Subject: Age/SMH: Wiranto claims role of peacemaker in E.Timor

The Age April 5, 2002

Wiranto claims role of peacemaker

By Ian Timberlake

Former Indonesian armed forces commander General Wiranto testified yesterday that he took numerous steps to bring peace to East Timor in 1999 even though security was a police responsibility in the lead-up to the referendum on independence.

Mr Wiranto testified not as an accused - which human rights activists say he should be - but as a witness in the trial of former East Timor police chief Brigadier-General Timbul Silaen.

Mr Silaen is charged with knowing, or consciously ignoring, information that clearly showed his subordinates - including militiamen - carried out gross human rights violations in the form of murder, and that he failed to take action to stop or restrain them.

At least 1000 people died in an orgy of killing, arson, looting and forced deportation at the time of the referendum.

Without mentioning Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor, Mr Wiranto said the territory had been afflicted with civil strife for 23 years - strife he said he tried to control once Indonesia agreed with former colonial power Portugal and the UN to hold a referendum on independence or integration.

Former president Abdurrahman Wahid sacked Mr Wiranto as armed forces commander in early 2000 when a team from the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights recommended that Jakarta military officers be held responsible for the violence in East Timor.

But Mr Wiranto testified under oath that the violence was an internal East Timorese matter. "Long before, violence between pro and anti-integration sides had happened since the Portuguese period," he said.

"We had to reconcile them because we had entered a different political process" after the May 5, 1999, agreement under which Indonesia agreed to hold the independence referendum.

He said the agreement stated clearly only the Indonesian police had responsibility for law and order during the ballot in which East Timorese overwhelmingly voted to separate from Indonesia.

As armed forces commander, Mr Wiranto said he took about 16 steps to ensure the referendum went well. These included urging pro and anti-integration sides to sign a peace agreement in April and a weapons surrender agreement in June, he said.

More than 30 scruffy-looking followers of militiaman Eurico Guterres stood silently outside the courtroom with placards.

Several men in military-style fatigues said they represented the sons and daughters of retired military and police officers also observed the proceedings.

The charges against Mr Silaen relate to massacres in April, 1999, at a church in Liquica, and at the Dili home of independence leader Manuel Carrascalao. Mr Silaen is also charged in connection with two brutal attacks in September that year, at the Dili home of Bishop Carlos Belo and a church in Suai where refugees had sought safety.

Also on trial for human rights violations are former East Timor governor Abilio Soares, four mid-level military officers and a policeman but the exercise has been dismissed by prominent human rights activists here as a show, partly because Mr Wiranto has not been charged even though he was the supreme military commander responsible at that time.

The Age recently reported that secret Australian Defence Signals Directorate intercepts revealed the involvement of other serving and former generals in the East Timor terror campaign but like Mr Wiranto, they are not among the 18 suspects to be tried.

Mr Wiranto's testimony came amid allegations that he is trying to recoup some of his lost power.

"He was out of commission, out of action, and now he is rallying his troops," said H. S. Dillon, a member of the Indonesian human rights commission that investigated East Timor violence.

Mr Dillon said Mr Wiranto was behind the controversial appointment of Major-General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as the armed forces spokesman, and also behind the recent rejection by military officers of summonses to appear before a human rights commission panel.

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