Subject: AU: UN catches Indonesia red-handed
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 14:44:15 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

The Australian 19 June 99

UN catches Indonesia red-handed

>From Peter Alford

DRIVING towards a hostage handover in the north-west of East Timor on Tuesday morning, a group of UN officials surprised a militia group in the act of terrorising Leotela village.

It was hard to miss.

Virtually at the roadside, militiamen of the now-notorious Besar Mera Puti (Red and White Flag) were beating an old man, clothes smouldered among the ashes of recently burned huts and people were being driven away from the village.

Yesterday, Leotela was deserted, even by farm animals.

Only a few buildings stood among the charred timbers – a now familiar sight in this part of the island.

The UN's East Timor mission, UNAMET, has received hundreds of reports of similar intimidation by pro-Indonesian militias.

The refugee aid agency Caritas estimates about 40,000 people, 5 per cent of East Timor's population, have been "displaced" in this way.

But it was the first time since their arrival a month ago that UNAMET officials had seen for themselves.

They also caught Indonesian soldiers red-handed.

Just as had been alleged previously, the BMP depredations at Leotela were being overseen by several uniformed soldiers, from the 143rd Battalion's nearby Ebono base.

Earlier, as they drove into the hills to accept the handover of an Indonesian soldier and a militiaman captured last week by pro-independence Falantil guerillas, the UNAMET team had seen two other BNP groups accompanied by Indonesian soldiers.

For UNAMET, this was the smoking gun: proof positive that Indonesian soldiers, at least those on the ground, continue to abet vicious militia actions against local populations in utter defiance of the terms agreed by Indonesia for a peaceful, UN-supervised act of self-determination by the East Timorese on August 8.

"We have continued to receive many reports of continuing actions by pro-integration militias in the villages, apparently encouraged, rather than discouraged, by TNI (the Indonesian army)," UNAMET chief Ian Martin said yesterday.

"We have now actually witnessed for ourselves incidents consistent with the reports we've been receiving."

Mr Martin is virtually certain to advise UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan voter registration cannot begin as scheduled on Wednesday under secure, intimidation-free conditions.

At this stage, UNAMET believes registration, the first step towards East Timor's referendum on whether to become an independent nation or remain as an autonomous Indonesian province, is menaced by population displacement and other intimidation.

Mr Annan's acceptance of this advice would postpone the August 8 ballot – speculation has it as one to three weeks – while UNAMET, the Jakarta Government and Indonesian police who now are charged with maintaining order in East Timor try to bring the militias and their sponsors to heel.

How far up the TNI chain of command this campaign of intimidation is sanctioned is a matter of dispute.

Pro-independence leader David Ximenes says it starts with generals from Jakarta advising the East Timor military command while Mr Martin says he still believes the army and police commands are acting in good faith.

The other thing underlined by UNAMET's belated discovery at Leotela this week is that the framers of the referendum agreement, Indonesia, former colonist Portugal and the UN Security Council, badly underestimated the time and effort needed to restore order on the ground.

The Indonesian police, who are supposed to maintain the peace, are struggling to make their presence felt in towns and villages where the army still dictates terms.

UNAMET's monitoring teams only started fanning out into the province this week, while its international police contingent only begins arriving today.

But the Indonesian Government and the pro-autonomy groups remain insistent the August 8 timetable should stick.

This puts the UN in potentially an even nastier situation.

A decision by Mr Annan to postpone the vote risks sparking another wave of the violence that has so far this year claimed more than 200 East Timorese lives.

Either way, securing the "peaceful implementation of the popular consultation" envisaged by the May 5 agreement looks like an heroic task right now.

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