Subject: ‘Operasi Sapu Jagad’ – Indonesian military’s plan to disrupt independence

Ref.: FA10-1999/10/21eng Subject: ‘Operasi Sapu Jagad’ – Indonesian military’s plan to disrupt independence

Summary: In the wake of the UN organised popular consultation on 30 August came the slaughter, mass deportations and wholesale devastation. The sheer speed with which this was carried out corroborates earlier reports, according to which the Indonesian military, together with the militias formed by them, planned to make independence - the choice of the majority - unviable, and to reduce East Timor to a "desert". Implementation of the plan started immediately after President Habibie’s "broad autonomy" offer in August 1998, and it came into being formally in March 1999 under the code name ‘Operasi Sapu Jagad’ (Operation Total Cleansing). The facts refute both Indonesia’s statements about uncontrollable militias and claims by Indonesia’s allies that it was the work of "rogue" elements in the Indonesian armed forces.

Shortly after the fall of President Suharto, his successor, President Habibie, tried to resolve the problem that had done most damage to Indonesia’s image abroad: the East Timor issue. After initially offering "broad autonomy" (that in reality would have changed little) in August 1998, Habibie followed up in January 1999 by promising that East Timor could separate from Indonesia if the Timorese rejected the autonomy package. The UN managed to get the Indonesian Government’s agreement on the popular consultation being organised by the UN itself. However, Indonesia refused to allow armed international forces to be sent to the territory. The UN, Portugal (as de jure administering power) and Timorese leadership tried to offset this by making the Indonesian police responsible for maintaining security, and by sending unarmed international police and military officers to serve as observers/advisers.

The facts:

1. In October 1998, General Adam Damiri, military commander of the Udayana (Bali) Region that includes East Timor, called on leading Timorese figures who were known supporters of Indonesia to attend a meeting. Among the participants was 54-year-old Tomas Gonçalves, the son of Guilherme Gonçalves who was appointed by Indonesia in 1976 to be East Timor’s first Governor. Tomas Gonçalves was Administrator (Bupati) of the Ermera District and leader of a paramilitary group (of 400 men) known as Railakan, which had been collaborating with Indonesian forces in their fight against the Timorese armed resistance (Falintil). General Damiri ordered participants to quickly set up new militias. (Expresso, Lisbon, 11.9.99).

2. In November, 400 Kopassus Group 4 agents arrived in East Timor from Jakarta (via Kupang). Kopassus are Indonesia’s elite troops, withdrawn from Aceh because of the brutality they used to suppress the local population. The murder and "disappearance" of students by Kopassus troops during the May 1998 demonstrations in Jakarta led to the removal of General Prabowo Subianto, son-in-law of dictator Suharto and commander of the Strategic Reserve (Kostrad). Group 4 are specialists in military intelligence and elimination of opposition. Indonesian intelligence agencies and/or secret services were already present in East Timor at that time: Intel, SGI, Tribuana V (see East Timor Observatory FA07, 5.4.99 and FA09, 6.7.99).

3. In December 1998, Lt.Colonel Hartono Suratman, military commander of East Timor, announced that, "in order to protect the villages against the rebels", there were now plans to arm civilians in East Timor’s 440 localities (AP, Dili, 5.12.98), "5 to 10 people in small rural villages … to fight against the pro-independence forces" (Sidney Morning Herald, 8.12.98). In February 1999, the chief of employment services (BAKN) estimated that there were 76,000 Timorese working for the Indonesian Government, of which "20,000 civilians recruited by the police and military to help guard people’s security and safety" (Suara Pembaruan, 5.2.99). Finally, after so many years of playing down Indonesia’s military presence in East Timor, Australia’s Foreign Minister estimated the number of Indonesian soldiers and police in the territory to be 26,000 – for a population of about 800,000 (ABC, Australia, 8.9.99).

4. Questioned about whether the strategy of creating armed groups could lead to civil war in East Timor, Subagyo replied that the armed forces were "monitoring the situation and would later decide whether to continue distributing weapons or to disarm the militias" (Lusa, Sidney, 1.2.99). "Those militia have been legally funded by the government … but merely to help ABRI in facing security disturbance groups security disturbance groups (GPK)" said General Wiranto (Antara, 2.2.99). "We are only lending them weapons … they have to return them when they are finished", said the spokesman for the armed forces, General Sudraiat (BBC, 5.2.99).

