|Subject: Outside backing has militia primed [Prabowo
Date: Sat, 02 Oct 1999 08:12:55 -0400
The Australian 25 September 99
Outside backing has militia primed
Fears are rising that elements of the Indonesian military may not be prepared to just walk away, writes BOB LOWRY, visiting fellow at the Australian Defence Studies Centre, ADFA
SUSPICIONS are growing that preparations are under way for an externally funded and organised militia insurgency in East Timor.
It is unlikely such a campaign is motivated by illusions about reclaiming East Timor for Indonesia.
More plausible reasons are: first, straightforward revenge for the humiliation the Indonesian army has suffered. This would be a continuation of the post-ballot campaign of wanton killing and destruction inflicted on the East Timorese.
Second, to maintain the myth of civil war, thus diverting attention from the army leadership's strategic folly and its culpability in crimes against humanity.
Third, helping former comrades carve out a quasi-independent homeland in the western districts.
Lastly, ensuring East Timor remains poor and war-ravaged so it does not become a beacon for other provinces seeking independence.
The insurgents could be funded by the army, either directly or indirectly; by disaffected former army officers with access to funds from patrons, overseas sympathisers or criminal activity; or by the militias preying on the people on either side of the border.
The army has strong reasons for maintaining the insurgency, and there have been unconfirmed reports of preparation of such forces by Indonesia's Kopassus special forces.
An externally supported insurgency could not be attributed to rogue elements in the army because of the level of support such operations would need. For example, training camps would be needed and supplies of food, clothing, communications, arms and ammunition would have to be shipped to the border or to nearby islands for infiltration to East Timor.
None of this could be done without extensive support. If rogue elements can operate without the knowledge of army commander General Wiranto, it would indicate he is grossly incompetent and unworthy of his job.
Unconfirmed sightings in Kupang of General Prabowo, former special forces commander and son-in-law of former President Suharto, have raised speculation that he or other retired officers might be funding and organising a cross-border insurgency.
But whether it is Prabowo or other retired officers, it would be impossible for such freelance rebels to operate without being detected by Indonesia's military intelligence.
It is conceivable the militias will set up their own cross-border operations, but funding would be difficult to acquire. The refugee camps, whether in West Timor or nearby islands, could provide convenient bases and resources. If the militia can force aid agencies to channel aid through them and prevent the repatriation or onward movement of the refugees they would have access to resources that could be used to support an insurgency.
None of these options could develop without the direct involvement or the complicity of the army, so what options are available to the UN to counter such a campaign?
The UN Security Council would not approve military action in Indonesia itself, but international pressure could be brought to bear by other means to dissuade the army from such action and to encourage it to take action against any insurgent forces operating from its territory.
The UN might also choose to go slow on securing the western districts of East Timor, hoping a new government in Jakarta might be able to subordinate the military, replace its senior commanders and direct the new commanders to fulfil the Government's obligations to the UN and the international community.
If, however, the new administration in Jakarta does not have the desire or capacity to subordinate the military, international pressure will have to stepped up and forces on the ground in East Timor strengthened, possibly including the formation of East Timorese units.
The UN cannot allow the generals to run this campaign on their terms. It is important that the international community is not lulled into a false sense of security by the apparent co-operation in Dili during the past week between the Indonesian martial law commander, Kiki Sayhnakri, and UN Force commander Peter Cosgrove. There is no room for complacency.
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