Subject: ETO: Militias and Paramilitary groups armed by Indonesia
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 09:05:01 -0500
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <>

East Timor Observatory / Observatório Timor Leste / Observatoire Timor-Oriental

All peoples have the right to self-determination... all armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence. (Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples - UN Gen.Ass. Resolution 1514, 14/12/1960)

Ref. FA04-1999/02/17eng Subject: Militias and paramilitary groups armed by Indonesia

Background: Since November 1998, thousands of East Timorese villagers have had to flee from their homes and seek refuge in churches or in towns or cities. At first, the violence from which they were escaping was attributed to Indonesia’s regular troops. However, since January the violence is known to have been perpetrated mainly by militias and paramilitary groups, reportedly armed by the Indonesian army. This contradicts the statements made by President Habibie who, after 23 years of military occupation by Indonesia, has just announced that the best solution for East Timor would be independence. Indonesian military authorities are both denying and admitting that they are arming Timorese civilians. Out of all their statements and accounts from other sources gathered recently, a single clear message emerges: that East Timor is in imminent danger of a humanitarian catastrophe if the Indonesian army does not quickly gather in all the weapons it has distributed. The presence of a UN sponsored international force is essential and urgent if security in East Timor is to be restored. While the militias are being disarmed and Indonesian Armed Forces withdrawn from the territory, the Timorese armed resistance (Falintil -Timorese National Liberation Army) could also hand over its weapons. This would, of course, have to be carried out under UN supervision, and in the context of a settlement in which the right of the East Timorese to self-determination was respected.

Context: 1. The Jakarta Government which, since August 1998, has been negotiating, under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, autonomy status within Indonesia for East Timor, has just announced that, if the Timorese are unwilling to agree to such autonomy, the former Portuguese colony could be granted independence. President Habibie has even said he believes this to be the best solution. 2. However, pledges made since June 1998 to reduce the numbers of Indonesian troops in East Timor never materialised (see East Timor Observatory ref. FA01-1998/11/16 and FA03-1999/02/09) 3. The situation in East Timor is, according to several available reports, a contradictory combination of wider political freedom and more violent military repression. Following reports of massacres in the Alas region during November/December 1998, attributed to regular Indonesian military forces (see "Alas is no exception!", East Timor Observatory, FA02-1998/12/11), a situation emerged in which violence was being perpetrated by militias or armed civilians. 4. Indonesia’s armed forces always use militias, but certain differences within this category should be identified: a) militarised forces that, although not belonging to the Armed Forces (ABRI) in the strict sense of the term (for example, unlike ABRI, they are on temporary contracts, and their pay and equipment are inferior to those of ABRI), do have legal status. These are what in some countries and colonial situations are called "auxiliary forces". b) groups of armed civilians or "paramilitaries", that are tacitly backed by the regular armed forces, and act fairly independently from them. · Groups under (a) include the self-defence or guardians of security called "wanra", while under (b) there are groups like Mahidin, Gadapaksi, etc. c) In addition to the above, the Indonesian military created, in each of the 13 districts, the so-called "tim" paramilitary groups (Alfa, Saka, Makikit, Halilintar, etc.). They act on direct orders from Indonesian officers. Used as a backup force for military operations, they are responsible for many of the human rights violations. In the Indonesian military documents that were recently obtained and made public in Australia (see FA03-1999/02/09), these groups are called "wanra" and "penugasan" (i.e. troops brought in from outside the territory and temporarily posted to East Timor). · References to this complex situation are confused, even in the statements made by Indonesian military leaders. The Facts: (All following quotes have been taken from News Agencies’ reports or press articles.)

GENERAL WIRANTO (Indonesian Armed Forces Commander and Defence Minister): · "We have not armed the people. In fact, local organisations which helped the armed forces maintain peace in the past have been abolished and their weapons confiscated". But he said local paramilitary units charged with helping the armed forces (ABRI) maintain peace had been armed. "These units have existed for a long time to help the military district commands maintain security, not to pressure either pro- or anti-integration groups" (Reuters, Jakarta, Feb 2) · "ABRI has never armed civilians, but dissolved some local militia groups such as Saka and Makiki". Militia have been established in the District Military Command and they help security officials there, he said. These militia groups have been legally founded by the government and armed with old model guns. The militia are not intended as pressure for the population. "They are not for political reasons, and not for pressuring the public. They are merely to help ABRI to deal with security disturbance groups (GPK*)" (Antara, Jakarta, 2 Feb 99) [*GPK is the name the authorities generally use when referring to the Timorese armed resistance].

