Subject: TNI members 'ready to die with the PPI'

Members of TNI pledge to join pro-integration movement Summary of a lengthy article in the periodical, GAMMA

[By giving their blessing to hundreds of members of battalions 744 and 745 to join the militia thugs, two senior serving TNI generals have shown that forces within the army and the armed forces are publicly throwing their weight behind efforts to destabilise East Timor. As Udayana commander, Damiri is responsible for West Timor. His TNI cohort, Endriantono Sutarto, has a position right at the top of the armed forces. There must be pressure on Jakarta to bring an end to such open moves to destabilise East Timor. Unless this is halted, TNI provocations along the border between West and East Timor are set to continue.]

GAMMA, 10 October 1999: Five hundred members of TNI battalions who are East Timorese met last Wednesday to pledge their loyalty to the pro-integration struggle by joining the PPI, the Force to Struggle for Integration, in a ceremony attended by Udayana military commander, Major-General Adam Damiri.

'I naturally welcome your dedication,' said Adam, 'but not as members of the TNI.'

Adam Damiri's comment gave encouragement to many soldiers to join the pro-integration struggle. Moved by the spontaneity of their feelings, Adam told each of the soldiers as he greeted them one by one that those who wished to retire from the army and return to East Timor should do so. 'There's plenty of fertile land there,' he said.

There is a clear trend for members of battalions 744 and 745 to join forces with the PPI. The threat of warfare posed by Interfet which is now hunting down the pro-integration militia has not dimmed their determination. 'We are ready to die,' one of them told GAMMA.

They complained that the international community was ignoring the wishes of the 20 per cent of East Timorese to remain a part of Indonesia. The number would certainly have been greater, had Unamet not rigged the ballot, they said.

Another senior TNI officer who was on hand to encourage the TNI soldiers was Major-General Endriantono Sutarto, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations at the Armed Forces. He said the members of the two battalions 744 and 745 were welcome to discard their uniforms. It was their right, he said, to take on other work, including becoming members of the militia. He said he did not know how many TNI members and police were opting to join the militia. He said that since the announcement of the result of the ballot, many TNI members had asked to be allowed to join forces with the PPI. But he also admitted that some had chosen to join forces with the pro-independence group.

He denied claims that the TNI had armed the militia. He said he was inclined to encourage them to pursue a political struggle rather than a physical struggle after having fought against Falintil for years. If they opted for a physical struggle, this could destabilise things in East Timor. But speaking as a TNI officer, it was not for him to forbid them from doing so.

According to PPI commander Joao Tavaras, 6,000 former members of the TNI and 600 members of the polce force have now joined the PPI, having discarded their TNI uniforms. These former TNI and police members would become the spearhead of the guerilla movement against Falintil and were ready to take up arms against Interfet, he said. Besides these former soldiers, he said that people were volunteering to join the PPI from other parts of Indonesia.

He said that the PPI now had a force of 59,500 men. most of whom are concentrated in NTT. Some 12,000 of us, he said, are intending to return to Atabe, Bobonaro. 'If Falintil tries to prevent us, we will give a fitting response.' He said that the remainder would slip back into all the thirteen districts of East Timor.


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