5. On 27 January 1999, President Habibie announced that East Timor could separate from Indonesia if the Timorese rejected autonomy. Presidential foreign affairs adviser Dewi Fortuna Anwar revealed that Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Alatas had not attended the restricted ministerial Council at which the President’s proposal had been put forward. All ministers present, including General Wiranto, had agreed with the President’s decision, although General Wiranto had been emphatic that the armed forced had not made any mistake when they invaded East Timor in 1975. General Sintong Panjaitan, Habibie’s military adviser, refused to comment on the matter, apart from pointing out that it had been "the President’s personal decision". Habibie, undoubtedly well aware of the opposition, told his restricted circle of aides that "It will roll like a snowball and no one can stop it" (Jakarta Post, 16.2.99)

6. In February, General Damiri and his adjutant for military operations, General Mahidin Simbolon, held a further meeting with militia leaders. One of the first militias to carry out indiscriminate killing (young and old murdered, and a pregnant woman disembowelled) that caused 6,132 people to flee and seek the safety of the church in Suai in January, was called MAHIDI. "Mahidi" can be both an acronym for "Mati Hidup Demi Integrasi", meaning Dead or alive with Indonesia, as well as a tribute (sic!) to Major Mahidin Simbolon.

7. A document dated 11 March, addressed to the "highly respected pro-integration war general" Joao da Silva Tavares, also known as the "commander-in-chief of all militias", informed him that "Operasi Sapu Jagad" (Operation Total Cleansing) was about to commence. The message, signed by a Lafaek Saburai, was sent on behalf of the "Red Blood command group" which, curiously, had authority enough to be able to give orders to the "war general", to all other militia chiefs to which copies of the document were sent, and even to the ABRI, informing them that they should remain in their barracks (nº 024/OPS/R/III/1999, see integral text attached – original in Bahasa Indonesia). ‘Lafaek’ is the nom de guerre of Afonso Pinto, a Timorese collaborator and member of the BIA (Indonesian military intelligence services), so conclusions may be drawn as to where the orders were originating. The document refers to the fact that "the methods used until now [by the militias] are too slow, ineffective, too persuasive and permissive", and to further actions that should be undertaken, the first being "to take pro-integrationists (and only these) out of Dili"; those remaining in Dili "whether they be men, women, children or old people, are anti-integration and must be eliminated". The time set for this to commence was 1 May, at 00.00 hrs.

8. On 26 March a further meeting was held, this time in Dili, between military and militias. Lt. Col. Hartono Suratman was present, as well as the civil Governor of the ‘Province’, Abilio Osorio Soares. The 1 May attack on Dili was discussed. The Governor suggested that Catholic priests and clergy could also be killed. The Indonesian commander welcomed that idea, according to Tomas Gonçalves who was present. But for Gonçalves, this was the last straw. Now in exile, Tomas Goncalves says: "I did not agree to the plan, but could not say so. I kept quiet (…) otherwise I would be killed. Commander Suratman threatened me in October 1998 (…) that’s why I had to escape" (Expresso, Lisbon, 11.9.99).

9. On 5 April, the inhabitants of villages near Liquiça who had fled into the town’s church for safety were surrounded by Besi Merah Putih militiamen and by soldiers from Battalion 143. These refugees were slaughtered: 62 were killed, and a further 14 "disappeared". (The "disappeared" have been named by the HAK Foundation). This massacre was perpetrated ahead of the scheduled 1 May start to Operasi Sapu Jagad, but it would seem to have been part of the ‘Total Cleansing’ phase.

10. In a dramatic appeal, Xanana Gusmao, who had already been calling for intervention by an international peace force, insisted breaking point had almost been reached: "the international community’s passiveness is forcing me to take the decision to authorize the Falintil to take all necessary steps to defend the population against the murderous attacks by the armed civilian groups and ABRI [Indonesian armed forces] and authorize the population itself to proceed to generalized popular uprising against the armed militia groups" (message of 5.4.99). While remaining silent about the crimes being committed, international diplomacy strongly criticized these words by Xanana Gusmao.

11. On 13 April, a message signed by ‘Lafaek Saburai’ (see point 7 above) stated that the "Red Blood command": "informs the whole population of East Timor that, following CNRT President Xanana Gusmao’s declaration of war against ABRI and the pro-integration community, we have decided to bring forward Operasi Sapu Jagad (…) all Timorese who are in favour of integration must immediately hoist the red and white flag from 17 April to 15 May. (…) We shall consider all those who do not hoist the flag to be our enemies". Another message, signed by Eurico Guterres, the "commander of Sector B of Aitarak militia", demanded that all anti-integration civil servants should resign immediately.

