Subject: Timor Leste Seeks Military Ties with RI

The Jakarta Post Thursday, February 23, 2006

Timor Leste Seeks Military Ties with RI

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Dili

Timor Leste wants to normalize military relations with Indonesia, despite unresolved human rights cases involving Indonesian soldiers during the country's occupation.

"Let bygones be bygones and let's start cooperation in defense," Timor Leste military chief Matan Ruak said during a meeting with members of the bilateral Commission of Truth and Friendship in Dili.

Ruak said Timor Leste's 1,400-strong armed forces had already started military cooperation with the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia and Portugal.

A guerrilla leader during the Indonesian occupation, Ruak said he had visited Indonesia in 2002 and discussed a cooperation agreement with Indonesian Military chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto. However, the idea had never borne fruit, he said.

"I hope the new military chief (Air Marshall Djoko Suyanto) can make this possible," he said.

The commission, established in August last year by Indonesia and Timor-Leste, met with Ruak as part of its investigation into alleged human rights abuses involving Indonesian troops at the time of the former province's 1999 UN-sanctioned ballot for independence.

Commission members have begun a week-long preliminary investigation into the actions of several former and serving top-ranking Indonesian military officers, including former Armed Forces chief Gen. Wiranto and former Armed Force's intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Zaki Anwar Makarim.

"Yes, members of parliament have asked me if a relationship with the Indonesian military was necessary in view of the past bitterness (between the two countries). But no one is as sure as I am that Indonesia and Timor-Leste can support joint military cooperation," Ruak said.

The commission was established by Indonesia and East Timor after the Indonesian Human Rights Tribunal acquitted all military and police officers of any wrongdoing in the violence that followed the 1999 referendum. United Nation's investigators had criticized the trials and had threatened to take the case to the International Court on Human Rights.

The new commission has no authority to retry the generals. suspects, but it can propose amnesties for them.

During Tuesday's meeting, Timor Leste Defense Minister Roque Rodriguez also voiced support for bilateral military ties.

He also asked the commission "to disclose the truth behind the 1999 rights abuses in Timor Leste."

Earlier on Tuesday, commission members also visited Liquica, about 30-kilometers south of the capital Dili to collect information from witnesses of an April 1999 massacre inside a church, which was allegedly perpetrated by Indonesian soldiers and members of a feared pro-Jakarta militia, Besi Merah Putih.

Several witnesses told commission members that Indonesian security officers came in trucks and ordered the militia to attack the church, where dozens of refugees, mostly women and children, were sheltering.

Joyo Indonesia News Service

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