GENERAL SUBAGYO: · "The main task of the so-called "wanra" militias was to "maintain peace and order". The militias "have been helping the armed forces take care of groups causing problems". The "wanra" were armed by the Indonesian military and supervised by the district command in Dili, capital of East Timor. Questioned about whether the strategy of creating armed groups could lead to civil war in East Timor, Subagyo replied that the armed forces were monitoring the situation and would later decide whether to continue distributing weapons or to disarm the militias (Lusa, Sydney, 1 Feb.99)

GENERAL SUDJARAT (spokesman for the armed forces in Jakarta): · He confirmed that weapons had been distributed to civilians. The weapons were being supervised and would be recovered once the job had been completed. (See attached interview. BBC, London, 5 Feb).

MAJOR GENERAL SYAMSUL MA’ARIF (chief of Indonesian Defence intelligence centre): · ABRI had, indeed, armed civilians, but the move had been "only temporary in nature" and intended to enable civilians to protect themselves from groups of troublemakers. (Jakarta Post, Feb. 2)

MAJOR GENERAL ADAM DAMIRI (Chief of the Bali regional military command): · Damiri said the arming of selected civilian recruits had been targeted for areas under frequent attack from the rebels, Antara reported. He denied allegations the weapons had been handed out to enforce integration, it said. On Saturday, the armed forces said it had recruited 1,000 men, aged between 17 and 35, in the troubled territory. (AP, Jakarta, Feb 7).

LIEUTENANT COLONEL SUHARTONO SURATMAN (East Timor’s military commander). · Some 250 of a planned force of 1,000 civil defence paramilitary – Kamra – personnel have been recruited so far in East Timor. Recruits come from 13 regencies, and have primary school education. They will be stationed in all areas of the province to maintain order … the recruits are to be stationed with police in isolated villages considered security risks. The paramilitary personnel will be armed with clubs, not firearms. · Concerning youths recruited and given firearms to assist the Indonesian armed forces at the time East Timor was annexed, Suratman said that some of these have been withdrawn and some are still on duty, and will be deactivated when the security situation in East Timor is stable. These armed (pro-integration) youth groups had names such as Malinkundang, Gadapaksi, Halilintar and Makikit. (Kompas, 26 Jan 99) · The Indonesian military chief said he planned to arm civilians in more than 440 villages (sucos) in East Timor: "I will equip those volunteers with guns in order to protect villages prone to rebel attacks", he said, but would not specify the kind of weapons (AP, Dili, 5 Dec. 98) · 5 to 10 people in small rural villages would be armed with rataan sticks and catapults and trained by regular Indonesian military forces to fight against the pro-independence Fretilin forces, he said. "If they use other weapons (such as knives and guns) then that is their own initiative" he added, insisting that the military would not provide guns (Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Dec. 98) . On Monday, 1,000 members of a new civilian militia in East Timor were beginning a two-week training being given by the Indonesian military, amid rising tension between independence supporters and opponents. Colonel Suratman was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying that the "wanra" would start training … the recruits would be given a one-year contract and a monthly salary of 200,000 Rupees (24 US $ or 22 Euros). "It is not true that the militia are being readied to fight anti-integration groups. We are arming them with batons to help us keep East Timor secure, not to fight" (AFP, Jakarta, 8 Feb 99)

