commission, was appointed attorney-general in the country's new cabinet.
Holbrooke said Indonesia's response to the problems of the camps would be an indicator of which way the country was moving.
``Indonesia's future hangs in the balance...it is right at a crossroads, and it is all symbolized to me -- even in this vast country of 200 million people -- it is symbolized in the struggle for the future of this camp.''
Holbrooke said changes in the military would be crucial.
``If this camp is still here in four to six weeks, you will know that the wrong people are still controlling events in the military in Indonesia.''
Holbrooke, visibly angered by what he had seen in the camps and the evident fear of the refugees he tried to talk to, compared the militias to the Kamar Rouge in Cambodia.
``We are not happy with what we are seeing here at all, it is at sharp variance with the statements of the Indonesian military.''
Holbrooke said that he wanted to see the camps cleared, with those who wanted to go back being allowed to do so and those who wanted to stay being integrated into Indonesian society.
MILITARY PROMISES IMPROVEMENT
``Camps like this must be closed down fast, they shouldn't exist and money should be spent on resettlement, not turning camps like this into an Indonesian version of the camps in Gaza,'' Holbrooke said.
He said senior Indonesian generals accompanying him had given assurances that the situation would improve.
``I don't know what the assurances of the Indonesian military are worth given their record over the last few months and years, but they have told us they understand the problem now in a way they hadn't before, that they are going to take action based on this trip,'' he said.
Holbrooke returns to the United States on Tuesday.
Around 250,000 East Timorese fled or were forcibly taken to West Timor during a campaign of violence in September following the territory's overwhelming vote for independence. Many remain in refugee camps in West Timor, where intimidation by pro-Jakarta militiamen is common, the U.N. says.
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