Subject: SMH: Armed militias in E.Timor "frightened and confused"
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 18:28:35 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo:

Sydney Morning Herald 10/03/99

*Armed militia "frightened and confused"


Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr John McCarthy, has portrayed the armed militias campaigning against independence for East Timor as militarily inexperienced, confused and frightened about the future.

Mr McCarthy, who visited East Timor last week, said yesterday that the security situation was probably under control, but there was still a lot of tension, particularly in the three regencies neighbouring West Timor where the anti-independence groups were strongest.

"The pro-integration forces are not very professional," he said in Canberra. "[They] have not been around for long [and] and are not particularly well- equipped, [although] they are armed or have access to arms. They are not highly trained, competent military people. They are basically very apprehensive of what might happen to them."

There was an urgent need for more dialogue between the militias, who were confused about what was happening, and the independence leader Xanana Gusmao. A ceasefire was the first requirement.

Mr McCarthy said there were shortages of medicines and increasing reports of lack of rice and other foodstuffs, but he had no evidence to support claims by Timorese resistance leaders that Indonesia was mounting a deliberate campaign of starvation.

The ambassador confirmed that the Indonesian opposition politician Mrs Megawati Sukarnoputri had told the Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, earlier this month that if the East Timorese opted for separation in a consultative process brokered by the United Nations she would not try to upset such a settlement if she became Indonesia's next President.

His sombre assessment of the situation on the ground came as Amnesty International issued a report saying the Indonesian armed forces and paramilitary units were continuing to be responsible for arbitrary detention, torture, "disappearances" and unlawful killings.

Amnesty urged immediate steps to stop human rights violations and called on the United Nations and relevant governments to ensure that any new constitutional framework for the territory included appropriate human rights provisions.

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