Subject: Age/SMH: Dili ship incident a 'Indonesian military ploy'

The Age/SMH June 15, 2002

Dili ship incident a 'military ploy'

By Jill Jolliffe

An incursion by Indonesian warships into East Timorese waters last month was a ploy by military hardliners to prevent President Megawati Sukarnoputri attending independence celebrations, according to East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

They are Dr Alkatiri's first comments on the incident, which cast a shadow over the May 20 celebrations.

The explanation given for the ships' entry was that they were providing security for the Indonesian President's visit, but both the United Nations and the East Timorese Government protested against their presence. One ship was allowed into Dili harbour as part of an agreement with Jakarta on conditions for Mrs Megawati's visit.

Dr Alkatiri told The Age: "I believe the military men who were opposed to Megawati's visit wanted to put us in the situation of turning them back as a pretext for her not to come.

"It was an internal Indonesian conflict. We knew of it and contacted her, saying 'You must still come', which she did. As a result of this the strategy of the military radicals failed once again."

Dr Alkatiri said there was no evidence of increased sabre-rattling towards East Timor. The warship incident was an isolated case, he said, and relations between his country and Indonesia were improving.

"I spoke briefly with West Timor Governor Piet Tallo at the border just before independence and I was impressed by his commitment and that of regional (army) commander General Williem da Costa to resolving the refugee situation and normalising relations," he said. "They are working hard at it."

He said a decision by Jakarta to move its regional military command from Bali to Kupang in West Timor was "an internal question for Indonesia - they're entitled to do it".

A threat by former militia leader Joao Tavares to cross the border with 3000 supporters would be dealt with between East Timorese government and UN personnel who were fly to Atambua in West Timor for talks with Mr Tavares yesterday.

Dr Alkatiri said he did not share the view of President Xanana Gusmao that Indonesian officials who had committed human rights violations in East Timor should not be tried.

"My government supports judgments of all who have committed crimes," he said.

"These are international norms, universal values, for which we can't make an exception.

"Are we saying Timor is different? If so, someone might one day say we don't have human rights."

He said that some East Timorese had participated freely in the militia violence of 1999, even though others were pawns, and they would be tried.

"But we can't judge Timorese and let Indonesians go," he said.

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