Subject: A truth commission for East Timor - but who planned the 1999-mayhem?

--- In, From Aboeprijadi Santoso <tossi20@y...>

-- Author's note:

The tsunami disaster not only shifted the attention of the international community from Darfur and Congo, but also from violence in East Timor in 1999 just as the UN raised this issue. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration wanted to bury the issue once and for all by initiating a joint Indonesia-East Timor truth commission to examine the events. Neither the government in Dili (although President Xanana Gusmao formally agreed) nor the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan seem enthusiastic about Jakarta's initiative. The UN wants to pursue its own plan - which Jakarta has rejected - to form an expert commission to examine the ways both Jakarta and Deli justice authorities handled the case. Annan was reportedly about to take up the issue when the tsunami disaster happened. The following article was written just before the tsunami stroked and hasn't been published before.


A truth commission for East Timor - but who planned the 1999-mayhem?

By Aboeprijadi Santoso

Indonesia has asked East Timor to form a joint-commission of truth and friendship to resolve the issue of the violence around the United Nations held vote in East Timor in 1999. With 1500 deaths, a capital destroyed, hundreds of thousands deported by force, and 17 of only 18 defendants acquitted, the crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Army and its proxies, have apparently come full circle and the impunity is complete. But who's responsible for the mayhem?

At the last celebration in Dili of Indonesia's Independence Day, August 17, 1999, just two weeks before the UN plebiscite, Governor Jose Abilio Osorio Soares proudly announced before UN diplomats and community leaders that East Timor will continue to celebrate the day because he believed the country will be united in her choice for a special autonomy, thus remaining part of Indonesia. As he spoke, though, violence swept over the country, and in the hall, this writer recalls, some civil servants whispered to each other with a sense of disbelieve. They were right: a few weeks later, the majority of the people voted for independence.

Yet the Governor knew better. Abilio must have been aware about local anxieties and the upcoming danger i.e. what the soldiers and militia would do when the defeat eventually comes - "the morning after (the vote)" problem had by then become international concerns. Pro-Jakarta militia leaders claimed his administration authorized them to guard the main roads and ports soon after the vote - indicating that, far from rogue elements fighting in a "civil war", the violence involved some planning.

When Abilio was finally acquitted by the court, law experts warned, the verdict may endanger Indonesia's position in the international community as the trials have been widely seen as a sham to avert an international tribunal. Indeed, gen. Wiranto's adviser, Muladi, welcomed it as a step to remove international criticism that only the militaries were freed, while Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda regretted it, saying it will "erode the credibility of the rights tribunal".

In other words, rather than reflecting on the injustice inflicted on the victims, Jakarta is concerned about the image of the military and the rights trials - the two institutions most responsible for the impunity, whose credibility are thus at stake.

A negative, possibly devastating judgment may be expected if the Expert Commission initiated by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan - instead of Jakarta's proposed truth commission - is allowed to probe the way Jakarta handled the case.

One expert who witnessed and researched the case is Professor Geoffrey Robinson of University of California. The Canadian Indonesia-specialist was a political adviser of UNAMET which organized East Timor's referendum. His report to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, "East Timor 1999, Crimes against Humanity" (July 2003) has been suppressed for years, but will be published soon.

"In both 1965 (leftwing massacres) and 1999 (E. Timor)," Robinson told Radio Netherlands recently, "the Army were directly involved in organizing the killings. People talked of the 1999 case as if it's just the work of some rogue elements, but it's clear that the Army was involved in mobilizing their own soldiers to take part in the crimes. The 1999 case was in front of the international community, that's a big difference ..."

"One reason why (Army's) efforts failed and resulted ultimately, although it's much too late, in the international community intervening with military force in September, was that the military thought on the basis of past experience they could do everything (and) organize this violence without anybody noticed. In fact, they were very surprised and confused that so many international, NGO's and UN observers and journalists were there. It made it very difficult, but they used the approach of mobilizing the militias. (This) they thought was a good tactic because they could say these are not soldiers, they're just ordinary people fighting for their belief, and we try to control them, but we can't".

It's not easy, however, to explain how the massacres, rampage and rapes were organized. Robinson: "What I think happened was that several TNI (Indonesian military) and other officers in Jakarta spelled out a general strategy to mobilize the militias and to use terror and violence in order to intimidate people and to punish them. And within that strategy as you went down the command, there were more specific ideas about what to do. So, yes, there was planning at some level of general strategy, but it doesn't mean that a particular individual planned a particular massacre. There is no smoking gun . but the links between the formal Army commands and the militias are well documented."

"That doesn't change the level of responsibility," Robinson insisted. For "the line of responsibility is only partly informal and some of the formal lines of command were still operating. Probably (the special corps) Kopassus had a separate, parallel command, controlling certain activities separately from the formal territorial lines of command". This conclusion is parallel to UN investigator James Dunn's report of Feb. 2001.

Mass murderers liked to ensure and measure their success. Hitler did it at a special conference in Wansee, Berlin, and the Khmer Rouge kept lists of victims in meticulous details.

Not so in Timor case. But there were documents of a contingency plan to transport people, which according to Dili's Yayasan Hak suggests a preceding scorched-earth plan. This was the directives from the office of the Coordinating Ministry of Politics and Security Affairs for the Army and Police district commanders in Dili.

All these point to the use of the Army structure, in addition to informal networks, to operate the militia. Examples abound - like attacks on church in Liquisa, Suai and on Carrascalao's house.

The planning apparently involved the TNI headquarter, the strategic corps Kostrad, the Kopassus and the military intelligence agency BAIS, but also key members of President B.J. Habibie's cabinet. One was the defense minister and TNI chief gen. Wiranto, who let his soldiers and the militia did what they did - a very serious omission. But at a higher level the coordinating minister gen. ret. Feisal Tanjung played a key role as he chaired a team, called by its Indonesian acronym TP4OKTT, which included ministers of home and foreign affairs, of defense, justice and the BAIS chief. According to Robinson, it is this group, who drew the general strategy.

The Indonesia-East Timor Truth Commission has yet to spell out its aim and modus operandi. However, being a truth commission, it will have, if any, a limited judicial power. To resolve the issue, a truly credible court - a hybrid or international tribunal - should precede such commission, check the above findings, and let justice take its course.

The writer is a journalist with Radio Netherlands, Amsterdam.

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