Subject: Editorials on W Timor Attack


Washington Post Thursday, September 14, 2000 Editorial Pressing Indonesia

AS THE democratic successor to the former Indonesian dictator, Suharto, President Abdurrahman Wahid enjoys a deep reservoir of international goodwill. A successful transition to democracy in Indonesia, the world's fourth-largest country, is not only intrinsically desirable but also critical to the stability of Southeast Asia. Yet President Wahid's failure to gain control over violent army-backed militias on the troubled island of Timor is beginning to tax even his strongest supporters in the international community.

The militias' gruesome Sept. 6 murder of three United Nations aid workers--including a U.S. citizen--has brought the matter to a head. It happened not in East Timor, which won its long struggle for independence from Indonesia last year despite a rampage by the militias that killed hundreds of people, but in West Timor, where tens of thousands of refugees from last year's carnage are still encamped. Many of these people fled to West Timor because they supported the pro-Jakarta militias and feared life in an independent East Timor; many, however, now want to go home but are being effectively held hostage by the militias. Eurico Guterres, a leader of the militias thought to be deeply implicated in last year's massacres, operates freely in West Timor.

Mr. Wahid staved off a move to set up a United Nations war-crimes tribunal on East Timor by promising that Indonesia itself would prosecute those responsible for past violence. A list of relatively high-ranking military suspects has indeed been drawn up; but Mr. Guterres is conspicuously not on it, and at least one high-ranking officer simply didn't show up for his scheduled appointment with government lawyers last week. Human rights organizations say that these law enforcement failures create a climate of impunity that is at least partly responsible for the new wave of militia murders in West Timor. Mr. Wahid's blithe assurance to reporters at the U.N. Millennium Summit that "everything is under control" only made him seem more out of touch.

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has suggested that the Security Council may need to take another look at establishing a tribunal. To this form of pressure on Mr. Wahid has been added an unusually direct warning from the World Bank that future financial support for Indonesia may hinge on resolution of the tensions in West Timor. Earlier this year the U.S. military had made some exceptions to its suspension of contact with the Indonesians, and the Pentagon is eager to restore full military-to-military relations. Now that, too, is on hold; Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen will visit Jakarta on Sunday to deliver a strong message on Timor. Given the fragility of Mr. Wahid's government, U.S. pressure intended to bring the military to heel should be calibrated. But pressure there must be.

The Boston Globe CURBING TERRORISM IN TIMOR Friday Sept 8, 2000

The savage murders of three UN refugee agency staffers in West Timor, just across the border from liberated East Timor, came as 149 heads of state assembled at the United Nations in New York for a millennium summit meant to strengthen the organization's peacekeeping capability.

Secretary General Kofi Annan and Sadako Ogata, the UN high commissioner for refugees, expressed their outrage to Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid. In turn, Wahid said he was mourning for the slaughtered UN refugee workers. They were slain while aiding the 125,000 East Timorese refugees remaining from the 300,000 who were driven from their homes a year ago by militias that were formed, trained, and supplied by the Indonesian Army and special forces known as Kopassus.

This relationship of puppet to puppeteer is crucial because it suggests where the responsibility belongs for the slaughter of the three UN staffers.

This and other atrocities could not have happened if the Indonesian military did not allow them to happen. Indeed, there is suspicion among relief workers and UN personnel that Kopassus and the Indonesian Army were the hidden organizers of what appears to be a highly orchestrated effort to drive the UN staffers from the refugee camps.

The evident aim of Wednesday's massacre is to end the UN's registering of refugees, most of whom want to return to East Timor but are being intimidated into remaining in the camps by the militias. Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has told of bands of militia thugs crossing the border into East Timor and ambushing unarmed villagers. As a consequence of these terror raids, East Timorese in the border area have become too fearful to sleep in their houses.

The political goal of this terror campaign is to create a buffer zone near the East Timor border with West Timor, where militias in thrall to the Indonesian Army might rule. This was the fallback plan in August 1999, when the military officers wanted some means of keeping their hand in East Timor even if the East Timorese voted for independence, as they did on Aug. 31, 1999.

Since Wahid lacks true control of the Indonesian military, he is the wrong person to hector, and UN bureaucrats are the wrong people to be demanding an end to the terrorism of the militias. Indonesian Army officers are the responsible parties, and US military officials who trained many of them are the ones to demand a halt to the bloodletting.

The militias must be cleared out of the refugee camps in West Timor. The training of militias by the Indonesian military must cease. There must be an end to the militias' cross-border raids and ambushes. And the 100 or so hard-core desperados in the militias must be removed from West Timor and shipped elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago.

Kofi Annan can hardly impose his will on the Indonesian officers behind the killing of UN staffers. The US Army can and should. One of those three murdered and mutilated workers was an American.

The Dominion (Wellington) September 8, 2000 EDITORIAL

Indonesia's shame THE latest savagery against unarmed United Nations staff in Timor sends an urgent message to the Indonesian Government and the world community to redouble their efforts to restore order to the troubled island. Indonesia must move swiftly to repatriate to East Timor the 100,000 remaining refugees in West Timor, close the camps, disarm the militias, and block their forays into the East. Where other countries have any leverage through military or economic aid programmes, they should use it.

It is Indonesia's sluggishness that has caused the violence of the border forays, in which a New Zealand and a Nepalese peacekeeper have been killed, to spill over from East Timor to the West. This time rampaging militiamen, inflamed by the slaying of one of their leaders, sacked the United Nations refugee office in Atambua and brutally murdered three of its workers.

A despairing aspect of the latest outrage is that the dead militia leader, reportedly killed by rivals, was negotiating with the UN administration in Dili to allow his followers to resettle peacefully in East Timor. That would have been progress.

The orgy of death and destruction, including the torching of about 70 houses in the border area, stands as a further indictment of the Indonesian Army and police on the spot. Faced with a mob's violent challenge to law and order, they once again sat on their hands, as they did earlier in the face of outrages in East Timor. This stance of non-involvement is in direct contravention of their obligation to protect both the refugees and the UN workers sent to help them.

The local Indonesian Army commander cooperated to allow New Zealand and Australian helicopters to fly the remaining 54 workers to safety in East Timor. But the signal the Indonesian Army is repeatedly sending to the militia bands is that it is unwilling -- or too scared -- to rein them in.

President Abdurrahman Wahid promises to send to Timor two battalions whose troops have not been contaminated by past and present contacts with the militias. Previously, he has promised to close the refugee camps that shelter the militias. If his military and civilian officers had followed through more vigorously, they might have neutralised the militiamen in their West Timorese sanctuary. The blood of the slain UN peacekeepers, and now of its refugee workers, lies largely on their hands.

By chance, Mr Wahid was in New York for the UN millennium summit when the aid workers were murdered, and so in a position to feel the full weight of world opprobrium for Indonesia's failure to fulfil its undertakings. He might plead that he has rebellions rumbling in Aceh and West Papua and religious strife in Sulawesi and Maluku, so that the government's efforts are dispersed.

The difference is that in Timor, the international community is directly involved through the UN. Indonesia's responsibilities therefore have an international dimension, and any shortcomings in maintaining the security of UN operations reflect directly on the country's standing in the world community.

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