Subject: ST: Megawati signals readiness to prosecute militias

Also: Timorese welcome first step by Megawati

The Straits Times August 7, 2001

Megawati signals readiness to prosecute militias

Her new decree to widen the scope of a human rights probe indicates her sensitivity to international approval


JAKARTA - President Megawati Sukarnoputri's move to expand an East Timor human rights investigation to include two massacre cases, one of which implicates the head of her party's youth militia, indicates she might be far more prepared than her predecessor to crack down on militia leaders in order to win international kudos for her new government.

On Friday, Ms Megawati's senior aide Bambang Kesowo said the President had signed a new presidential decree which would expand the scope of an ad hoc tribunal for crimes in East Timor to include two well-documented cases that occurred in April 1999.

One case was the massacre of refugees outside a church in Liquisa and the other, a militia attack on the house of an independence leader in Dili in which at least 12 people were killed.

Former president Abdurrahman Wahid had issued a decree to establish an ad hoc court for East Timor's crimes but it had excluded several cases which occurred before the August 1999 ballot.

The news is surprising, say diplomats and observers, as militia leader Eurico Guiterres, who has since become head of Ms Megawati's PDI-P party's youth militia, has been named as a suspect in the Dili incident.

The Liquisa massacre also implicates men from Aitarik, the militia group he used to lead.

One diplomat said that the announcement indicates Ms Megawati is more aware of the international importance of dealing with East Timor crimes committed by the militia and military than former President Mr Abdurrahman.

''There is no crying desire to deal with human rights violations but this does suggest there is far more attention being focused on this issue which has such international prominence,'' said the diplomat.

Indonesia has been under considerable international pressure to set up a human rights tribunal to deal with the militia and military-backed violence before and after the August 1999 independence ballot, where over 1,000 people were killed.

The diplomat said the announcement could also indicate that Ms Megawati was sending a strong message to the pro-Indonesian militias, now based in West Timor, that she was prepared to prosecute them.

She may not approve of Mr Eurico's appointment as head of her youth militia, and may be prepared to sacrifice him in order to appease international donors and supporters, said the diplomat.

Sydney Morning Herald August 5, 2001

Timorese welcome first step by Megawati

East Timorese officials have hailed President Megawati Sukarnoputri's decision to expand the terms of an Indonesian tribunal investigating violence in East Timor in 1999.

The decision would be welcomed by independence supporters, an East Timorese government official said. "But we'll have to wait and see what it delivers. So far there has been plenty of evidence but [the Indonesian courts] haven't got out of the starting block.

"As a first step this is much more progressive than anything [former president Abdurrahman] Wahid achieved in the last six to eight months."

In one of her few acts since taking power, Ms Megawati issued a decree last week widening the scope of a special court to try those behind the bloodshed in East Timor.

A recent decision to free the notorious Aitarak militia leader Eurico Guterres was greeted with dismay by many East Timorese.

However, the arrest of another anti-independence militia leader, Igidio Mnanek, has been welcomed.

Mark Dodd

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