Subject: KMP: Militia members detail TNI support, own future

KMP: Militia members detail TNI support, own future

Sunday, 1 October 2000 Kompas ­ "Militia: 'Open the diplomatic door…'"

Tomey (38) with his wife and two children who are staying in a refugee camp in Lakvehan Village, E. Tasifeto Sub-regency, Belu Regency, NTT, are busy boiling a pot of tamarind seeds. After it is cooked, the skins will be removed and the seeks will be dried in the sun. Once dried, they will be poured into flour which will then be mixed with hot water and eaten. This is the reality experienced not only by Tomey's family, but rather more than 10 thousand E. Timor refugees living in camps in E. Tasifeto. In the past four months, they ­ including children under 5 ­ have been eating tamarind sees. It's not surprising that from day to day their bodies are getting thinner and they lack nutrition. Some 40 children under 5 years of age have died due to various diseases. "I'm telling it straight, for as long as I've lived this is the first time I've eaten flour made from tamarind seeds. This is so I can keep living because we have no more food stocks. Besides, this is the risk we take for defending Red White in E. Timor," said Tomey who was also a volunteer with the Red White Iron (BMP) battalion, a wing of the pro-integration militia struggle in Liquisa before it was dissolved.

As a trained fighter, he said he won't be broken by the heat and moldy by the rain. He together with other pro-integration militia are determined to keep fighting by whatever means possibly to obtain their rights as E. Timorese. "Sooner or later, it is certain we will return to E. Timor because that is the land of our ancestors, it's only that we don't yet know by what means. Therefore we will continue to fight, even if it means we must suffer from hunger and sacrifice our lives," added Rusdin Maubere, a BMP leader.

After integration with Indonesia in 1976, the pro-independence side could barely do anything. Even response to their diplomacy outside the country began to dwindle after Indonesia managed to convince the world about what had really happened in E. Timor. After the Santa Cruz incident of 12 Nov. 1991, the political map changed drastically as a consequence of the Indonesian government's dishonesty about the number of people who were killed. Indonesian security forces said that only five people died while the people were convinced that at least a hundred people had died.. This was taken advantage of by the pro-independence side outside the country who campaigned on the basis of human rights abuses. Since then, Indonesia's position has been increasingly weak.

Inside the country, a number of leaders and residents who had supported integration quietly became traitors and joined with the pro-independence side. The presence of this group became increasingly strong in E. Timor and its roots began to spread everywhere to the lowest layers of society. There was terror, kidnapping, intimidation and murder towards pro-integrationists and even armed contact with TNI became increasingly more frequent along with an increase in deaths.

According to Alberto, a pro-autonomy militia member, the TNI army, via Prabowo Subiyanto who was still Kopassus Commander at the time, formed an organization for the pro-integration struggle among people in each regency. In Ainaro were the Mahidi (Live or Die for Indonesia), Dili ­ Aitarak, Liquisa ­ Besi Merah Putih, Viqueque ­ Makikit, Los Palos ­ Alfa, Baucau ­ Sakaswera, Suai ­ Laksaur, Same ­ Ablai, Aileu ­ Ahi, Bobonaro ­ Halilintar, Oekusi ­ Sakunar, Manututu ­ Mahdomi, and Ermera ­ Darah Integrasi. The purpose of these soldiers was to consolidate strength to face the worst possibility in E. Timor, namely the referendum. After these groups were formed at the village level, other youth were recruited as volunteers. Their first basic military training was in mid-1995 in Aileu. This three month training involved thousands of volunteers from the 13 regencies around E. Timor with instructors from the TNI army. This was followed by other, more specific trainings with a limited number of volunteers, such as training in intelligence, combat, field strategy, manufacture of handmade weapons, bombs, grenades, etc. Those trained were obligated to pass on the specialized knowledge and skills they received to other volunteers. "All training and operational costs were the responsibility of TNI Headquarters. Furthermore, each volunteer received a salary of Rp. 350.000,- per month because everything we did was to help TNI with its duties in the effort to defend E. Timor so that it would remain in the lap of Mother Pertiwi," said Alberto. Realizing their responsibility, the E. Timor volunteers, who are now called pro-autonomy militia, never complained of the duties they were given. Challenges and suffering were gladly accepted as the expression of their sacrifice for and total loyalty to the republic and Red White. "Thus, we no longer cared about acts of terror and threats," said Alberto who confessed that Xanana Gusmao's arrest was the blessed result of the work of the intelligence team that he led. The TNI army gave war generals, battalion commanders, and intelligence free standard weapons and uniforms that were similar to military uniforms. This was a preventative measure because after the Santa Cruz incident, pro-integration leaders were often terrorized, intimidated and threatened with murder by pro-independence militia (Falintil).

It feels that this special relationship was greatly disturbed when the UN Security Council pressured TNI to immediately confiscate weapons from the pro-autonomy militia. Furthermore, even the militia faces a dilemma. On the one hand they really want to surrender their weapons as an expression of their love for Red White that is now getting pressure from the international community; on the other there is anxiety that if all weapons are surrendered it means they will have no more strength to face their political enemies in E. Timor who are still armed. Besides that, they worry that once the weapons have been surrendered, security forces can more easily more and chase them to go home to E. Timor while at this moment that new country doesn't yet have a legal system and only knows a law of the jungle. It's possible this worry is exaggerated, but in the past few months experience suggests their presence is beginning to be thrown around by the TNI and police. "To avoid attention and pressure from the international community, the TNI and police give the impression they want to save themselves, and it is as if the role of the pro-autonomy militia for 24 years is beginning to be ignored. Like once the sweet is gone, we're spit out. This hurts us so that we will continue to take a hard line and not surrender our weapons if there is not yet a guarantee from security forces and the central government," said Nemecio Lopes de Charvalho, former head of the House of Reps. in Ainaro, E. Timor who is also an alumnus of the Social and Political Faculty at the University of Indo. Actually, the pro-autonomy militia don't want to go to war again, but it's as if all international political, diplomatic, and legal channels have been closed tight for them to struggle for their rights and justice as E. Timorese. The only thing left is violence, and the tools of violence are weapons. "This is what can be used to show them our existence. If the UN doesn't want this pattern, open the diplomatic door for us to join in dialogue, reflection, and compromise that heads forwards peace. That's the best, most just and humane way for all layers of E. Timor society," said Nemecio.

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