Subject: AGE: Hardline militia cloaks itself in legality
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 10:20:57 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

The Age Tuesday 8 June 1999

Hardline militia cloaks itself in legality

By MARK DODD DILI, MONDAY

Eurico Guterres, one of East Timor's most hardline pro-Jakarta militia leaders, today strongly defended a reorganisation of his force into what he said was a legal civil defence unit.

Mr Guterres, leader of the Aitarak (``Thorn'') militia said the reorganisation of his force into a village-based civil defence force known as Pam Swarkasa was legal and would prove to be neutral.

East Timor's regional military commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, said at the weekend he supported the policing role of the Pam Swarkasa.

But critics describe the change in the status of the militias as ``legal nonsense''. Under the United Nations accord on the 8August ballot on East Timor's future, the militias are to be disbanded.

Mr Guterres defended the move. ``Pam Swarkasa by its nature is made up of the population of a village and has to be neutral because it consists of a variety of people from all sides of politics,'' he told Australian reporters.

He said thousands of pro-Indonesian militiamen were now members of Pam Swarkasa.

Human rights groups have condemned the reorganisation of militia gangs like Aitarak, Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron) and Team Alpha, saying their core ideology remains pro-integration.

One senior, Dili-based human rights lawyer warned that the transformation of pro-Indonesian militias would undermine the authority of police in East Timor while allowing them access to government funding.

Mr Guterres said he had held talks with the UN and offered to disarm his supporters as long as pro-independence Falintil fighters did the same.

He said he had proposed to the UN a meeting of both sides on common ground.

``We'll continue to fight and won't lay down our arms until Falintil and the pro-independence forces lay down their arms,'' he said.

``I've talked to David Wimhurst from the United Nations. If he can bring us together, in the (football) stadium or wherever, then I can bring Aitarak and the militias and we will put down our arms as well.''

Mr Wimhurst is the spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET).

The interview was a rare opportunity for Mr Guterres to express his views to the Australian media. Only last week the militia commander he said he was refusing to speak to Australian and Portuguese journalists because they never reported the truth.

Mr Guterres has been linked to threats against Australian journalists and diplomats over their perceived support for the pro-independence cause.

More than 100 people, mostly independence supporters, have been killed in militia-instigated violence since last January.

Mr Guterres is a candidate for the ruling Golkar Party in today's Indonesian elections, seeking to win a seat in the provincial parliament.

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