East Timor

General Lumintang Trained by the U.S.
by Allan Nairn

March 28, 2000

Months after helping to design and implement a campaign of violence against East Timor, Indonesian General Johny Lumintang is in the United States.

Lumintang, who last summer issued a secret Red Beret (Kopassus) terror manual, is a US trainee who has long been favored by Washington policy makers.

In 1989 Lumintang was brought to the United States for an International Defense Management course under the Pentagon's IMET (International Military Education and Training) program (Lumintang was IMET student #23294). In following years Lumintang assumed command of two military campaigns -- occupied East Timor and West Papua [Irian Jaya] -- based on the systematic torture, killing, and abduction of civilians.

Under Lumintang's command in West Papua (1996), Kopassus massacred civilians after descending from a helicopter illegally painted with international Red Cross markings.

In May of 1998 Lumintang shared command of "security" in Jakarta during anti-Chinese riots that -- according to diplomats and human rights groups -- the army itself helped to organize.

On June 30, 1999 Lumintang personally authorized and signed a secret Kopassus covert action manual ("Buku Petunjuk Pembinaan Sandhi Yudha") that calls for preparing Kopassus forces in the "tactic and technique" of "terror," "kidnapping," "sabotage," "undercover," "infiltration," "wiretapping," and similar measures.

The handbook is, according to senior Indonesian armed forces officials, still in use in Indonesia and is at this moment being applied in the Kopassus terror campaigns in West Papua and Aceh, and in undercover provocateur operations in Ambon and Kalimantan.

The terror handbook has come to light because of its use in occupied East Timor during the 1999 armed forces/militia campaign of arson, murder, rape, abduction, and assassination ( A copy of the book was found in an abandoned army base by Yayasan Hak, an East Timorese human rights and legal aid group).

Lumintang has long been a close protege of US military intelligence, and has been promoted by the Pentagon and State Department as a leading Indonesian "moderate."

Kopassus itself has received extensive training under the Pentagon's JCET (Joint Combined Exchange and Training) program in tactics including demolitions, surveillance, "advanced sniper technique," air, sea, and ground assault and "psychological operations." The JCET training was suspended in 1998 after a public and Congressional outcry, but the Pentagon is pushing to renew it on the grounds that under leaders like Lumintang, the armed forces are reforming themselves and deserve new US weapons and know-how.

In fact, it is popular pressure that has forced Jakarta's army into slow retreat, and as the Lumintang case illustrates, armed forces repression is systematic. The use of terror against civilians is written deep into TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) doctrine and is assumed by senior commanders as their basic tactic and technique.

If it is true in some sense that Lumintang really is a "moderate" in TNI, then that only illustrates the extent to which this is a truly terrorist organization.

As Vice Chief of Staff for the Army -- and also as a former on-the-ground East Timor commander -- Lumintang played a leading role in the shaping of Timor militia policy. On the day that the UN agreement for the Timor referendum was finalized (May 5, 1999), Lumintang sent a telegraphed order to commanders for the Timor zone directing them to prepare a "security plan" including "repressive/coercive measures," as well as a military-planned "exodus" if the Timorese voted for independence. As an army personnel chief he also helped send his former aide -- Gen. Kiki Syhanakrie -- to Timor to assume command of the final stage of the scorched earth operation.

When I was a prisoner in Gen. Kiki's Dili headquarters (his command had been re-named The Committee for the Restoration of Peace and Stability), I could see the Aitarak militias on-base, going out to stage their raids. They were directed by Kopassus officers, some uniformed, some plainclothes, as well as by intelligence and operations officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police.

Gen. Lumintang was one of the senior officers who gave them their marching orders. Those officers -- and their foreign accomplices -- should be prosecuted for their crimes. The civil suit by victims of the Timor terror cannot put Lumintang in prison. But it can help the US public begin to catch up with a discussion already underway in today's Indonesia and in newly liberated East Timor. The question is whether senior public officials should be allowed to sponsor murder.

Award-winning journalist and human rights activist Allan Nairn was the last foreign reporter in Dili, East Timor, prior to the arrival of the international peace-keeping force. On September 14, as the Indonesian destruction of Dili was culminating, Indonesian military forces arrested him on the streets of Dili. He was held in detention for six days and threatened with charges that could have landed him in jail for 10 years. The Indonesian government finally deported him to Singapore. On a previous trip to East Timor while on assignment for The New Yorker magazine, Nairn had his skull fractured by Indonesian troops while covering the November 12, 1991 Santa Cruz massacre. He is currently writing a book on U.S.-Indonesia military relations.

Back to Menu