Subject: Former commander doubts TNI neutrality in East Timor
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1999 16:11:33 EDT

Jakarta Post 08 September 1999

Former commander doubts TNI neutrality in East Timor

JAKARTA (JP): Enforcing a state of emergency in East Timor will not improve the situation because the military is unlikely to be neutral, said a former military commander in the province.

Former Udayana commander Maj. Gen. (ret.) Theo Syafei noted on Tuesday the "emotional relationship" of the military with the prointegration militia, which, he said, "was formed by the TNI (Indonesian Military) to help us fight the Fretilin."

Fretilin is the former name of the proindependence organization and its Falintil militia.

"They (the military) would not hurt the (prointegration) militia, who are like their distant brothers," he said after addressing a talk show on East Timor.

"The military's history in the territory is too emotional and it is unlikely that they can be neutral if they are take over security command in the territory now," Theo said, citing the death of some 5,000 soldiers and 100,000 East Timorese during the military operations.

"The best way to handle the situation is the arrival of a UN peacekeeping force," said Theo, now an executive of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

Newly released proindependence leader Jose Alexandre Xanana Gusmao said of the decision, "Honestly, I do not know what for ... there is no population anymore in the villages, the population has been driven out to Kupang and Ainaro."

"Why are more battalions are being sent to East Timor? TNI is killing the population, TNI is destroying and plundering the belongings of the population," he said Tuesday.

Xanana also said that he "foresees many people will die of starvation and illnesses in the coming weeks".

"I don't know the death toll, but I am quite certain that what is happening there is horrifying," Xanana said.

"I think the international community and the government is well aware of the situation in East Timor, but what we see right now is that the government either does not have the capacity to control the situation, or it does not want to have the capacity to control the situation," Xanana said.

Xanana reiterated Tuesday his appeal to the international community "to help stop the violence and the killings of the East Timorese".

When Xanana was arrested in 1992, Theo led the East Timor special military command.

Theo said the TNI should accept the "bitter pill" of rejection of autonomy by East Timorese as reflected in the ballot results. "It should be considered an expensive lesson" for the military and the government, he said. In the beginning, many East Timorese supported integration, he added. The TNI should "also persuade the militia to enter certain enclaves in the territory's western parts (uncontrolled by Falintil), or herd them toward Atambua in West Nusa Tenggara."

The military is responsible for "rehabilitating the morality of the militia," he said without elaborating.

Presidential military advisor Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo told The Jakarta Post that while the state of emergency was now needed because the police could no longer uphold the law there, "The military has no interest in keeping this status for a long time. The faster an end to the status, the better ... "

"A good commander will do his best to ensure that the situation recovers as soon as possible."

Sayidiman added it would be better for Indonesia if the UN peacekeeping force took over the responsibility of security and order in East Timor. "All this commotion is partly caused by the international community, including the UN," he said.

Head of the National Mandate Party's international relations department, Bara Hasibuan, also called for the presence of a UN peacekeeping force.

However he suggested that a rapid emergency force comprising of two or three nations could be assembled in the interim since a larger UN presence would probably take several weeks to organize.

"We can no longer trust the military or the Habibie government to carry out their obligation to ensure security," he said while adding that the UN Security Council should also issue a strong ultimatum to press Indonesian military forces out of East Timor.

"If necessary they could use the threat of an economic embargo," he told the Post.

Researcher Muhammad A. Hikam urged the military to review the decision on enforcing martial law in the province.

He said this was needed to avoid a prolonged security problem. Hikam added that the TNI should consider its participation in a UN peacekeeping force "because nobody would trust its neutrality" if it held sole responsibility for security.

Insisting on martial law "would give Indonesia a bad image in the international forum."

If Indonesia failed in the agreement, "the UN should implement its contingency plan to improve the situation," he said.

The Jakarta-based National Front and the National Reform Movement demanded that President B.J. Habibie should state he would not seek reelection, or resign.

In a statement signed by Lt. Gen. (ret.) A. Kemal Idris and Subroto, former minister of mines and energy, they said "For Mr. Habibie to remain obstinate in his determination to be reelected president would cause the nation's disintegration."

A leader of the Democratic People's Party (PRD), Faisol Riza, lambasted the decision of a state of military emergency as a virtual "coup d'etat" by the military because the UN-sponsored ballot had clearly voiced the will of most East Timorese.

The PRD said the government and the TNI "repeated their mistake" when they invaded East Timor before "forcing it to join Indonesia".

In Yogyakarta, researcher Lambang Trijono of the Center for Security and Peace Studies said, "The declaration of martial law would likely only serve to give the TNI space to provide full support for proautonomy militia," he told the Post.

Military researcher Indria Samego however hailed the decision, saying it was the last resort to calm down tension in East Timor, and to save Indonesia's image in the international forum.

"The world would no longer have confidence in Indonesia if the it failed to maintain security in the territory in accordance with the May 5 agreement," he said.

Agus Muhyidin, chairman of the House of Representatives' Special Committee deliberating the bill on state security, concurred and said that based on the 1959 law on state of emergency, Habibie had full authority to make such a decision without consulting the House.

The United Development Party had on Monday rejected Habibie's proposal of declaring martial law as one option to overcome East Timor's situation. (44/edt/emf/anr/05/byg/rms/mds)

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