Now, enter third force

A leaked UN document reveals that a secret force under the Indonesian military orchestrated the recent killings by militias in East Timor.

THE MIX of violence and fear that brew so poisonously in East Timor now is being fueled by the Indonesian armed forces (TNI).

A confidential United Nation’s document that was leaked over the weekend provides evidence that the military orchestrated a campaign of killings by pro-Jakarta militias in the troubled territory that went to polls last week and voted overwhelmingly for independence.

It disclosed that 14,000 soldiers under officers hand-picked by TNI chief and Defence Minister General Wiranto had condoned and in some cases directed attacks by anti-independence militias. The military had also ordered the 8,000-strong Indonesian police contingent to remain passive during many assaults, with open threats to their families if they intervened.

The report cited other cases. For example, militias were ordered by a group of Indonesian officers to shoot at trucks carrying journalists and UN staff. They also took part in “joint operations” to burn houses and attack civilians.

“The militias acted with precise instructions as to their targets and the types of actions to conduct,” the report said. Eyewitnesses in the capital of Dili, where life of the East Timorese now is punctuated by the sound track of war: the boom of a distant bomb or the crackle of automatic-weapon fire, told The Straits Times that behind most of the violence there were plain-clothed individuals with walkie-talkies.

Analysts and diplomatic sources, describing these provocateurs as “the third force”, speculated that several of them could be elements from the Special Forces (Kopassus) and the Joint-Intelligence Unit (SGI) in the territory.

Said a Western government analyst who monitors developments in East Timor: “East Timor is their little playground sanctioned by the very top in the military. The rapidly worsening situation is a big smokescreen behind which a substantive logistical withdrawal is beginning.”

What were their motives?

Senior TNI sources conceded that the TNI was involved in the violence in recent months given “the hard headedness” of several generals who did not want to let the territory go. For one, the military had sacrificed lives and resources for the territory. There was also an underlying insecurity that letting East Timor would set a dangerous precedent for others.

Said a two-star army general: “When the East Timorese voted for independence, it was a slap in the face for Indonesia. Most of the violence happening on the ground will have some connection to the military. There are officers and soldiers who will want to protect the military’s interests there. They will want to kill before being killed.”

Analysts speculate that the military’s covert operations by the Kopassus and SGI were aimed more specifically at drowning any enthusiasm other provinces would have for independence after witnessing the bloodbath in Dili.

At a national level, insiders reveal that a more fundamental reason for the prevailing violence and TNI’s antipathy was the split with the civilian leadership on how to resolve the East Timor issue.

An intelligence officer, of colonel rank, said that most of the active generals were “furious” that President B.J. Habibie “willingly accepted” the election results. He added that a core group of senior officers who met Gen Wiranto over the weekend at the armed forces headquarters wanted the President to investigate charges of election fraud by UN personnel overseeing the polls.

The colonel said: “The President wants to remain consistent in his policy towards East Timor to win international support for his leadership and government.”

“Gen Wiranto is angry but he knows that he has to restrain himself in public from attacking his superior given also that international opinion is in favour of independence for East Timor. He can sit back and let the violence go on to register the military’s unhappiness.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said yesterdaythat the Indonesian government was looking into complaints about the military’s slow response time to violence in East Timor but warned against “simplifying the issue” by solely blaming the armed forces.

He told reporters at a press conference after attending a parliamentary hearing on East Timor with Dr Habibie and several other Cabinet ministers:

“The situation is not as simple as it seems. The soldiers on the ground have been trying their best to handle the problem. They have to wait for reinforcements because their opposition is a much bigger group.”

Military spokesman, Maj-General Sudradjat, maintained that the military was not dabbling in the politics of East Timor or disrupting law and order there. He believed that the western media, especially from Australia, were pursuing this line to discredit Jakarta even further.

He said the violence was triggered more by differences in perception among the pro-Jakarta forces which he claimed was split into at least 20 groups.

“That explains why the violence is beyond our control. There are too many players on the ground,” he said.

‘Most of the violence happening on the ground will have some connection to the military. They will want to kill before being killed.’
– A two-star army general

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