LIEUTENANT COLONEL SUPADI (second military commander of East Timor): · In answer to questions about civilian deaths near Suai, he denied that ABRI had any involvement in the dispute at Suai. He admitted, however, that ABRI had handed out weapons to the militia, who number about 1,200, saying that they had been given guns and rifles captured from Fretilin as well as SP1 and SP2 rifles which were, until recently, used by the Indonesian military. "If we don’t arm them, there will be more victims on our side", Supadi told AAP by telephone from Dili. "It is better that there are victims on their side. That is self-defence, in line with procedure". "Conflicts among them (pro and anti-integrationists) will continue until the East Timor problem is finished". Col. Supadi admitted that the two-week training that had been given to the locally hired militia members might have been inadequate. "They are quick to be emotional", Supadi said, denying, however, that ABRI was trying to provoke a civil war (AAP, Jakarta, 27 Jan 99) · After decades of fighting, many East Timorese were motivated by a desire to avenge the loss of relatives, Supadi said. "Xanana, if he is released, will die as soon as he arrives in Dili. There are people whose families were killed because of Xanana. There are many people who have feelings of vengeance towards Xanana." But Supadi himself has admitted that the military have been recruiting and arming militias to support the pro-integration stand. (Asia Pulse, 1 Feb 99)

CANCIO LOPES (leader of the Mahidin [alive or dead with Indonesia] paramilitary group): · (speaking in Bahasa) "We received 20 Sks [Chinese rifles? ] from the local [Ainaro] military. That was on 30 December – I remember because it was on 17 December that I formed the Mahidi. So we used the Sks, together with three M-16s we already had, for the attack". (Jonathan Head, who reported this first-hand account, pointed out that 6 people were killed during the attack referred to, which took place near Zumalai, in the district of Suai. One of the victims was a 15-year-old schoolboy. Another was a pregnant woman.) (BBC, 5 Feb.99)

SOENARKO (head of the ‘Badan Administrasi Kepagawaian Negara – BAKN’, Employment Agency): · "It is reasonable to assume that natives make up 80% of all civil servants in East Timor – i.e. 56,000 people. If we add the 56,000 civil servants to the 20,000 civilians recruited by the police and military to help guard people’s security and safety (the "militias"), the number of East Timorese working for the Indonesian Government would be 76,000 people." (Suara Pembaruan, 5 Feb.99).

OTHER SOURCES · Clementino Amaral (head of the Dili delegation of Indonesia’s national Human Rights Commission): "The military are giving weapons to the civilians who support Indonesian rule, which means they can shoot supporters of independence who do not have guns" (Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Jan. 99). · Father Hilário Madeira, from Suai, told ABC Radio (Australia) that both the military and the militias were involved in the massacres. "It was the military and them (the militia) together, not only them (the militia)." (quoted by AAP, Camberra, 29 Jan. 99). · Bishop Belo said that he had complained to senior military officials about the current problems, including armed clashes between civilians. The military officials in Dili, however, had said there was no trouble. "The situation is under control here", said one military official. "I haven’t heard any reports of clashes involving civilians. Don’t believe in rumours." (Indonesian Observer, 28 Jan. 99). · Bishop Belo said "We never have this from the people in the jungle. They (the paramilitary) entered the village and, because of what they did there, six thousand people are now seeking refuge from a parish. It has never happened before. Only now. Now, for the first time… 6,132 people from Zumalai (Suai district) left their village and fled to seek refuge in the parish." (BBC, 5 Feb. 99). · Xanana Gusmão,president of CNRT (National Council of the Timorese Resistance) in RDP radio, Portugal Q. Do you accept simultaneous disarmament, that is the pro-Indonesian militias and the pro-independence guerrillas? A. I do not call them pro-Indonesian militias. For me the pro-Indonesian militias are not the forces which have for the last 23 years waged war against Falintil (East Timor National Liberation Armed Forces). The pro-Indonesiam miltias are simply as you said death squadrons which intimidate, scare and kill the population. On this I am not going to compromise. They must be desarmed immediately. Q. And the pro-independence guerrillas, at a later stage? A. I accept that the negotiations for a cease-fire will be attended by the paramilitary which have been used by the occupying forces, making war against Falintil. We accept that the paramilitary and the Indonesian soldiers, the battalions we normally called ABRI, will be negotiating with Falintil. But as for the militias we demand their immediate and total disarmament.

