Subject: Militia criticism draws minister to East Timor
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 16:57:17 -0400
From: "East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign" <>

IRISH TIMES, Saturday July 11, 1999,


By David Shanks

In view of international criticism of army-backed militia violence, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Ali Alatas, will lead a team of ministers to East Timor next week for a one-day visit.

Reports have for weeks presented a picture of a reign of terror by the anti-independence militias, who have several times attacked UN staff supervising arrangements for a referendum that could lead to independence. The vote is expected to be postponed for a second time.

Up to 100,000 people have reportedly been displaced by militias, making it impossible to register them for voting. Registration is due to begin next Tuesday, according to Sgt John Divilly of the Garda Síochána, which has 10 officers in the 280-strong unarmed "civ pol" election police.

Meanwhile, Indonesian diplomacy sought this week to give reassurance of President B.J. Habibie's sincerity regarding an obligation to provide security for a free and fair referendum.

An Australian newspaper report on Thursday, however, said a group of Mr Habibie's ministers is covertly sabotaging the President's January 27th promise toallow East Timor have independence. The Australian Financial Review reported that Australia and the US have intelligence proving that the high command of the Indonesian army and "a group of Indonesian cabinet ministers were complicit in violence racking East Timor".

Although the paper did not name them, Tapol, the Indonesian Human Rights Association based in London, said the army chief, Gen Wiranto, "maybe Mr Alatas because he is so devious", the Home Affairs Minister, Mr Faisal Tanjug (one of the delegation due to visit Timor), and most former generals could be included in the group. Conspiracy theories abound and these allegations could not be confirmed.

The visiting ministers are likely to meet Col Tono Suratman, the military commander whose support for the pro-integration terrorists has been obvious.

Recent documentaries on Australia TV make clear that many militia members have been forced to join at gunpoint or because of death threats to their families. Reports also suggest that in several areas only integrationists feel safe enough to campaign. The UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mrs Mary Robinson, this week joined protests, including one from the US State Department, against militia attacks on the UNAMET mission, saying the violence aimed to deny the right to self-determination.

Mr Brent Preston, director of the Carter Centre, said "the continued presence of the Indonesian military throughout the territory" was a matter for concern, since the UN agreement between Indonesia and Portugal "called for the military to be pulled out or confined to barracks in the run-up to the ballot".

Reflecting an obvious feeling of impunity was a recent statement by Mr Eurico Guterres, the best known militia leader. He warned that something might happen to the UNAMET spokesman in East Timor, Mr David Wimhurst, if he did not get out. "I hate David Wimhurst," Mr Guterres said. "I want him to go away immediately, otherwise I don't know what will happen to him."

The US Assistant Secretary of State, Mr Stanley Roth, is on his way to Jakarta for talks. But there was no hint that Washington is about to apply the muscle of sanctions to press for a fair voting atmosphere or to back sending armed UN peacekeepers, like Kfor in Kosovo. Indonesia's rejection of this has been respected.

However, a unanimous Senate vote on June 30th, calling on the Clinton administration to link performance on next month's Timorese referendum to "any loan or financial assistance to Indonesia", is a sign that pressure is growing on the White House to take an old Cold War friend to task.

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