12. On 14 April, General Zacky Anwar Makarim, formerly a close collaborator of General Prabowo Subianto, the dictator Suharto’s son-in-law who was sacked by General Wiranto in the wake of the May 98 riots in Jakarta, arrived in Dili. According to a non-identified Dili source quoted by the Sidney Morning Herald (26.8.99), General Zacky Anwar "is a dirty tricks specialist. That’s his job. He’s been here before doing this." He was in Aceh in the early 1990s, in Dili as chief of Intelligence Services of East Timor at the time of the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991 and, until recently, was chief of the BIA. General Zacky Anwar is currently military Assistant for Security, and still an influential figure among the most conservative sector of the military. He was accompanied on his visit to Dili by another hard-liner, former military commander in Timor, General Kiki Syahnakri (Media Indonesia, 19.4.99), who was sacked in 1995 following the killing of 6 civilians near Liquiça that earned international condemnation.

13. On 16 April, Timorese students who had traveled by boat from Dili to Bali and Suabaya reported that over 150 militiamen had also been on the boat on their way to Jakarta, where they were to carry out the "cleansing" of pro-independence Timorese. They were operating under the command of Captain Eusebio Belo, one of the few officers of Timorese origin, who works in the BIA, and by a Jakarta shantytown gang leader called Hercules, a lackey and protégé of General Prabowo. They stayed in Ragunan, a hotel frequently used by athletes, and in Kepala Dua, Cimangris, Bogor, where the Brimob riot police barracks is situated (Fortilos, Indonesia, 18.4.99).

14. On 17 April in Dili, Joao da Silva Tavares and Eurico Guterres, 1st and 2nd "commanders of all the militias", inspected hundreds of men and dozens of trucks that filed past the Governor’s palace in an organised military style parade. After the speeches, the "clean-up" of the city began. Pro-independence leaders and supporters were targeted, but the operation was not as extensive as had been announced: dozens were killed, including 12 in the house of Manuel Carrascalão, the former local Deputy and leader of the GRPTT, group working for reconciliation among Timorese.

15. On 21 April, a Peace Agreement was signed in Dili. Colonels Suratman and Timbul Silaen, military and police commanders respectively, signed the agreement along with militias and CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance). General Wiranto signed as a witness and stated: "I gave instructions to change the fight from a physical to a moral [psychological] fight" (AFP, Dili, 23.4.99). The Minister of Defence stated some days later: "I reject any suggestions that [the military] was siding with a particular group in the conflict" (AP, Jakarta, 3.5.99). The following day, however, he was welcoming the fact that the CNRT had "lost their roots in 10 of the province’s 13 regencies" (AFP, Jakarta, 4.5.99), which meant that CNRT members had either been forced underground, killed, or had to publicly repudiate their support for independence in order to survive.

16. Following the signing of the 5 May Agreement in New York, the presence of UN electoral officials, and police and military advisers brought some measure of improvement to security in the territory, although the situation was still far from satisfactory. Approximately one in ten Timorese had now been "displaced" by the violence. Civilians (particularly men) were either fleeing from the pro-Indonesia militias, or had been rounded up (mainly women and children) and were being held in camps guarded by militiamen. Even the UN Mission (UNAMET) itself came under attack from militias, while Indonesian police and armed forces looked on passively.

17. In May, UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst witnessed first-hand the training of civilians by uniformed soldiers inside Indonesian military installations. In spite of the fact that, under the New York agreement, responsibility for security lay exclusively with the police, Indonesian authorities claimed that the training was legal under Indonesian law as it was a training course for ‘civil guards’ (AFP, Jakarta, 20.5.99).

18. Militiamen and even militia leaders were integrated in the "civil defence" forces. The most significant case was that of militia 2nd in command Eurico Guterres, who was appointed head of the "swakarsa" of Dili. Militia leadership positions had, overnight, turned into "pos pamswakarsa" positions: from illegality to guardians of security. As David Wimhurst commented, it was like "getting a fox to guard the chickens" (AFP, Dili, 9.6.99).

19. In early June, the Indonesian Government sent a "Task Force for the implementation of the popular consultation in East Timor" to liaise with UNAMET. To UNAMET’s dismay, the "Task Force" member in charge of security matters was General Zacky Anwar, the very man considered to be the brain behind the entire Sapu Jagad operation.

