Subject: SCMP/Prabowo Watch: Jordanian troops for E.Timor Unacceptable

South China Morning Post Monday, December 13, 1999


Concerns raised about Jordanian troops


While Indonesian military-backed militia gangs promise to disband, East Timorese leader Jose Ramos Horta is concerned about a possible new threat faced by the territory's Oecussi enclave. He says the United Nations force supporting East Timor's reconstruction has decided that the troops to guard Oecussi will be from Jordan.

"I only found this out last night," Mr Ramos Horta said yesterday. "It is totally unacceptable."

He fears the involvement of maverick Indonesian former special forces commander Lieutenant-Colonel Prabowo Subianto, the son-in-law of former president Suharto, who has spent much of the past 18 months in Jordan due to his close friendship with Jordan's royal family.

"I'm going to raise hell," Mr Ramos Horta said as he left Dili for meetings in Darwin.

He believes Oecussi - surrounded by Indonesian West Timorese territory - could be used as a beachhead for renewed Indonesian military involvement if Jordanian troops are present.

Colonel Prabowo has often been accused of backing agents provocateurs across Indonesia since his fall from grace in the wake of Mr Suharto's resignation last year.

"The United Nations people can be so, so stupid sometimes," said Mr Ramos Horta, although he acknowledged the many other contributions of UN personnel to his home.

Underlining East Timorese fears about the fate of Oecussi was the presence at Dili airport of Laifu de Cruz, 17, who was being flown back to the area.

In October, Laifu walked three days and nights from Oecussi to reach East Timor during the militia-backed rampage that followed the August 30 pro-independence referendum to deliver a message to the UN troops.

His message, hidden in the sole of his sandal, asked them not to forget Oecussi.

"We had reports of what was happening there," said Mr Ramos Horta, referring to the militias' control of the enclave. "But Interfet (the International Force for East Timor) was over-stretched. It was only when the kid arrived that the UN was prompted into action.

"Even now the people of Oecussi suffer a lack of provisions. The only food available there is that distributed by Interfet and relief agencies."

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