begins disarming pro-Indon militias; calls to dissolve Kopassus
Indonesian Observer 15th March 2000
TNI begins disarming pro-Indonesia militias
JAKARTA (IO) ó The Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) said yesterday it has started disarming pro-Jakarta militias in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) or West Timor, following complaints from the United Nations over rampant violence against East Timorese at border areas.
Major General Kiki Syahnakri, chief of the Udayana Military Command overseeing security in NTT, said at least 291 firearms have been confiscated from the militias, who last year wreaked havoc upon East Timor after the territory voted for independence on August 30.
"The raid was launched on former pro-integration militias who have since the [independence] ballot fled to Indonesian territories, particularly NTT," Syahnakri was quoted as saying by Antara in Denpasar, Bali.
He said the 291 confiscated weapons were mostly home-made firearms. They also included guns similar to TNIís and apparently some those left behind by East Timorís former colonial master, Portugal.
"Many TNI guns had been missing and some were found through the operation," said Syahnakri.
On Monday, President Abdurrahman Wahid ordered a crackdown on militias after the UN peacekeeping force chief protested to the Indonesian government over incursions by the pro-integration forces, which have been intimidating East Timorese refugees on border areas.
East Timorese independence leader Jose Alexandre ĎXananaí Gusmao has accused the TNI elite force, Kopassus, and former TNI commander General Wiranto of backing the recent incursions made by militias into East Timor.
In an interview published yesterday by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Xanana said the incursions were aimed at destroying the reputation of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).
He was commenting on reports made by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force that members of the pro-integration militia group living at the border between East Timor and NTT have crossed over and attacked East Timorese living nearby.
Xanana, tipped to be the first president of an independent East Timor, said he realizes it is not easy for the Indonesian generals, including those in Kopassus, to accept the overwhelming victory of the pro-independence East Timorese in the UN-sponsored ballot. "Maybe they would like to prove that [the UN peacekeeping force] is weak and will not go on the offense," he said.
"Based on what has been happening, I think the UNTAET and the UN peacekeeping force must re-evaluate their strategies in facing the border problem," he said.
In New York, as many as 35 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based in America have written to US State Secretary Madeleine Albright, saying Indonesia must dissolve Kopassus and TNIís Strategic Intelligence Body (Bais).
In their letter, copies of which released to the press, the NGOs urged the US to postpone military ties with Indonesia until Jakarta disbands the two bodies accused of playing a key role in the East Timor atrocities.
However, the NGOs said they see positive signals in Wahidís government following the presidentís decision to suspend Wiranto as cabinet minister, and Major General Sudrajat as TNI spokesman.
Also yesterday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard expressed concern over the recent militia attacks on border areas, but refrained from lodging a protest against Indonesia.
He said Australia supports the actions taken by Wahid to crack down on violent militias over the violence.
"He [Wahid] has shown his governmentís good willingness to allow the legal process for all those responsible for human rights abuses in East Timor," Howard was quoted by Antara as saying.
Wiranto and several other generals are being investigated by the Attorney Generalís Office over their alleged involvement in devastating violence after the August ballot.
TNI spokesman Rear Marshal Graito Usodo yesterday denied reports that the Indonesian military had fired shots at a UNTAET helicopter flying over the border areas near NTT.
"Itís not true that TNI has done that. There is no important reason to shoot a UNTAET helicopter," he said.
Earlier, Australian media accused TNI troops of firing shots at a helicopter belonging to the UN.
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