Subject: AU: Army's deadly double game (Deliverance pt 3 of 5)

The Australian

May 21, 2002, Tuesday

Army's deadly double game

Don Greenlees, Robert Garran

President Habibie's decision to give East Timor the choice of freedom triggered the armed forces into a campaign of disinformation and dirty tricks to destabilise the process, write Don Greenlees and Robert Garran in the second extract from their book Deliverance

TWENTY-three years after Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, the Habibie cabinet on January 27, 1999, took the historic decision to give its long-oppressed population the option of independence.

If the East Timorese people rejected Jakarta's offer of "special autonomy", Habibie would propose to Indonesia's supreme lawmaker, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), that East Timor go free. Later in March, Indonesia took this in-principle decision further and agreed to test the wishes of the East Timorese in a full-scale referendum.

But a backlash from within the armed forces over Habibie's decision mounted rapidly. Among those angry at the decision were serving and retired officers, many of whom had made repeated tours of duty in East Timor. They were what one diplomat aptly termed the " Timor alumni". They met both formally and informally to discuss the implications of the decision and question how the government could so dramatically have reversed its opposition to self-determination. The generals in Habibie's cabinet, including the man who served as both armed forces commander and defence minister, General Wiranto, were surprisingly out of touch with the sentiment of their colleagues.

In the January 27 cabinet meeting, and the discussions beforehand, all had given their assent to Habibie's plans. One active general, asked whether the senior officer corps were overwhelmingly unhappy with the decision, replied: "Oh yes, we'll now be fair ... like myself we lost our troops, our friends."

Much of this frustration was directed at Wiranto. No act caused more antipathy towards him within the military than his capitulation to Habibie's idea of giving East Timor the choice of freedom. But Wiranto and the other cabinet generals were not abandoning a commitment to retain the territory. They were searching for international validation of Indonesian occupation. It was a strategic gamble, but one they thought they would win.

This flawed assumption was critical to the decision by the generals in cabinet to accede to Habibie's wishes. At a May 3 cabinet meeting Wiranto remained optimistic the integration cause would be victorious, telling his colleagues that the CNRT (the umbrella body of the national council of Timorese resistance) had lost its roots in 10 of the province's 13 districts.

There was a long-held armed forces view, reinforced by regular but misleading reporting from on the ground, that the majority of East Timorese either favoured Indonesian rule or acquiesced in it. Despite this, the generals were taking no chances. In separate interviews, two Indonesian generals claimed that sometime after the government agreed in March to a full-scale referendum, Wiranto and Feisal Tandjung, co-ordinating minister for political and security affairs, jointly authorised a covert operation to ensure independence was rejected.

Major General Tyasno Sudarto, head of the Strategic Intelligence Agency (Badan Intelijen dan Strategi, BAIS), was initially placed in charge. This decision was later revoked and Major General Zacky Anwar Makarim was appointed. Makarim was Sudarto's predecessor at BAIS and had been transferred to the unattached expert staff at TNI headquarters in January 1999, where he had been advising Wiranto on East Timor. He was a specialist in intelligence and had trained with the army's special forces, Kopassus, serving time in East Timor.

There were two command strands to the operation to corrupt the referendum. One ran through the normal, overt chain of command, from Wiranto down through Major General Adam Damiri, commander of the military region covering East Timor, the so-called Udayana command in Bali, to the provincial commander, Colonel Tono Suratman.

The other, covert, command chain went through Makarim, who had the additional "cover" of being attached to an Indonesian civilian and military taskforce that liaised with a UN mission organising the referendum in East Timor.

In practice the separation of the two chains of command would not have been clear-cut, because Makarim was the senior officer on the ground in East Timor and had been appointed by Wiranto and Tandjung. He would have exercised considerable authority. One senior general recalls Wiranto speaking explicitly about Makarim's real role at a staff meeting: "He said there was a double mission that Zacky has to accomplish in East Timor. " One role was to turn the referendum in Indonesia's favour, while his overt role was to liaise with the UN mission, this general recalled Wiranto telling the meeting.

This was echoed in testimony to the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission from former militia leader and mayor of Emera, Tomas Goncalves, who stated that: "... the one directly responsible for militia field activities is General Zacky Anwar [Makarim]".

Another general said Makarim had been ordered to put in place "a typical model for an intelligence operation". Its main feature was the use of the militias as a front for the army's activities. The militias' main goals were to prevent the pro-independence side from campaigning effectively and to incite fear among the population over the consequences of rejecting Indonesia's offer of autonomy.

Another goal was to bottle up foreign media and staff from the UN and international agencies to stop them from collecting evidence on the operation to subvert the referendum and to counter their efforts to create fair electoral conditions.

Disinformation and propaganda were used to keep the territory on edge. Elements of the campaign would be unpredictably switched on and off to keep everyone guessing. One example was a letter signed by militia leaders Eurico Gutteres and Cancio Lopes de Carvalho threatening to kill Australian diplomats and journalists. The threat, which had been handed to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer by pro-integration political figures, was rescinded after complaints to the Indonesian government. Such tactics were borrowed from previous subversive operations, such as Komodo, in the months before Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor and the confrontation with Malaysia in the mid-1960s.

Historian Jamie Mackie has described similar Indonesian methods used in the Malaysia confrontation and in West Papua. The Indonesians used "a combination of threats, brinkmanship and play-acting which could be modulated at will to a pitch of fierce hostility at one extreme or, at the other, of patient acquiescence while waiting for favourable opportunities to resume the long-term struggle".

