Subject: NYT: Indonesian Army Pullback in East Timor Disputed by Leaked Reports
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 08:26:58 -0500
The New York Times Friday, October 30, 1998
Indonesian Army Pullback in East Timor Disputed by Leaked Reports
By BARBARA CROSSETTE
UNITED NATIONS -- Opponents of Indonesia's control over the disputed territory of East Timor said Thursday that documents leaked from the Indonesian Ministry of Defense show that the army is not drawing down its forces in the territory as the government has reported.
The documents date from August, and the situation might have changed since then. Indonesia's foreign minister, Ali Alatas, has said several times in recent weeks that Indonesia stood by its pledge to keep combat forces out of the territory.
But the documents show a total of more than 12,000 Indonesian troops assigned to East Timor, twice the number of soldiers that Indonesia says are based there.
They also show that the Indonesian army, known by its Indonesian acronym Abri, counts among its numbers the members of pro-Jakarta local youth groups, militias and public officials with ties to the army. In the past the Indonesian government has always described these groups as spontaneous organizations.
The military documents put the number of people in these groups at 9,000, bringing the total military presence to more than 21,000.
A series of Indonesian army tables and charts were made available to The New York Times by the East Timor Action Network, a group that supports independence for the territory. Human rights groups say they believe the documents are authentic. The East Timor Action Network plans to make the documents public on Friday.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, a year after the former Portuguese colony was abandoned by Lisbon. The documents cover a period of nine months that ended in August of this year, when a new Indonesian government announced that it had withdrawn more than 1,000 combat troops, and said that only about 6,000 defense forces remained. None of the leaked documents track how figures may have changed since then.
Alatas, the foreign minister, is taking part in discussions with the Portuguese under U.N. auspices over the future of East Timor, which Lisbon and Jakarta agree should be given a large measure of autonomy. The political opening provided by President B.J. Habibie, who took over after the fall of President Suharto in May, has resulted in rising tensions in the territory, and with them reports of new Indonesian military movements.
Sidney Jones, executive director of Human Rights Watch Asia, said in an interview in New York on Thursday that an increased atmosphere of openness since May has emboldened independence forces among the territory's 800,000 people, where calls for a referendum on the region's future are heard more often.
"The government is saying that it is going to give wide-ranging autonomy to East Timor," Ms. Jones said in New York. "But at the same time it is beginning to use the term autonomy as synonymous with pro-integration, because autonomy means that you accept Indonesian sovereignty."
"The resistance and pro-independence forces in East Timor are not only making themselves much more visible than ever before but also challenging that concept of autonomy much more openly than ever before."
"So what used to be the clash between the pro-integration and anti- integration forces has become widespread tension as a result of differences over support for a referendum -- which is clearly the popular option -- and support for autonomy, which is clearly the government position," Ms. Jones said.
In Washington, a State Department official said that the United States has not been able to confirm reports that more Indonesian troops are going to East Timor, but that it has also not been able to verify how many were withdrawn in the summer. "How you count people makes a big difference," the official said.
George Aditjondro, an Indonesian human rights activist who teaches the sociology of corruption at Newcastle University in Australia, where he has documented the wealth of the Suharto family, said on Thursday that he is certain that "the documents came from Cilangkap, Indonesia's Pentagon," and that they are very revealing because of how they count people.
"They tell us that the number of soldiers in the field is nearly twice the number officially mentioned," he said in a telephone interview from Chicago, where he is attending a conference.
"The second thing is that maybe these are the first documents that put the paramilitary units, the counterinsurgency units, on Abri's payroll," Aditjondro said. "The government previously called them spontaneous youth groups wanting to defend the integration of East Timor."
He added that the documents show that "the presence of the Indonesian state in East Timor is heavily militarized."
By Jakarta correspondent DON GREENLEES
AS few as 140 Indonesian combat troops have been withdrawn from East Timor in recent weeks and casualties are continuing to be inflicted in sporadic clashes with Fretilin guerillas, according to informed sources.
Despite Jakarta's promise of significant troop reductions, Indonesian troops withdrawn from the troubled territory are reported to have been largely replaced, leaving some 7500 combat troops still in position.
Sources said the "rotation" of three combat battalions coincided with a series of Fretilin-initiated attacks on some Indonesian military posts and patrols in the past two months. In one incident two weeks ago, the sources claim an Indonesian patrol stumbled on a Fretilin camp near Los Palos on the western side of East Timor and in the ensuing fighting four Indonesian soldiers were killed and about eight injured.
Shortly afterwards, two Indonesian troops were killed near the town of Giri.
