Subject: Militia boss weeps at East Timor inquiry

Indonesian Observer 29th December 1999

Militia boss weeps in East Timor inquiry

JAKARTA (IO) ó The feared East Timorese leader of a pro-Jakarta militia gang broke down and wept while being questioned in Jakarta yesterday by the Commission of Inquiry for Human Rights Abuses (KPP HAM).

Joao da Silva Tavares, chief of the East Timor Fighting Troops (PPTT), said the militias had fought extremely hard to keep East Timor within Indonesia, only to later be abandoned by the Indonesian government and military.

KPP HAM members were questioning Tavares over his militia gangís role in the violence that occurred after the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly on August 30 to split from Indonesia.

After the vote, militia gangs ó allegedly trained, armed and following orders from the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) ó went on a killing, burning and looting spree throughout the half-island territory.

KPP HAM member Todung Mulya Lubis told reporters he was touched by how close Tavares was to the government and TNI.

"It really touched us when Joao Tavares cried in front of us because they [the militias] felt that after having given their best contribution to keep Indonesia united, they were abandoned by not only by TNI but also the Indonesian government," he said.

"I was personally touched by that. This is an irony in the history which has become part of our lives."

Lubis said Tavares denied the killings, arson and looting were conducted solely by the militias. "He said it was also set up by pro-independence supporters."

Asked whether Tavares admitted links with TNI, Lubis said the militia leader basically admitted it but had not spelt anything out in black and white.

"He didnít admit it plainly. He said the relations between TNI and the militias were justifiable and good. He used the analogy that because every East Timorese person was an Indonesian citizen at that time [before August 30], every East Timorese person was obliged to obey the authorities, be they police or military."

Lubis said that when Tavares started to cry, he admitted the clear link between the militias, TNI and the government.

Tavares lambasted former president B.J. Habibie for daring to give the people of East Timor an opportunity to vote for freedom.

"We were felt abandoned by the government. In 30-minutes everything seemed topsy turvy when the second option was offered without prior discussions with us," he said.

"The government didnít bother to count our contributions over the past 24-years, our fighting to keep East Timor integrated within Indonesia," he said.

After a few statements from Habibie in January, the independence option for East Timor was clarified when then-foreign affairs minister Ali Alatas met with Portuguese and United Nations officials in New York to negotiate the governmentís previous offer: wide-ranging autonomy in East Timor.

As for the militiaís modern-looking weapons, Tavares claimed all of the guns were obtained when Portugal abandoned East Timor in 1974.

"All of our guns were from the Portuguese who fled East Timor in 1974. They abandoned their guns just like that."

Tavares said he disbanded PPTT in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara or West Timor on December 13 because he realized it was better to fight in political corridors, rather than with guns.

PPTT consisted of numerous pro-Jakarta militia gangs which were formed in each district in East Timor. The gangs included: Alfa team in Los Palos, Saka and Sera in Baucau, Makikit in Viqueque, Halilintar in Bobonaro, Mahidi in Ainaro, Ablai in Manufahi, Red and White Iron in Liquisa, Laksaur in Covalima, Red and White Sakunar in Ambeno, Integration Blood in Ermera), Morok in Manatuto, and Aitarak in Dili.

Tavares claimed there were 54,000 militiamen.

Witnesses in East Timor point out that the militias were clearly in cahoots with TNI, and many militia members were actually Indonesian soldiers in disguise.

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