20. Two months before the referendum, Col. Hartono Suratman was replaced at the head of military forces in East Timor by Col. Muhamad Nur Muis, an officer with experience in UN peace-keeping operations in Iraq (Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong, 2.9.99). Until then, Muhamad Nur had been military commander of the Ermera District, southwest of Dili, one of the districts in which militias and military caused the worst violence in recent months (Tapol, London, 16.6.99).

21. On 3 July, H.R. Garnadi, Assistant at the Interior Ministry and member of the Indonesian "Task Force", wrote to the Minister for Political and Security Affairs: "our initial optimism, which seemed to be convincing, has become less firm (..) the people’s choice might be for option 2 (independence) the pro-integration group wants to continue its resistance (…) ought to be assured that the Indonesian Government does not wish to wash its hands (…) the attitude of the Timorese soldiers recruited to support integration cannot be ignored. They are the heroes of integration". The document proposes contingency plans in the case of victory for independence: "expedite evacuation of Indonesian civil servants and outsiders before the announcement of the result of the ballot (…) prepare elements of the TNI (Army, Navy and Air Force), both personnel and equipment, near the evacuation areas; prepare the NTT territory to receive massive numbers of refugees, including their security, planning and securing the withdrawal route, if possible, destroying vital facilities or objects" (Memo number M.53/Tim P4-OKTT/7/1999).

22. On 21 July, Indonesian "Task Force" spokesman, Dino Patti Djalal, issued a document describing the H.R. Garnadi document to be a "100% forgery" that lacked the "formatting, logo, style, language, and signature … normally used by the Task Force", concluding that "the Indonesian Government will act according to what the East Timorese people decide in the August popular consultation, but not before that happens" (Mission to Indonesia, UN, no.29/VII/99, 21.7.99).

23. On 23 August, General Zacky Anwar left Dili. According to western diplomatic sources, his departure was the result of intense international pressure. General Zacky Anwar was replaced in the "Task Force" by General Tyasno Sudarso, his successor in the BIA (ABRI’s Intelligence Services) that was later re-named ‘BAIS’ – Strategic Intelligence Services. General Sudarso is though to be close to General Wiranto (Tapol, London, 28.8.99), but Tomas Gonçalves, the Ermera Bupati who refused to take part in operation Sapu Jagad and went into exile after the Liquiça massacre in April, claims that Tyasno Sudarso was involved in the elaboration of the plan, along with General Glenn Kahupiran (Radio Netherlands, 6.10.99).

24. In the month before the vote, at least six generals – Zacky Anwar, Kiki Syahnakri, Glenn Kahupiran, Tyasno Sudarso, Syafrie Syamsuddin (deputy commander of Aceh Province), and Mahruf – were in East Timor. For a territory normally commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel, their presence illustrates the important role of military intervention in the run-up to the consultation. The first three generals and General Syamsuddin are known to be close allies of General Prabowo and representatives of the armed forces’ hard-line.

25. On 27 August, 3 days before the vote, a high-level military delegation led by Admiral Joost, an officer close to Wiranto, arrived in Dili to take control of security before the ballot. A western military analyst quoted by the Sidney Morning Post (30.8.99) questioned the effectiveness of the delegation: "the Navy is superior to the police in terms of prestige … but there’s still a long way to go before an Admiral can assert his authority over Kopassus or the intelligence agencies".

26. There were clear warnings from leading Indonesian figures that the military would not accept independence: "The TNI are fighting for political survival in this country [Indonesia]", "If East Timor was let go, it would discredit the whole armed forces completely", said Marzuki Darusman, vice-president of the Governmental party (Golkar) and of the official Human Rights Commission (Mandiri, Jakarta, 3.5.99). "The military are not going to accept it. They will subvert it", said the Director of Jakarta’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies (Sidney Morning Herald, 26.8.99) and, according to the same newspaper, many Indonesian army officers were saying: "If we cannot keep East Timor, then we shall turn it into a desert" (idem).

27. Shortly after the ballot, in view of the generalized violence, the Indonesian Government announced it could not control the situation, decreed martial law, and turned over all authority to General Kiki Syahnakri, the toughest of the tough.

1. No one is in any doubt about the involvement, passive and active, of Indonesian military forces in the repression and destruction of East Timor. The militias were just a mask, that was unable to bear up to the cameras and eyewitness reports of the many journalists, observers and international officials on the ground to cover the consultation process.

2. The objective was to prevent East Timor from becoming independent, but it was only part of a broader political and economic struggle for power by the military in Indonesia. The same struggle and the destabilization are, consciously or unconsciously, being spread to neighbouring islands with the outflow of deportees.