Conclusions: 1. East Timor is going through a period of profound political change, authorised by the Indonesian Government following the fall of Suharto. At the same time, however, numbers of Indonesian troops and the incidence of human rights violations are on the increase. 2. The statements being made by senior Indonesian military officials are so contradictory that it is obvious that some are trying to hide what the others are revealing. 3. The contradictions about their objectives leave little room for any doubt: when one considers that there are 18,000 regular troops in East Timor (1 for every 40 inhabitants) it is clear there is no need whatsoever to distribute weapons to civilians. 4. The insistence on recruiting 1,000 (or 1,200) "wanra" seems to be a red herring, since 1,000 men were said to have been recruited in a single day, and the recruitment period is supposed to last until March. 5. Particularly relevant is the statement made by the head of the Employment Agency who, speaking from a different viewpoint to that of the army, referred to the fact that 20,000 civilians have already been recruited by the military and police! (All these numbers have to be seen in the context of East Timor’s present population – 800,000 inhabitants). 6. The current situation in East Timor could be a sign of lack of control on the part of the Indonesian authorities, as, it seems, there is in other parts of Indonesia. The statements from senior officials, however, show that the situation is, in fact, carefully planned, organised, and being justified even at the highest levels within the Indonesian Armed Forces. 7. The victims are not just the Timorese. 200 Indonesian migrants from the village of Zumalai have had to seek refuge along with the 6,000 Timorese who fled from the violence.


We suggest you send urgent appeals to your Government and to the UN Secretary General, asking that they intervene to ensure that an international police force on behalf of the UN is sent · to restore security in East Timor for its people, · and to ensure that the political transition is peaceful.

Mr. Kofi Annan UN Secretary General New York, USA

Fax: 1 212 963 48 79 -----------------------

Observatory East Timor - Appendix FA04-1999/02/17eng

The presenter in London then interviewed a spokesman for the armed forces in Jakarta, General Sudjarat

BBC: Could you confirm that guns were provided to pro-Indonesian groups in East Timor? General S: (Speaking in English) Yes, that's right.

BBC: What do you say when it emerges that the weapons have been used to kill other civilians in East Timor? General S: They are not supposed to use those weapons to kill civilians.

BBC: They may not be supposed to but it appears from what Mr Lopez is telling our correspondent that that is what has happened. General S: Well I dont [.......... short gap in our recording...]

BBC:... any control from the army? Are they answerable to the army? General S: Yes, we control them and we only lend the guns to them. After they are finished with doing the job, they have to return the weapons to us.

BBC: If they are under the control of the army and if they murder unarmed civilians, what is the army going to do about it? General S: We have to take a measure.

BBC: Has the army taken any measures? General S: We dont have any precedents so far.

BBC: What seems to be happening, whether you want it or not is that the weapons which are being provided to these groups are being used to kill civilians. Now, that's obviously a risk when you give weapons out to people. General S: That's why we only give the weapons to those we trust. But if that is going to happen, it means there's something wrong with the group and we have to take strong measures. If that is happening, we should apologise for it. It's very unfortunate when it is going to happen like that because these people supposed not to kill civilians, they are supposed to protect the civilians against Fretilin guerrillas.

BBC: So what do you say, general, to those who have been suggesting that what's actually happening in East Timor is that the Indonesian army is very deliberately arming these people who are in favour of continued links, in order to increase the amount of violence while East Timor discusses its future? General S: I dont think it increases the violence, but it is our system. You know, since 1961, we've been trying to fight against the Muslim guerrillas. We used the same method.

BBC: What you seem to be saying, general, is, yes, indeed, the army does provide BC guns to groups of people in East Timor who it believes may be at risk from pro-separatist forces, you do not intend these guns to be used against civilians and if they have been, you think the army should apologise and go and get the guns back. General S: Yes. We're not giving the weapons. We are lending them to be used to help us protect the people.

BBC: Has anyone actually given the weapons back to you? General S: Oh always. We always ask them back. Because we lend them to them every day and after they finish, they should put the weapons back under our possession.

Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor’s transition process a programme by the ‘Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere’ and the ecumenical group ‘A Paz é Possível em Timor Leste’ Coordinator: Cristina Cruz ----------------------- Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE - 1069-069 Lisboa - Portugal ph.: 351 1 317 28 60 - fax: 351 1 317 28 70 - e-mail:

Back to February Menu
Main Postings Menu

Postings of Human Rights Violations in Timor