Subject: BBC: Indonesia's struggle to move on; Military has not learnt lessons of E. Timor

Also: Military has not learnt lessons of E. Timor

British Broadcasting Corporation April 12, 2002

Indonesia's struggle to move on

Photo: Indonesia's shadowy links to the militias are on trial

By Bill Guerin in Jakarta

Nearly three years after the referendum which set in train East Timor's independence, Indonesia finds itself back where it started - friendless over the issue and still reaping painful consequences, including international criticism of its human rights record.

Now, with East Timor about to draw a line under a dark and bloody past, Indonesians are asking if their country can do the same.

There has been little coverage of East Timor's presidential election in Jakarta's media, and the country is also likely to downplay the significance of independence for its former province.

Partly this is because ordinary Indonesians had little idea of the reality in East Timor.

They are still trying to come to terms with the brutality and injustice perpetrated while the Indonesian military was in control.

Now that the truth is clearer, many Indonesians would prefer to ignore what happened and move on.

Kristanto Hartadi, editor of the conservative Sinar Harapan daily newspaper, said: "Many of us now see the East Timor issue as just one less headache to cope with."

Endy Bayuni, deputy chief editor of the Jakarta Post, said East Timor was a mistake which most Indonesians would now rather forget.

"Indonesia simply failed to win the hearts and minds of the East Timorese," he said.

Among politicians and the military, for whom the loss of East Timor remains painful, it will not be so easy.

A powerful House of Representatives foreign relations commission is pressing President Megawati Sukarnoputri to stay away from East Timor's 20 May independence celebrations.

Ibrahim Ambong, head of the commission, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "So many Indonesian heroes died in East Timor while fighting for the unity of the people and the land, but the people decided to separate themselves from Indonesia anyway."

Army view

The army and many politicians blame then-President BJ Habibie for the loss of East Timor.

It was Mr Habibie's offer of a referendum which led to an overwhelming majority of East Timorese plumping for independence, much to the shock of Indonesia's government and military.

Photo: Critics say General Wiranto should be on trial

Analysts believe the military feels Mr Habibie caused them to lose a swath of their empire, and made it very difficult for them to claim only they could hold Indonesia's diverse regions together.

The ensuing backlash and bloody rampage by pro-Indonesian militias, when more than 1,000 East Timorese were murdered, shocked the world with its savagery and is still reverberating.

President Megawati's administration, which came to power with the backing of the military, remains under the international spotlight because of it.

A landmark human rights trial is underway in Jakarta, where 18 government officials and members of the security forces are standing trial for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor in 1999.

Among them are three generals, the former provincial governor and leaders of the militia gangs, widely believed to have been responsible for much of the violence.

But conspicuously absent from the list is General Wiranto, the armed forces chief at the time East Timor voted for independence.

That absence, and the military's attitude towards the trial, have dampened expectations that justice will be seen to be done.

Unless it is, East Timor could haunt Indonesia for a long time to come.

The Straits Times April 13, 2002


Military has not learnt lessons of E. Timor


JAKARTA - Tomorrow, East Timor votes for its first president, taking its final steps towards independence.

It is a process that many in the Indonesian elite would probably rather forget but, of course, cannot.

Two years after an overwhelming majority voted for independence, many Indonesians maintain the fiction that a majority opposed it.

This is part of a cynical attempt by the military to free itself of blame for human rights violations. The performance is primarily for domestic consumption.

Beyond this, the military and much of the political elite have not admitted how and why East Timor chose to be independent of Indonesia.

Although the military has blamed then-President B.J. Habibie for allowing a referendum, in fact, the only Cabinet member opposed to it in early 1999 was former foreign minister Ali Alatas.

Recent evidence shows the military was confident it could easily 'persuade' the Timorese not to vote for autonomy.

According to Australian intelligence, when Indonesian military leader Zacky Anwar Makarim was told that almost 80 per cent of Timorese had voted for independence, he was incredulous.

However, two years on, the Indonesian military has learnt little from the Timor experience, say analysts.

In Aceh, it still believes military operations will ensure that the troubled province remains part of Indonesia.

As in Timor, it has failed to see a link between the failure of the military to punish those guilty of abuses, and support for independence or autonomy.

There are progressive military figures, like the army deputy chief of staff, General Kiki Syanakri, who admits wiping out the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) is impossible. He understands the importance of political negotiations.

But there are also signs that the military still believes its own propaganda.

And while there have been moves to introduce concepts of human rights into military and police training, observers say little has changed on the ground.

Perhaps the biggest lesson learnt from Timor was that Jakarta should never underestimate the dissatisfaction of Indonesia's outer regions.

Now, there is no way Jakarta will allow Aceh or West Papua to hold referenda. But the vote in Timor and the reaction of the people in Aceh and West Papua have made Jakarta realise it has to offer more than just rhetoric.

The Timor experience added urgency to implementing autonomy for both Aceh and West Papua.

West Papua's autonomy law is reasonably far-reaching. It is less so in Aceh. The Acehnese will be unable to elect politicians directly for five years.

And the government's introduction of syariah law in Aceh, an acknowledgement of the province's character, is being met with suspicion and confusion.

Few Acehnese know how the law will be implemented. Even fewer have been consulted about it.

West Papua has a far more generous autonomy law, which involves traditional leaders in some government decision-making processes.

But winning over Papuans, nearly all of whom support independence and who are ethnically, culturally and religiously different, could be harder.

Even if Jakarta understands the need to give Papuans control over their regional administration, is the chaotic and inefficient central government capable of delivering on its promises?

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