Subject: Jane's Intel Review: Militia Groups Turn Against Indon Government

Jane's Intelligence Review December 1, 2000

Militia groups turn against Indonesian government

By John B Haseman

DISILLUSIONED AND angry members of at least eight pro-Indonesia militia groups are lifting the veil of secrecy over the degree of involvement of the Indonesian government, army and police in the 'scorched earth' campaign of murder, violence and arson in East Timor last year. While it is accepted that some Indonesian security personnel were involved in planning the campaign, and in training, arming and controlling the militia groups, the extent and nature of that involvement was unknown - until now.

On 8 October militia leaders in West Timor told two visiting Indonesian cabinet members, and local and international press representatives, that they would inform the UN of the Indonesian military's involvement with the militia forces if a militia leader held in Jakarta was not released.

Joanico Cesario, former head of the Alfa Sera militia in Baucau, told Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab and Minister of Defence and Security Mahfud Mahmodin that 200 men in his group were trained in Aileu, East Timor, and Cijantung, South Jakarta. Cijantung is home to the headquarters of the army special forces command (Kopassus), widely suspected of deep involvement in militia activities.

Cesario claimed that the Indonesian Army had provided his forces with 1,500 automatic and semi-automatic firearms. Both ministers have remained silent over the allegations.

On 16 October the Jakarta daily newspaper Kompas published an interview with another militia representative, who made further accusations of direct Indonesian government and military involvement in the violence in East Timor.

The unidentified militia and its leaders are reportedly gathering documentary evidence of Indonesian Army arms distribution, weapons licences and eyewitness statements of training, organisation and operational directions provided by army personnel. The gist of the accusations is that the army and police organised, trained, armed and directed the militias in the violence that wracked East Timor in 1999.

Another militia leader made a startling allegation. He claimed that he had attended a secret meeting in Dili with former president B J Habibie, senior army officers and other militia leaders at which Habibie allegedly gave the order for the 'scorched earth' policy. Habibie has not responded to the allegation.

There are several reasons why the militia leaders have apparently turned against their former benefactors. First, they are angry that a key militia leader - Eurico Guterres, leader of the Dili-based Aitarak militia - was arrested and is being detained in Jakarta, charged with weapons offences that could lead to six years in prison. The militias view him as leader of the united militia movement; to much of the international community he is a swaggering bully and leader of one of the bloodiest of the militia forces.

Allowed to remain free in West Timor and given membership in Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri's political party, Guterres has not yet been charged with offences in East Timor. Indonesian authorities have refused to extradite him to East Timor, where UN officers want to question him on his alleged role in several major atrocities. A lower court in Jakarta ordered his release, saying that his arrest was 'improper'. However, the Jakarta police chief has appealed against that order and Guterres remains in custody.

A second reason for the possible change in militia attitudes is resentment over their status in West Timor. One militia leader complained that they were forced to leave East Timor when army units retreated, and that the army burned their homes. Now they live in wretched refugee camps with little or no assistance from the Indonesian government, which the militia groups regard as ungrateful for their efforts to retain East Timor as part of Indonesia.

A third reason for militia anger is that the Indonesian Army has begun to try and disarm the militia forces after months of international pressure. Some militia leaders fear that they themselves will be arrested, or assassinated, to appease foreign critics and conceal official Indonesian involvement in East Timor.

The mysterious murder of a militia leader in Atambua, which led to the militia-led murder of three UN staff, has reportedly caused considerable anxiety among militia members. This resentment, anger and fear may lead to major embarrassment for the Indonesian armed forces, which have steadfastly denied involvement in the militia violence in East Timor.

However, many critics view the militia leaders' accusations with scepticism. They say that accusing Habibie of direct involvement may simply be an attempt by angry active or retired military officers, and their civilian financial backers in Jakarta, to embarrass the former president, who they blame for 'giving away' East Timor in the first place.

Much depends on the quality of promised documentary evidence implicating Indonesian officials. Should the militia leaders not be able to produce corroborative material, military officers branded as suspects in the violence could proclaim their innocence and escape punishment.

Jakarta has pledged to continue its investigations into the East Timor violence and to look into the allegations raised by militia leaders in West Timor. The UN and international critics will be watching closely.

GRAPHIC: Photograph 1, Leader of the Dili-based Aitarak militia, Eurico Guterres, was arrested and is being detained in Jakarta, charged with weapons offences that could lead to six years in prison.; Photograph 2, Police evict former East Timorese militiamen from their picket lines at the UN headquarters. They were protesting against their treatment at the hands of the Indonesian government after East Timor gained independence.


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