Several prominent East Timorese, including Dili Bishop Carlos Belo and jailed resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, have disputed Jakarta's claims to have withdrawn all combat elements from East Timor.
In an interview with The Weekend Australian, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas insisted Indonesia had honoured the commitment on troop reductions and denied there was any continuing conflict with Fretilin guerillas.
"How can we convince the people that it's not true," Dr Alatas said.
"There have been no clashes, let alone widespread clashes. There have been no additional combat troops (brought in).
"We have withdrawn 1300 combat troops and 300 territorial troops have been rotated back in so a net reduction of 1000."
Dr Alatas said only five to six territorial battalions or almost 6000 men who do not have a combat role remained in East Timor.
"We are looking forward to these territorial troops gradually being reduced," he said. "That will depend on, as (armed forces commander) General Wiranto said, the situation, reduced activities."
The armed forces have made elaborate efforts to prove combat units have been pulled out of the territory. They invited foreign and domestic reporters to Dili in late July to witness the departure of 400 troops, including what was claimed to be the entire Kopassus special forces contingent.
But East Timorese and foreign observers claim fresh combat troops have been brought in via the coastal village of Com in the west and Atapupo in the east. They also claim three police mobile brigade companies have been brought in from Bali and Kalimantan to help maintain civil order.
The sources claim there are some 200 special forces still based in the territory.
By Michael Perry
SYDNEY, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Indonesian troop numbers increased in East Timor a month after Jakarta said it had begun cutting troops in the province, according to documents purportedly leaked from the military and released by a pro-East Timor group.
Copies of the alleged military documents received by Reuters on Friday showed 17,941 troops in East Timor in August, an increase of 107 from the previous month, when Indonesia said it started cutting its forces in the province.
``The baseline numbers of Indonesian military and security forces in East Timor are much higher than has been claimed by the Indonesian government,'' said Andrew McNaughtan from the East Timor International Support Centre.
But the Indonesian military denied the reports, saying it had only 3,000 troops in East Timor.
``Do not believe in news from any other source,'' Lieutenant Colonel Made Runa, the spokesman for the Udayana military command which covers East Timor, told Reuters by telephone.
``We have only 3,000 soldiers in East Timor in total.''
Australia on Friday called on Indonesia to reduce its troop numbers in East Timor, warning that if the documents were authentic then it would harm moves for reconciliation in the province.
``An important component of confidence building in East Timor is to reduce numbers of troops,'' Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters.
``We're disappointed if these reports turn out to be true, and we strongly urge the Indonesian government to reduce the numbers,'' Downer said.
``If this report turns out to be true the Indonesian government needs to understand that by increasing rather than reducing troop numbers in East Timor, that's going to make the whole United Nations sponsored reconciliation process more difficult,'' he said.
On July 28, Indonesia staged a troop farewell ceremony in the East Timorese capital Dili to mark the withdrawal of combat troops from the province in a bid to reduce tensions in the former Portuguese colony, which it invaded in 1975 and annexed the following year.
Jakarta said at the time all combat troops would be pulled out by mid-August and that it had about 5,000 soldiers in East Timor. The regional commander said there were 10,000 soldiers and police, as police were also technically part of the armed forces.
But the documents received by Reuters showed 7,938 combat troops in East Timor in August, unchanged from a month earlier.
The documents showed Indonesia's total armed forces presence, including troops and civilian militia, numbered 21,620 in August, a rise of 2,000 from November 1997.
The documents also showed that 13 civilian militia groups in East Timor, such as Team Saka Baucau and Team Alfa Lospalos, were apparently under the control of the Indonesian military (ABRI).
``These groups are accused of being frequent and severe violators of human rights. These documents indicate that they operate under the umbrella of ABRI,'' said McNaughtan.
Human rights organisations have accused Indonesian troops of persistent human rights abuses in East Timor. Some say an estimated 200,000 people have died in the fighting and from starvation and disease since Indonesia took over.
The documents also showed units of Indonesia's elite Kopassus special forces were stationed in East Timor and that 140 ABRI personnel were members of East Timor's provincial governments.
``It indicates a heavy involvement of military officers in the running of the province and means that the armed forces control almost all aspects of government in East Timor, as well as having a large and pervasive military presence,'' McNaughtan said.
Australian newspapers on Friday also reported on the documents, saying a total of 100 pages of military personnel files had been leaked to foreign media and Western diplomats.
ABRI was not immediately available for comment.
Downer said Australia had asked Jakarta to confirm the existence of the documents and that Canberra would not act until they could be authenticated. ``We will be able to take it further once we see if these stories are true or not,'' he said.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard is due to visit Jakarta in November en route to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Kuala Lumpur.