Subject: SMH: Army's dirty tricks brigade unleashed in fight for Timor
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 16:51:37 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Sydney Morning Herald Thursday, July 8, 1999

Army's dirty tricks brigade unleashed in fight for Timor


It is Sunday afternoon in Jakarta and a colleague of Xanana Gusmao is sitting in a deserted hotel lounge discussing political developments in East Timor.

As she outlines the hopes and plans of the pro-independence movement, a solidly built Indonesian in jeans and a checked shirt appears out of nowhere and slips onto a couch beside us.

He remains silent but manages, in his silence, to convey an air of surliness and faint menace.

The man is a stranger but his actions are so brazen that I assume, incorrectly, that he must be a friend of my guest. She assumes he is a friend of mine. After an exchange of glances we realise our mistake and ask what he wants.

"I am waiting for someone," he announces in an offhand way, making no attempt to sound convincing.

"Every other seat is empty," I point out. "Perhaps you would like to wait in one of them."

"Is this a secret conversation?" he demands.

"No," says my guest, "it is a private conversation."

The man grunts and moves away. When I return to my room everything has been rearranged, the first time in six weeks that anyone in the hotel has felt the need to tidy up my piles of papers and notebooks.

The behaviour of the man in jeans falls within a pattern of intimidation much favoured by the Indonesian intel apparatus, an agency of government with an unsavoury reputation and a habit of doing pretty much as it pleases.

Fourteen months into the era of "reformasi", Indonesia's army and civilian intel operatives are as active as ever - burly, surly and dangerous to know, especially when it comes to East Timor. They are the eyes and ears of an army that has singularly failed in its efforts to subdue that long-suffering territory but which is damned if it is going to see East Timor withdraw from the republic.

And never, as the army sees it, have the intel men been more necessary.

Indonesia's President, Dr B.J. Habibie, has agreed to a UN-supervised ballot at which the people of East Timor will be given the opportunity late next month to vote for either independence or some kind of autonomy within Indonesia.

Senior army officers, infuriated at this gesture by their civilian commander-in-chief and having no confidence that the East Timorese will vote to stay with a nation that has treated them so brutally, are working to have the vote called off or, if that is not possible, to ensure that it goes the right way.

To this end, the army has been providing training and logistics backing for a crop of pro-Indonesian militia groups which sprang up mysteriously after Dr Habibie announced his decision to call a vote.

The militias are made up largely of the flotsam and jetsam of East Timorese society - poorly educated men who in many cases have been press-ganged into service at the behest of the army.

At first, these groups concentrated on their East Timorese opponents. Recently, they have turned their attention to the UN itself, wrecking a UN office in Maliana, attacking an aid convoy which included two UN vehicles.

Indonesia has said it deplores and is "seriously concerned" over the attack on the convoy, which took place in the Liquica district west of Dili.

But, as in the past, Indonesian Army and police officers always seem to be standing by, arms folded.

No-one has any doubt these days that the militia gangs are backed by the Indonesian Army (TNI).

And the body which has the job of managing the militias, many observers believe, is Kopassus, the crack special forces unit which had been training regularly with US and Australian forces until their behaviour became too much of an embarrassment for their foreign friends - first Washington and then, some years later, Canberra.

Kopassus has had an unbroken connection with East Timor stretching back nearly a quarter of a century.

It was Kopassus (then known as Kopassandha) which conducted the clandestine 1975 cross-border operations that were designed to sow fear and discord in the Portuguese colony, creating the very unrest that Indonesia would later use as a justification for intervention.

In the years after December 1975, when Kopassus spearheaded the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, red beret troops were never far from the action.

They led special operations against Fretilin guerillas. They ran their own intelligence unit, suborning East Timorese with money and preferment, "turning" Fretilin captives in much the same way the Dutch "turned" Indonesian independence fighters in the 1945-49 war of independence, offering them rewards, threatening their families.

It was Kopassus which ran black operations in East Timor. It was Kopassus which trained the East Timorese "Ninja" gangs which brought terror to the streets of Dili and other towns.

Today, Kopassus is as active as ever in East Timor.

The military officer with immediate responsibility for the province is Colonel Tono Suratman, a Kopassus officer who heads the local Korem (military district) command.

The chief of staff of Kodam IX, the Bali-based Udayana military region, which has command over East Timor, is Brigadier General Mahidin Simbolon, a Kopassus officer with many years' experience in East Timor, where he is widely feared.

Major-General Zacky Anwar, the former chief of BIA, the armed forces intelligence body, is a Kopassus man who has been appointed, to the surprise of many, as liaison officer to the UN.

Another officer at the centre of the present East Timor operation is ieutenant-Colonel Wioyotomo Nugroho, the Kopassus intelligence chief.

"This guy [Nugroho] has been setting it up," says a source in Jakarta. "Zacky Awar is the point man for the whole thing."

Many of these army officers attended courses in the US under the now-suspended International Military Education and Training program.

And the tactics being pursued in East Timor, some analysts claim, bear a more than passing resemblance to those pursued during the CIA's Phoenix program in South Vietnam, which involved the targeting and murder of Viet Cong leaders.

They also have more than a little in common, these sources maintain, with the tactics employed by the Contras, the CIA-backed rebels who fought during the 1980s to overthrow the Marxist-oriented Sandinista Government of Nicaragua.

"In East Timor," notes a well-placed source in Jakarta, "they are not simply going after the most radical pro-independence people but going after the moderates, the people who have influence in their community.

"It's psy-war. You remove not only your opponents but the people who provide leadership in that community. It's Phoenix.

"In [one of the early attacks in] Viqueque they targeted an aide to the bupati [regent], a member of the DPRD [local parliament] and an engineer. There were four missing and two dead."

In short, says this source, the aim is to "terrorise everyone" - the NGOs, the [Red Cross], the UN, the journalists."

During their campaign the militias have been most active in Dili and in the five kabupaten (districts) in the western part of the territory.

If those regions were to come out in favour of Indonesia while the remaining regions opted for independence, one diplomat suggests, it would set the stage for partition, creating an unviable territory in the east of East Timor and defeating the consultation process.

"If they go with the partition argument," says this source, "then everything collapses."

Having acknowledged that it served as the often brutal enforcer of the Soeharto Government, the TNI is claiming to have turned over a new leaf. Its behaviour suggests otherwise.

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