Subject: SMH: Frontier town becomes the UN's acid test
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:15:47 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Sydney Morning Herald 27/07/99


Frontier town becomes the UN's acid test


Unlike many towns in East Timor, Maliana has good public amenities. Electricity is reliable, the roads are sealed and new brick footpaths, a rarity in many parts of Jakarta let alone East Timor, line the main streets.

But a large stone jammed in the plywood wall inside the front office of the United Nations compound suggests not all is well in this picturesque town nestled at the base of rugged mountains close to East Timor's south-west border.

It is a fact that of all East Timor's 13 districts south-west Maliana has the reputation of being among the most troublesome for the UN mission here.

Halfway through his eight-year term, Maliana's bupati (mayor), Guilherme dos Santos, a self-confessed "loud mouth", is less than enthusiastic about the UN referendum on self-determination. He is at odds with the UN on the requirements for enrolment in the UN-organised referendum on self-determination for East Timor scheduled for either August 21 or 22.

At a mass rally in Balibo on July 17 he said that a government-issued KTP (identity) card should be all that the UN requires for East Timorese to take part in the Popular Consultation (referendum) scheduled for August.

UN rules require two sets of documentation, one for identity and another to prove voting eligibility. A KTP is useful for identity, but a birth or marriage certificate is also required as proof of eligibility. KTP cards can be forged and are easily obtained on the black market, Indonesian experts say.

Dos Santos warned that if the UN rejected his advice he would call on his supporters to boycott the vote. On Sunday a 30-strong militia mob approached two voter registration centres in Balibo town, demanding to register with only the KTP identity document.

UN polling staff turned them away and the mob responded with a threat to return and destroy both centres. Police reinforcements were called and the mob went away. Luckily there was no violence on this occasion.

Voter intimidation in Maliana is rife, training by pro-Jakarta militias is a twice-daily event while UN staff here have to deal with the additional problem of a large refugee population - victims of earlier militia violence.

Whether the UN vote goes ahead on time may well be determined by the success of the UN and local police, responsible for security, in achieving a free and fair environment for voting in Maliana.

Compounding threats of militia violence and intimidation is a demand from local authorities that about 11,000 pro-autonomy refugees living in Atambua in West Timor (Nusa Tenggara Timur) be allowed to register to vote in Maliana.

Delicate negotiations are still continuing over UN concerns about the status of an estimated 9,200 "refugees" they claim fled East Timor in successive waves from 1940, 1950, 1960 and 1975. If the Atambua refugees are allowed into Maliana, it would boost the district's eligible voter population by 20 per cent from an estimated 45,502 voters.

Dos Santos has only recently and grudgingly accepted a proposal for the pro-independence group CNRT to establish an office in town and has demanded that no CNRT staff from Dili be based in Maliana. He said he could not be held responsible for the safety of a local pro-independence leader, Manuel Margenez, who now wants to return from exile. Margenez's house was burnt down in April, but he says he now wants to return for the referendum campaign.

On June 29, a mob of pro-Jakarta militia and their supporters attacked the UN compound, injuring several staff and creating an embarrassing international incident for Indonesia, its image already tarnished over a flood of evidence of military support for the militias.

A UN investigation of the incident revealed collusion at the highest level between senior local government officials in Maliana, the military and the militias.

All militia activity in Maliana is controlled by four sergeants, three serving members of the Indonesian military and one retiree. "They regulate all militia activity and training including all the nasty stuff," one UN official says.

A UN report into the attack identifies the local army intelligence chief as one of the main organisers. Lieutenant Satrisno, 44, a native of Surabaya, is chief of army intelligence in Maliana, having previously served as military commander in nearby Cailaco from 1990-94. Denying any involvement in the June 29 incident, Satrisno jokingly defends his innocence: "If I was involved, everyone would have been killed." He had been threatened with a transfer, but one month on continues to work in Maliana.

The company commander of the local Dadurus (Typhoon) militia is Paulos Feireira who recently warned: "If we lose autonomy there will be an uprising. It will be like 1975 again."

Maliana is also a name that appears frequently under the headings "Terror and Intimidation" on files compiled by the respected Dili-based Yayasan-Hak [Foundation for Legal and Human Rights]. In its latest report, released yesterday, Yayasan Hak claims that on June 10 in Oeleu village near Maliana, army personnel from Kodim 1636 (District Military Command), accompanied by members of the local Dadurus Merah Putih militia, approached several homes with the lists of people who were ordered to vote for autonomy in the upcoming ballot.

"Security remains a critical issue upon which the whole consultation process hinges. Intimidation and terrorising of the population continue to occur across many areas," the report said.

Violence in Maliana is not confined to only the militia and their army allies. Pro-independence Falintil guerillas, led by Commander Deka, a Southern Company commander, are also active in the district and are blamed for at least one recent attack against the military.

On May 16, say UN officials, Falintil fighters killed four TNI (military) personnel in an ambush in Lolotoe, a sub-district in Maliana. The bodies of the victims were mutilated and their eyes were gouged. Deka has admitted the attack to the UN.

"It cuts both ways here. There is no love lost between the two sides in Maliana. I think both sides are scared of each other and the problem is if they are scared they could do something stupid," says one Maliana-based Western security expert.

Maliana is also the headquarters for the commander-in-chief of all East Timor's militias, 69-year old Joao Tavares, who served as bupati from 1976 to 1986. Tavares is known to disapprove of the hardline tactics employed by some of the more fanatical pro-Jakarta militias, but independence, if it comes to East Timor, would spell an end to his considerable power and prestige throughout the district so he remains a staunch supporter of autonomy.

Underlining the complex network of East Timor's intertwined clans, the rebel Falintil leader in nearby Atsabe is a nephew of Tavares, but from a rival family.

A militia source in Maliana says 400 assault rifles are being held at the Tavares compound in Maliana, ready for use if the autonomy proposal is rejected.

Meanwhile, electoral staff are continuing to enrol voters for the UN-supervised ballot on self-determination scheduled in less than five weeks, despite a high level of tension and security concerns in the town. After initially dithering, government officials and pro-autonomy groups active in Maliana are now encouraging locals to get out and register.

Dos Santos says he is in no hurry to register and will probably apply on the last day.

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