Subject: AFR: Downer challenges Jakarta to arrest militia leader

Asutralian Financial Review September 8, 2000

Downer challenges Jakarta to arrest militia leader

By Brendan Pearson

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, challenged the Indonesian Government yesterday to arrest a prominent militia leader as a sign of its resolve to restore order in West Timor.

In an effort to crank up pressure for immediate results from Jakarta, Mr Downer said militia leader Mr Eurico Guterres should be a priority target for the expanded Indonesian troop presence.

Mr Downer said Mr Guterres was the ringleader of militia efforts, both in East Timor and more recently in the refugee camps in West Timor, and blamed him for the deaths of the UN staff in Atambua. "He was clearly one of those involved in leading this assault," he said.

Mr Downer welcomed assurances from Indonesian Ambassador Mr Arizal Effendi Iffendi that the incident would mark a turning point in Indonesian security efforts in West Timor, but acknowledged that assurances of tougher resolve in the past had gone unfulfilled.

"I know they have said it before, both on East and West Timor, but this is a very high-profile incident," he said.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Mr Laurie Brereton also warned that the Indonesian Government had to prove it was committed to controlling the militia. "They must make sure that those responsible are identified and brought to justice," he said.

Although intimidation of refugees and UN staff in West Timor has been a regular occurrence over the past nine months, the view in Canberra is that the recent death of a militia leader prompted the attack. Government sources believe the militia groups have no long-term political objective beyond murderous revenge for the independence vote in East Timor last year.

Mr Downer said the militia leadership had used the funeral of militia leader Olivio Mendoza Moruk, killed this week by unknown assailants, to whip up anti-UN violence.

Although estimates vary, there are at least 100,000 refugees in more than 120 camps in West Timor.

Labor MP Mr Kevin Rudd, who visited the camps late last year, said about 60 per cent of the refugees wanted to return to East Timor but had been prevented from doing so.

There is considerable concern for the refugees following the evacuation of UN staff and other aid workers.

The head of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, Ms Janet Hunt, warned that the refugees were "without protection or support".

"These are the same militia whose rampage one year ago led to the utter destruction of East Timor," she said.

Mr Downer is confident that East Timor could cope with the return of tens of thousands of refugees.

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