Subject: Doubts over former Indonesian president's role in Timor violence

Doubts over former Indonesian president's role in Timor violence

JAKARTA, Oct 19 (AFP) - Scepticism ran high in the Indonesian capital on Thursday at a reported claim by East Timorese ex-militiamen that former president BJ Habibie had personally ordered the violence in East Timor last year.

Diplomats told AFP they thought it unlikely that Habibie had passed off unnoticed in the East Timor capital of Dili on August 20 last year, the date militiamen said he had given the order to assembled militia leaders.

Nemecio Lopez de Carvalho, a sub-commander of the umbrella militia organisation, the Pro-Integration Forces (PPI), told Australia's Age newspaper that Habibie, flanked by then-military chief General Wiranto and regional commander Major General Adam Damiri, gave the leaders direct orders.

"Habibie, Wiranto and Damiri came secretly and collected all the militia leaders," De Carvalho was quoted as saying.

He said Habibie spoke to them as "as the President of Indonesia and Supreme Commander of the Military."

De Carvalho said the then president told them: "'I give the order to all of you that if autonomy loses, your job is to clean East Timor from the East to the West and leave nothing alive but ants."

In the wake of the UN-sponsored ballot on August 30 in which an overwhelming 78.5 percent voted for independence, enraged Jakarta-backed pro-Indonesia militias went on a rampage of killing, arson and destruction.

More than 250,000 East Timorese were said to have been pushed over the border into Indonesian-ruled West Timor, where an estimated 130,000 remain, mostly stranded in squalid camps.

The claim was also contested by an advisor to Habibie during his 18-month presidency.

"It's not possible. I can assure you Habibie has never been to East Timor," he told AFP, requesting anonymity.

"Habibie was extremely fond of the East Timorese. He was the one who made them independent," he said, referring to Habibie's January 1999 decision to allow a plebiscite there in the first place.

"Why would he sabotage his own plan?"

De Carvalho is one of four former PPI sub-commanders who have written a letter to the UN Security Council, offering to reveal the full truth behind the militia-led violence, in exchange for safety guarantees.

A copy of the letter, dated October 14, and written on PPI headed notepaper was given to a Jakarta-based diplomat earlier this week.

"We will honestly, accurately and thoroughly expose all that we know concerning the various events that occurred in East Timor post-Popular Consultation," the letter stated.

The authors requested international legal and security guarantees in exchange, saying they believed Indonesian military and police were plotting to assassinate key ex-militia commanders to stop them revealing "secrets."

The secrets, they said, related to both the post-ballot violence and the killing of three foreign UN aid staff in West Timor on September 6 this year.

The Indonesian military has denied the accusation and accused the four of trying to avoid legal prosecution. Other militia leaders have also distanced themselves from the four.

In the past two months six ex-militiamen have been named suspects in Indonesia's own investigation into the East Timor violence, several have been named suspects in the UN staff killings last month.

One ex-commander has been murdered and several others have been named suspects in his death.

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