|Subject: RT: ANALYSIS-Indonesia army may want
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:28:49 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
ANALYSIS-Indonesia army may want E.Timor partition 07:28 a.m. Apr 20, 1999 Eastern
By Paul Tait
SYDNEY, April 20 (Reuters) - Bloody unrest in East Timor is a sign the Indonesian military feels duty-bound to retain the territory, even if that means partitioning it, regional analysts said.
The armed forces are said to be unwilling to abandon Jakarta loyalists in the territory, which is widely expected to take a step towards independence in a U.N. ballot on self-rule in July.
The armed forces, or ABRI, have been struggling with escalating violence in the territory since Indonesia pledged to allow it to vote on either greater autonomy or independence.
Many political analysts say ABRI troops, sent to maintain order, actually orchestrate or encourage violence by groups that support Indonesian rule over the territory.
One analyst said on Tuesday he believed the armed forces wanted to create a buffer zone in a partitioned East Timor as they tried to head off calls for independence.
With national elections looming on June 7 and ethnic, religious and economic tensions growing through provinces from Aceh to Ambon, West Kalimantan and Irian Jaya, analysts said the armed forces feared an independence precedent in East Timor.
``(ABRI) would be well aware of the growing conservative backlash in the political establishment, including the political opposition parties, fearing disintegration,'' Southeast Asian analyst Gerry van Klinken told Reuters.
``There is another possibility, that... they would like to either make sure the new (East Timor) republic is weakened or possibly think of partitioning it,'' said van Klinken, editor of the respected Australia-based magazine Inside Indonesia.
Some analysts argue the armed forces are desperately trying to retain East Timor, but others say they feel obliged to remain to protect loyalists in the impoverished territory which receives 90 percent of its budget from Jakarta.
``What is happening there is chaos,'' independent military analyst Salim Said told Reuters by telephone from Jakarta.
``I can assure you that (the armed forces) are now very eager to get out of East Timor as soon as possible,'' he said.
``We are in a dilemma now, we cannot simply abandon East Timor by saying we benefit nothing out of East Timor, because there are people there who genuinely decided to be Indonesian citizens.''
Salim agreed East Timor would set a destabilising precedent if it were granted independence but said Jakarta could not simply abandon Indonesian loyalists in East Timor.
Violence has escalated in East Timor since President B.J. Habibie in January reversed 23 years of often bloody Indonesian opposition to its freedom and said he could grant independence to the territory if it rejected an offer of autonomy.
Analysts disagree over whether foot soldiers in East Timor, and the pro-Jakarta militias they back, are out of control.
Fighting appeared to spin out of control on Saturday when gangs of pro-Jakarta militias rampaged through the streets of East Timor's capital, Dili, killing up to 30 people.
Sydney Morning Herald Asia editor David Jenkins wrote on Tuesday in an article headed ``Frankenstein monster that is out of control'' that evidence was mounting of the military's complicity.
The paper's foreign editor, Hamish McDonald, argued that the timing of Saturday's rampage was important because it came days before the resumption of the Portugal-Indonesia autonomy talks.
If ABRI were able to poison those talks in New York on Thursday, it could see Portugal withdraw and Indonesia alone determine East Timor's fate.
Van Klinken agreed, saying senior East Timor politicians and top military officials were talking openly about partition.
``The eastern half would then become independent and the western half would stay with Indonesia and the border would be re-drawn,'' van Klinken said. ``From their point of view it might help to create a kind of southern Lebanon-style buffer zone.''