Subject: TNI's top brass 'abetted appalling violence' -Aussie official

Sydney Morning Herald 10/12/99

TNI's top brass 'abetted violence'

By PETER COLE-ADAMS, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

A senior Australian Foreign Affairs official said yesterday that officers responsible for the command and control of the Indonesian military were heavily complicit in the ''appalling'' violence in East Timor.

Deputy Secretary Mr John Dauth told a Senate committee inquiry into East Timor that he would not comment on the part played by the former Indonesian defence chief, General Wiranto, but the involvement of the military (TNI) had been ''very great''.

During a polite but frosty exchange, Mr Dauth was challenged by Labor Senator John Hogg, the committee chairman, to say whether he stood by the view he put to the committee in May that it had been local rogue elements within the TNI who had armed and orchestrated the activities of the pro-integrationist militias.

''With the passage of time, the complicity of TNI has become clearer and clearer to us,'' he replied. ''By August...we were very much more concerned about the...the numbers of people in TNI engaged in active complicity with the militias and the extent to which the TNI chain of command was involved...

''I believe now, in a way which was not so clear [in May], that some elements of the TNI command and control were involved in the complicity.''

Mr Dauth said he thought the psychological shock to many in the militias and the TNI of the overwhelming pro-indendence vote had contributed to their ''appalling behaviour in going out and looting and raping and pillaging'', but that there might have been other ''more refined motives on the part of TNI officers further up the food chain''.

Mr Dauth also said that, on Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's current assessment, he did not think there was a risk of an independent East Timor becoming ''a nasty, totalitarian, one-party state''.

But he warned that any crude or overt attempt by Australia to impose a political form on the territory would be counterproductive.

In response to criticism of previous lack of frankness by DFAT in its evidence - Senator Hogg said the department operated like a closed shop - Mr Dauth said that although the department had access to ''enormous'' information, it had to be ''careful, judicious and conservative'' in offering judgments, particularly at public hearings.

He denounced the ''appalling increase'' in leaking of classified documents, declaring that he might not have agreed with their assessments because they were based on inadequate information.

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