Subject: Interview with New Army Chief Gen.Endriartono Re: Militas

Channel NewsAsia (Singapore) October 12, 2000

Militias have to face full force of law: General Endriartono [exclusive interview]

Indonesia has declined an extradition plea by the United Nations in East Timor for the handover of militia leader Eurico Guterres who is wanted there for questioning over alleged war crimes.

But Attorney General Marzuki Darusman says the UN may be allowed to question Eurico in Jakarta where he is under Indonesian police custody.

The police, meanwhile, say Eurico may be released after the gang leader filed a pre-trial lawsuit against the police for arresting him without a warrant.

In an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia, Indonesia's new Army Chief of Staff says the military no longer cares if the militias were once the military's comrades-in-arms.

The militias, he says, should now face the full force of law.

Our Indonesia Correspondent Haseenah Koyakutty reports.

Eurico Guterres is a bitter man.

In news conference after news conference even while in police custody, he swore to defend the 'merah-puteh' or the red and white Indonesian flag, even if Indonesia, he says, would not honour his blood, sweat and tears.

But Eurico has the sympathy of legislators including Assembly Speaker Amien Rais and House Speaker Akbar Tandjung who have both commended Eurico's national dedication.

The Indonesian military whose one-time secret links with the militias have now become an international sensation and the subject of a national probe, is known for treating the militias more as friends than foes.

But with the threat of an international war crimes tribunal hanging over top Generals, the military appears to have little choice but to distance itself from the militias.

In a rare TV interview, the newly-installed Army Chief of Staff who has himself served a turn in East Timor, summed up the military's relationship with the militias.

General Endriartono Sutarto said,"It's like this. Actually, it is in the psychology of our soldiers, because, for so long, they've had links, to work together (with the militias) to secure East Timor as part of Indonesia. After the referendum and the results showed that East Timor has to be independent, we all need to impress on the militias that their (political) struggle should not be done through force or use of weapons. They should change (the nature) of their struggle.

"If they (pro-integration militias) really wish for East Timor to return to Indonesia, they can be citizens of East Timor right now and form a party, political party, win the Election and after winning, they can ask the people if they wish to rejoin with Indonesia or not.

"But not through violence or possession of weapons. We have already "socialised" all pro-integration Timorese (with that message) and we've asked them to immediately surrender their weapons. But because they have such a fighting spirit, such strong will, they haven't quite understood Indonesia's interest nor their own so as not to (make trouble).

"If this goes on, we are forced to take certain measures against them. The possession of arms in Indonesia requires permission, whoever, even me as a General, if I have a weapon without permission, I'm violating the law. The same with the militias.

"We'll take action and we will be firm about it. We will give them some time and if they still don't surrender their weapons, we don't care if they were our friends before when we struggled together in East Timor. Now, we'll consider them violators of the law who should be penalised."

Eurico was arrested last week at a Central Jakarta Hotel on a criminal charge of weapons possession.

He was said to have snatched weapons already surrendered to the police under Indonesia's ongoing disarmament programme in West Timor.

The United Nations issued its first arrest warrant on Wednesday, and UN officials say more warrants are expected for senior Indonesian military officers wanted in connection with alleged crimes against humanity in East Timor.

Indonesia's Attorney General Office has officially named 22 suspects in their domestic investigations so far.

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