Subject: SMH: Guterres Finally Realises He Has Been Shafted: Hamish McDonald

Sydney Morning Herald/The Age November 30, 2002

A fighting cock finally realises he has been shafted

By Hamish McDonald

Reality seems to have dawned this week on Eurico Guterres, the long-haired young firebrand who led one of the most violent pro-Jakarta militia groups in the campaign to deter the people of East Timor from voting for independence just over three years ago.

On Wednesday, Guterres received a 10-year jail term from the Indonesian special tribunal hearing cases relating to the East Timor violence of 1999 - joining Abilio Soares, who was governor of the then Indonesian province and earlier received a three-year sentence, as the only suspects to be convicted and punished by the court so far. Both are East Timorese who had thrown in their lot with the Indonesian cause.

Until now, all officials from Indonesia proper have been exonerated by the tribunal, despite overwhelming evidence that the militia violence was planned, supported and directed by Indonesian military and government figures all the way back to Jakarta. Those cleared include the former provincial police chief, Brigadier-General Timbul Silaen, as well as eight military personnel including the former district chief, Colonel Herman Sedyono, charged over the specific case of the Suai churchground massacre of September6, 1999.

Speaking after his sentencing, Guterres observed: "It is unfair that a civilian like me must serve 10 years in jail, but all the military and police officers were acquitted even though they were responsible for the violence."

Most analysts would think the sentence well deserved, as the rampages by the Aitarak (thorn) militia led by Guterres were among the most blatant atrocities of that period, especially the April 17, 1999 attack led by Guterres on refugees sheltering in the house of the independence leader Manuel Viegas Carrascalao, in which at least 12 people were killed.

But Guterres does have a point. Are the Jakarta trials now exposed as a hopeless sham, in which the East Timorese defendants are sacrificed to head off foreign pressure for an international war crimes tribunal, while the not-so-hidden Indonesian Army masterminds go scot free?

To date this looks the case, with judgements on 12 of the 18 individuals to be tried in Jakarta's ad hoc tribunal over East Timor offences. The prosecutors made only half-hearted use of the raft of evidence compiled by Indonesia's own human rights commission and by United Nations investigators. Army brass and soldiers have turned up in court to intimidate judges.

The 10-year stretch given to Guterres may even be below the minimum (some reports say 11 years) for the charges of crimes against humanity brought against him, and he is yet to be actually sent to prison and will appeal.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, still expresses faith in the process. The Guterres sentence was welcome and appropriate, he said. "It shows that the ad hoc tribunal process in Indonesia is now starting to work and work well," Downer said, noting that appeals had been lodged against the earlier acquittals.

The court itself indicated it would come down against at least one senior military figure yet to be tried - the former East Timor military commander Brigadier-General Tono Suratman - over the Carrascalao house attack.

"Tono ignored a report from Manuel that his house would be attacked by pro-Jakarta militiamen. He did not take any action until the incident occurred," the presiding judge, Herman Heller Hutapea, said.

Yet this points, at its most severe, to a finding of neglect of duty. Tono Suratman is the second most senior figure in the Jakarta indictments, the highest being the then regional commander based in Bali, Major-General Adam Damiri, who is disclaiming all knowledge and responsibility.

Leaked intelligence intercepts and other evidence point to the chain of command reaching well up into the Jakarta leadership, with the hardline army general Feisal Tanjung, then co-ordinating security minister in president B.J. Habibie's government, emerging as the top figure.

Suratman and Adam Damiri, now rising stars at armed forces headquarters, are unlikely to blow the plot open. Nor is another key defendant, Colonel Yayat Sudrajat, who commanded the shadowy SGI or Tribuana task force of Army Special Forces (Kopassus) troops who covertly controlled the anti-independence militias like Aitarak.

For Eurico Guterres, a long run as favoured "jago" (fighting cock) among Indonesian loyalists in East Timor, which started when he was "turned" against pro-independence underground groups in 1988 by the notorious Kopassus commander and ex-president Soeharto son-in-law Prabowo Subianto, seems to be over. He has been shafted.

His Indonesian army masters never trusted him anyway. When the results of the UN-supervised ballot of August 30, 1999, were becoming clear, Australia's electronic spy agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, intercepted a telling conversation in which one of the Indonesian officers running the militias, Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim, voiced fears Guterres would switch to the independence camp. "I'll take care of him if he goes over to the other side," General Anwar said.

Hamish McDonald reported from East Timor in 1999, and helped compile a book about the Indonesian military's role in the violence, published as Masters of Terror by the Australian National University's Strategic & Defence Studies Centre this year.

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