The use of a second, unofficial chain of command to run the operation was common in armed forces' internal security operations. Military analyst Bob Lowry writes that the armed forces have a "penchant for letting intelligence and special forces operate outside the authority of the operational commander". Makarim was a good choice because as the former head of BAIS with extensive experience in East Timor he was able quickly to implement a combined intelligence and special forces operation. With Wiranto's knowledge he organised meetings with militia and pro-integration political leaders in Bali to discuss strategy for the campaign.

Makarim was assigned two subordinates, Brigadier Glenny Khairupan and Police Colonel Sugianto Andreas. Like his boss, Khairupan had an intelligence background and had served as defence attache in Manila and deputy provincial commander in Dili. Andreas had been police chief in Dili during Khairupan's time there.

Another key figure on the ground was Lieutenant Colonel Yayat Sudrajat, the SGI commander. Officially, Sudrajat would have been reporting to the provincial commander Colonel Suratman, himself a Kopassus officer, but he also answered to Kopassus headquarters at Cijantung in Jakarta and direct to Makarim. Militia leaders often named Sudrajat in evidence as one of their main contacts. Goncalves, who went into hiding in the Portuguese enclave of Macau, alleged Sudrajat personally handed him 300 weapons.

Although nominally the police were in charge of security, senior officers claimed they were not directly informed about Makarim's covert operation. This was not surprising. When intelligence and special forces operations had been conducted in East Timor in the past, the most senior officers on the ground were sometimes left out of the loop. As Lowry notes: "The local commander, let alone the governor, was often not involved, even though members of his staff, who had dual appointments, were." But in 1999 police commanders suspected what was going on. Colonel Timbul Silaen had been surprisingly frank in expressing his misgivings about the militia-military connection in discussions with the UN and foreign diplomats. "Every time I met with Timbul Silaen, the guy let me understand he was not in control," said the head of the Portuguese interest section in Jakarta, Ana Gomes. "One of the things he told me back early, the end of April, was that he was keen to have the UN come in."

Silaen had some 6000 police under his control. At times, he and his subordinates did assist in maintaining security. In mid-April after the militia rampage in Dili, Silaen provided protection at police headquarters for several weeks for 130 independence supporters. Shortly after their arrival, Silaen told Australian ambassador John McCarthy he was keen to move them on as soon as it was practicable. His reason was illuminating: he was not sure he could defend them. "We can handle the militia, but not the army," he had said.

In the double game being played in East Timor, Wiranto and Tandjung faithfully performed their parts. Publicly, both insisted they were committed to fulfilling Indonesia's obligations to uphold security. After two separate massacres in the towns of Liquica and Dili in April, Wiranto flew in with a "peace agreement" that he required the pro-independence and pro-integration camps to sign. Pro-integration leaders also tried to create the impression they were open to conciliation. The peace gestures were little more than tokenism, but they proved useful in keeping outside observers guessing or convincing them armed forces headquarters and the pro-integrationists wanted a free and fair process.

Despite the insincerity of the peace overtures, Wiranto may have been genuine in not wanting the covert efforts to win the referendum to result in mass violence, at least ahead of the vote. At that stage he was anxious to use the referendum to legitimise Indonesia's rule, if necessary by subversive tactics, not stop the referendum going ahead.

After the Liquica massacre and the rampage by militiamen in Dili, senior officers said Wiranto did try to get the army and militias to pull back from excessive bloodshed. Between the end of April and the announcement of the ballot result there were no further massacres, although a considerable death toll mounted from intermittent violence, particularly in the countryside.

Part of the problem for the army was that the militias were what one close military observer described as a "Frankenstein's monster" -- they could be assigned tasks but not always fully controlled. Wiranto appears to have been conscious that violence on the scale of April would undermine the pro-Indonesia case. In a June 15 letter to Tandjung, Wiranto mentioned the need to "avoid physical activity and intimidation" which would be "counterproductive" to the pro-integration campaign.

WIRANTO and Tandjung probably felt they were doing no more than their patriotic duty in trying to retain East Timor, even if by subterfuge. How high or far that sentiment went within the Habibie administration is unclear. At least two generals said they were convinced the operation came with the approval of the president himself. "I knew that the government including Habibie, Tandjung and Wiranto had a special operation to win," said one.

At least one senior minister, while denying he approved of an orchestrated campaign, admitted to suspicions about how the armed forces operated: "We never succeeded in putting our finger on the problem but well before all this we always ... had the feeling as if there were two organisations -- two military organisations -- in East Timor; the official one from the Pangdam [regional commander] down to the Danrem [provincial commander] and an unofficial one, a nameless one, mysterious."

Habibie's own staff and many ministers denied that any of the civilians in cabinet, including the president, were party to a dirty tricks campaign. "Ali Alatas was worried about this; I was very worried about it," said Habibie's foreign policy adviser, Dewi Fortuna Anwar: "We kept saying: 'These guys don't really know that the whole world is looking at us. There are thousands of foreigners crawling around East Timor and you can't get away with trying to hide anything'."

Yet there was a certain naivety in the Habibie office, especially when it came to dealing with the military. Habibie's dependency on Wiranto led him to give the armed forces commander more or less free rein. The armed forces were rarely challenged on assertions about security conditions across the archipelago, no matter how absurd their reports were.

In a meeting on August 16, Dewi Fortuna Anwar told Portuguese diplomats Fernando Neves and Gomes that the president's office had been informed there were only 1000 to 1500 soldiers still in East Timor after police replacements had been brought in. Later, Anwar confirmed she had drawn the information from a Wiranto briefing to cabinet. Yet the number of ethnic East Timorese troops alone was four to five times the number she quoted to the diplomats.

Although Anwar felt Wiranto didn't always provide unvarnished truth, she did not feel he was being duplicitous: "He always tended to see a silver lining in every cloud and always tended to paint a much rosier picture than the real situation. I can't imagine Wiranto playing a double game."

TOMORROW: The politics behind the scenes


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