|Subject: SMH: Habibie govt's credibility in tatters
unless militia stopped
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:20:11 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo:
Sydney Morning Herald Monday, April 19, 1999
Habibie must act to curb militias
By LINDSAY MURDOCH
The ultimate responsibility for the killings in East Timor lies with the President, Dr B.J. Habibie. If he is to have any credibility going into national elections in June, he must immediately order his armed forces to stop allowing the militia groups to wage acampaign of terror against pro-independence supporters.
Dr Habibie's offer to give Timorese a vote on autonomy in July appears sincere. So, too, does his promise to allow East Timor to break away from Indonesia and become independent if the East Timorese reject the autonomy package that will be revealed this week in United Nations-brokered talks held in New York.
But there is now overwhelming evidence that Indonesia's armed forces are supporting and even encouraging the militiamen to attack, kill and maim people who want East Timor to become independent.
Two weeks ago when militia thugs attacked a church and a priest's house at Liquica, west of Dili, diplomats and observers gave the armed forces commander, General Wiranto, the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it was only rogue elements of his armed forces who stood by and watched the killings, they said.
But when his troops openly encouraged the killings in Dili at the weekend, the tide of opinion swung against him. Claims by General Wiranto's spokesmen that supporters of the Timorese leader, Xanana Gusmao, were responsible for the violence have been shown to be untrue.
Unfortunately for the armed forces, too many independent observers in Dili saw Indonesian police and military providing transport and even food and water to the militia as they went on their killing spree. General Wiranto has no excuses now.
The credibility of Dr Habibie's Government will be in tatters if he does not, or cannot, order the armed forces to disband the monster they created. The weekend attacks have sent pro-independence leaders underground after months of excited anticipation of a vote that could result in East Timor becoming independent, ending 23 years of repression.
When the independence movement recovers from the shock of the killings and regroups it will almost certainly plan revenge attacks, plunging the territory into a vicious cycle of violence.
Only swift and tough action by Dr Habibie can stop it.