3. While the overall objective was clear from the outset, strategies to attain it developed as the situation changed: preventing UNAMET’s arrival, disrupting its operational capacity especially outside Dili, terrorising the population into not registering, and then into not voting. After all strategies failed, the next step was to kill, empty, devastate, .. and prepare for the reconquest, albeit partial, from over the border in West Timor, using militias and mercenaries.

4. The threat of instability in Indonesia was the main brake on international intervention, ever since the negotiations stage in New York. The Indonesian Government or, more precisely, President Habibie, appeared to want to resolve the East Timor issue that had been pending since 1975, but in the past international diplomacy had given preference to the military interlocutor, and continued to do so. Indonesia’s traditional allies, particularly the US and Australia, ought to question military support – including training programmes – provided by their own armed forces to Indonesian military. This support and training had particularly benefited Kopassus and the intelligence agencies, which were the very services and troops that were appearing at the forefront of the events described above.

5. Thus, democratic states contributed to reinforcing the military’s power, just as happens in numerous countries, in detriment to their development and democracy. This military might prevails over civil authority in decision-making, and in this case there were even rumours (threats) of an impending military coup.

6. Informed circles knew all about ‘Operation Total Cleansing’. However, the apparent exaggerations and camouflaged authorship of the revelations about the Operation caused the true dangers to be underestimated, especially by those who were far away - but there were 280 UNAMET police advisers and 50 liaison officers: it is impossible to believe that intelligence agencies, particularly the US and Australian services, were not party to additional information that provided a more accurate reading. In light of what actually happened later, the reports of the Operation were not so exaggerated after all.

7. The East Timor issue is intimately linked to the development of the situation in Indonesia and its transition to democracy. At least the catastrophe that enveloped East Timor has shed light on some of forces and perils opposing that transition. Major international support should be clearly directed towards the democratic sectors in both society and the armed forces. Otherwise, not only will the East Timor issue remain unresolved but fresh catastrophes will arise all over Indonesia.



Number : 024/Ops/R/III/1999 Lampiran: Re : Operation Clean up Status : Top Secret

To the most respected War General pro-integration JOAO DA SILVA TAVARES In Bobonaro

Greetings Red and White!!! We are hereby informing you, War General, that the 'RED BLOOD' commando group will start the OPERASI SAPU JAGAD which have already started in steps. This group was formed with the following objectives (at the same time to let you, the War General, know that this group is commanded by):

1. Red Blood Commando believes that the current [sic] solutions to East Timor question are very weak and will not resolve it fully.

2. Red Blood Commando believes that the solution to the above problem can only work if the anti-integration elements that form organisations such as CNRT, GRPRTT, Falintil, Ojetil and others are captured and eliminated.

3. The method of solution currently employed by our friends in arms that form under the command of the War General, such as Halilintar, Mahidi, Aitarak, Besi merah putih, Sakunar, Alfa, Sera, Saka, Makikit, and others are too slow, ineffective and too "persuasif and permisif" [sic]

We have, therefore, undertaken positions and actions to start a clean up operation with the objective of eliminating the leaders and followers, and at the same time the anti-integration population in the Loro Sae territory [East Timor]. We have already started this step by step plan with the support of the forces of Red Blood commando armed with weapons possessed by this unit, which is powerful enough to destroy a number of cities at once and the first actions we agreed to be taken in Dili.

In relation to the above points, we inform you that excercises undertaken friends in arms be finished at the 30 April 1999 deadline, because the operation will commence on 1 May 1999 at 00.00 hours exact in the whole of Dili.

1. Start evacuation of all pro-integration people in Dili area to region no. 7 Bobonaro 2. Mantain a state of alert for each region. 3. Screen the evacuees, only accept those who are pro-integration/autonomy 4. We expect good logistical support in all regions.

After the dead line we will assume that everyone left behind in Dili, be it men or women, children or elderly are anti-integration people, whom we must eliminate. We are informing all elements of ABRI to cease all actions on this day and to be in their posts and their headquarters. End of message and enjoy the RAINING FIRE ON DILI show that is on its way to you.

Commando Red Blood the Commander, Lafaek Saburai

Forward to : 1. Mahidi Commander, 2. Aitara Commander, 3. Alfa Commander, 4. Sera Commander 5. Saka Commander, 6. Makikit Commander, 7. Sakunar Commander, 8. Besi Merah Putih Commander... Each one to its region.

Back to October Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Search this site                 powered by FreeFind

If your browser does do not support forms use: Search   Site Map   What's New

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from