Subject: General admits arming death squads in East Timor
From: "etisc" <>

Source: The Observer,(UK)

Date: Sunday, February 7, 1999.


INDONESIA last week spread more confusion about its intentions in East Timor when the army admitted it had armed paramilitary groups which have killed civilians.

The admission contradicting earlier denials came after the paramilitary comander Kansio Lopez, a fanatical opponent of independence, said his irregulars had used army weapons in an attack on a rebel post last month. Six people, including civilians, were killed.

Rebels claim that Indonesia which has said it may grant independence, is covertly formenting civil war by arming militias which have thrown the countryside into fear.

An army spokesman admitted that militias had been given weapons in an interview on BBC Radion 4's The World Tonight. He said he had no proof that they were using them to kill civilians but added: "If that is what is happening, we should apologise for that, that is very unfortunate."

He said the arms had been loaned "merely for protecting people against rebellion in East Timor."

His admission followed a denial from the Armed forces Commander, General Wiranto. The line that no arms would be given to militias was maintained yesterday at a press confernce in Dili, the East Timor capital.

Provincial military commander Colonel Tono Suratman said the army would recruit 1,000 East Timorese and train them as a new civil militia but insisted they would not be armed.

He said: "This is part of the policy by the central government to maintain security. Not only for the general elections [on June 7th], but also for security in general."

Another officer said: "The recruits here will help the police. They are not ciilians who will be armed. They will only be given clubs and handcuffs."

Bishop Carlos Belo, co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, who has long campaigned for a peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor, says that in one parish 6,000 people have fled from their villages.

One farmer said five of his neighbours had been killed: "We dare not go back."

Indonesia's policy is now highly ambiguous. Jakarta said last month that it may let East Timor go if its people reject special autonomy giving them wide powers over their affairs.

The move was an abrupt U-turn from Jakarta's refusal to even consider indpendence since its troops invaded the eastern half of the island in 1975.

In Dili, students now campaign openly for an independent state, a freedomm enjoyed only since last year. Though peaceful protest is possible in the town for the first time, in the surrounding countryside all the talk is of civil war fuelled by Indonesian weapons.

A former rebel commander said: "The paramilitary troops who support integration in the Indonesian republic have automatic weapons. So what kind of solution do they want to choose for East Timor?"

Bishop Belo said: "For me it is better to fight with diplomacy, with intelligence, with discussion, with dialogue, rather than guns."

East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign Suite 16, Dame House 24-26 Dame Street Dublin 2 Telephone 00 353 1 671 9207/ 677 0253 /623 3148 Mobile 087 286 0122 Fax 00 353 1 671 9207 Timorese Community in Ireland 00 353 1 453 1462 web Offices in: Dublin Belfast Laois Galway Claremorris

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