Subject: JP: Jakarta warns East Timor against accusing militiamen

Jakarta Post

January 9, 2003 Thursday

Jakarta warns East Timor against accusing militiamen, JAKARTA POST

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja

The government has warned newly established East Timor that it risks hurting bilateral relations with Indonesia by blaming former militia members for security disturbances there.

East Timor, Indonesia's former 27th province, has accused former militia members of involvement in an armed attack in Tiarelelo and Loubeno villages that killed four people and injured 12 others last Sunday.

East Timor foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta also blamed militiamen for a one-day riot that left two dead and dozens of buildings destroyed in Dili in December.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said on Wednesday that pro-Jakarta militia groups no longer existed and the riots were a domestic issue of the new state.

"They (the accusations) could create unhealthy bilateral relations between the two countries," Hassan said after meeting President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

He further said that there was no connection at all between the riots and the Indonesian government, just as East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri had stated earlier.

"It was refugees who returned to East Timor who were rioting, so basically it was their own citizens," Hassan said.

Pro-Jakarta militia groups, backed by the Indonesian Military (TNI), went on a bloody rampage in 1999 after most East Timorese voted to separate from Indonesia in a United Nations-sponsored referendum.

The carnage killed dozens of proindependence supporters and forced at least 250,000 East Timorese to flee to Indonesia's West Timor. At least 80 percent of the infrastructure in the former Portuguese colony was also destroyed.

Eighteen military and police personnel as well as civilian leaders were brought to trial for the violence, but most of them were acquitted.

Most of the refugees, including former militia members, have returned to East Timor.

"So, it is no longer valid to accuse former militia members because the riots may have been caused by a difficult consolidation process in the new state," Hassan stressed.

According to Hassan, the riots took place due to widespread public disappointment over the stagnant economic condition that has led to high unemployment.

"We are aware that instability in one country can effect its neighboring countries, and we hope East Timor can survive these difficult situations," Hassan said.

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