Subject: JP: TNI Pooh-Poohs E. Timor War Games Fears

The Jakarta Post Saturday, January 17, 2004

TNI Pooh-Poohs East Timor War Games Fears

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

A senior Navy officer denied on Friday that a military exercise, held recently on Batek island that borders East Timor, was a display of military might aimed at instilling fear in the neighboring country.

Lt. Col. Sutrisno Sandy, the commander of Naval Base III in East Nusa Tenggara, asserted that Batek island was part of Indonesia and not a disputed island, therefore Indonesia had the right to conduct a military exercise in the area.

"Why can't we hold a training exercise on an island which is rightfully ours. I think the remarks of East Timor's foreign minister are very disturbing," he told The Jakarta Post.

The military officer was commenting on a remark by Ramos Horta, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of East Timor, reported in the media, which questioned the military exercise held on Batek island at the end of last year.

Sutrisno, in response said that East Timor residents should not worry about the military exercise, as no heavy weapons, heavy artillery or fighter planes were used.

The military personnel only practiced individual shooting and dynamite blasting, he said. Indeed, the military personnel flew a Cassa airplane, but it was merely used for aerial photography, he added.

"There was no large-scale deployment of heavy combat machinery or bombardment to intimidate any parties," he said, adding that Indonesia, the giant East Timor neighbor, no longer had territorial ambitions in East Timor.

He further lambasted the statement by Ramos Horta, saying that the statement came from an exaggerated fear, and it was merely aimed at winning international support against the Indonesian Military (TNI).

East Timor separated from Indonesia after a popular ballot in 1999. The popular ballot ended more than 20 years of Indonesian occupation in East Timor.

Separately, commander of the Wirasakti 161 Military Command overseeing East Nusa Tenggara, Col. Moeswarno Moesanip, said that the protest was evidence that East Timor felt overly insecure considering that the United Nations troops may be pulled out of the country in May.

He reiterated that East Timor should not be suspicious about the military exercise held on Batek island. Military exercises had been held on the island for a long time, he stressed, therefore it was just a routine exercise.

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