Subject: US Ambassador Gelbard says TNI still supports militias

Indonesian Observer/Associated Press 15th March 2000

US envoy: TNI still supports militias

DILI — Elements of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) are providing direct support for armed pro-Jakarta militiamen infiltrating into East Timor, a senior US diplomat said yesterday.

Robert Gelbard, the US ambassador to Indonesia, said he did not concur with UN peacekeepers who say that while TNI was turning a blind eye to militia activity, there is no evidence of active logistical or other support.

"There is TNI involvement. We were told all the militias had been disarmed, suddenly and magically they seem to have come up with arms," Gelbard said.

"But I do believe this is not TNI policy. These are probably individuals who have maintained their long-standing ties to the militias and maybe some remnants of some specialized units," he added. The UN’s Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Soren Jessen Petersen, blamed the slow rate of refugee repatriation on a propaganda campaign mounted by the militia umbrella group, UNTAS.

"That is the major obstacle in the way of return. People are being kept in the situation where they do not have enough access to objective information, they are constantly being pumped with misinformation and at the same time suffering clear intimidation and harassment," Petersen said.

UNTAS has begun printing a two-page newsletter, Perjuangan, which warned East Timorese families not to go home because of the "saddening and disgraceful conditions."

It also warned that refugees attending family reunions at the border between East Timor and the western half of the island were being "dragged forcibly into East Timor."— AP

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