Subject: Final Parade for Dili Killers; Era of Indonesian Army Infamy has Ended

Also: JP: TNI formally closes Dili military district command

The Australian March 31, 2000

Final parade for Dili killers

An era of Indonesian army infamy has ended, reports Jakarta correspondent Don Greenlees in Kupang

EVEN in a military known for disregarding civil rights, Korem 164 is a notorious unit. Its men will be remembered either for standing by and watching the rape of East Timor or joining in the final rampage of arson, lootings and murder.

But with East Timor's freedom, the Dili-based military command that oversaw two decades of political oppression is passing into history. With modest military fanfare at a barracks in Kupang yesterday, the regional commanders witnessed the disbanding of the so-called Wiradharma command, most of its men scattered among other army units. The last assignment of Korem commander Colonel Mohammad Noer Muis ­ under investigation by the Indonesian Attorney-General for his role in the carnage in East Timor ­ has been to work out what to do with nearly 6000 unhappy East Timorese soldiers and civilian employees.

It hasn't been an easy job. At a press conference announcing the end of the Korem, Colonel Noer Muis, an infantry officer who attended staff college in Australia, admitted the loss of East Timor had a big psychological impact on his troops.

"I have already met them and told them there will be no misunderstandings in their new posts," he said.

According to Colonel Noer Muis, about 3000 soldiers and civilians, most close to retirement, have decided to resettle in East Nusa Tenggara province, which includes West Timor. Others are being sent elsewhere in the country.

About 780 Korem members stayed in East Timor during the Indonesian military withdrawal last September, and 390 chose to return later.

"There's no prohibition on those who want to go back," Colonel Noer Muis said. "They go back of their own accord. We cannot limit human rights."

One of those who did go back was Sergeant Hermenegildo dos Santos. He was a member of battalion 745, which was staffed with a considerable number of East Timorese.

He says his battalion commander, Yacob Sarosa, told the troops: "Destroy everything" on the way out. In an interview with the US Christian Science Monitor, he remembers Colonel Noer Muis saying they did not even have to tell their wives what they did.

A recent investigation by the Monitor reported witness testimony that battalion 745 killed more than 20 people as it drove from its base in Los Palos, in the eastern part of the territory, down to the western border. Dutch journalist Sander Theones was one of the victims.

Along with the dissolution of the Korem command, the armed forces yesterday formally scrapped battalion 745. According to Australian military analyst Bob Lowry, the Indonesian military were always wary of their East Timorese recruits.

"The Indonesians never trusted the East Timorese so there were only about 25 per cent of them in the battalions and of course most of the officers were non-Timorese," he said.

But one battalion from the old Korem that will survive is 744, which also contained a large number of East Timorese soldiers. Colonel Noer Muis says 1393 East Timorese will remain on duty in East Nusa Tenggara.

The 744 battalion's new mission raises questions about how serious the military is in maintaining the peace with East Timor. "They will have to secure the border," Colonel Noer Muis said. -----

Jakarta Post March 31, 2000

TNI formally closes Dili military district command

KUPANG, East Nusa Tenggara (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) formally closed the military district command in Dili, East Timor, on Thursday, ending a process that began in October.

Udayana Military Chief Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri led the emotional ceremony to dissolve the Korem 164 Wira Dharma, calling on servicemen, including those of East Timorese origins, to be proud of being part of Indonesia and the Army.

Kiki, who served a total of 11 years in East Timor, said the withdrawal was not planned but a consequence of East Timor's vote to reject the wide- ranging autonomy offer from the Indonesian government in August last year.

"Despite reports of unfairness, Indonesia recognizes the ballot results because we respect democracy," Kiki said in the ceremony held at the East Nusa Tenggara military district command/Korem 161 Wira Sakti.

Kiki also announced the dissolution of the 745th Infantry Battalion, one of the two battalions which served in East Timor.

The 744th Battalion will be retained and put under the Udayana Command which oversees Bali, East and West Nusa Tenggara, and until October last year, also East Timor.

Kiki called on the 744th members to live up to the exceptional achievements of their predecessors.

"The 744th has an outstanding past in the history of the TNI, and in the Army in particular. Its special team, Somodok (green snake in Tetun, the local dialect), was a legend and there was no one in the Army who did not know of its reputation," said Kiki who was deputy commander of the 744th and Dili commander in 1994.

The battalion's most noted achievement was the killing in 1978 of Nicolao Lobato, president of FRETILIN, the militant East Timor pro-independence group.

"It was not bravery, skills or a comprehensive mastery of the battle field that earned the 744th its past glory. Although they were all important, it was discipline that helped make it a legend in the history of the Indonesian Army," Kiki said.

Kiki called on the 744th members to accept the Falintil, who were their former enemies, as friends.

"When I met Taur Matan Ruak last year, I told him I respected him although he was my former enemy and despite our differences in view. I respect him because he is consistent in his struggle and continued the guerrilla fight," said Kiki.

The dissolved Dili command comprised around 7,000 personnel, including 1,194 civilians. Some 1,790 have been redeployed to other commands in East and West Nusa Tenggara and Bali.

Another 792 soldiers and 516 civilian employees, all of East Timor origins, decided to return to East Timor.

Col. M. Noer Muis, the last chief of the Dili command, did not hide his sadness.

"We are all sad and all members of the Korem were very emotional about this. For many of us, East Timor was home and we had built our lives and families there. It was not easy to just cut loose that kind of emotional attachment. That was the hardest part of the whole process," he said.

Many are also impatient for compensation after losing their belongings during the hasty withdrawal from East Timor in September.

With only one week notice to evacuate, many members of the command did not have time to pack their belongings and left everything they had worked for behind.

Kiki said the Army leadership would fight to ensure that former Korem members and their families would be properly compensated and recalled his talks with Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono on their flight from Jakarta.

"He promised to find a solution," Kiki said.

Juwono was in Kupang on Wednesday to meet with Sergio Viera de Mello, chief of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), and discuss border security.

In Jakarta, President Abdurrahman Wahid assured de Mello on Thursday that he would remove pro-Indonesia East Timor militias and their military supporters from the border of East Timor and West Nusa Tenggara.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab said the government would resettle the militias to other provinces.

De Mello told the President that there had been several incursions into East Timor by some small but well organized groups from the border.

"Move them away from there, demobilize them," he pleaded. (lem/prb)


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