Subject: The Australian: Disgraced TNI troops quit Timor

The Australian 31 October 99

Disgraced TNI troops quit Timor


THEY left the same way they arrived ­ in disgrace. The Indonesian army tried to sneak out of Dili yesterday, refusing to face the East Timorese whose lives they have done their best to destroy since invading 24 years ago.

Openly looting their barracks and homes they had taken by force, the final remnants of the TNI force which once numbered 30,000 troops boarded planes and ships.

Red and white Indonesian flags were lowered throughout the capital as crowds gathered to send them off.

While the Indonesians requested the Australian-led Interfet forces protect them from rock-throwing locals the Indonesian officer snubbed Interfet's frequent requests for information on their withdrawal.

The final few hundred troops were expected to pull out either late last night or early today.

A planned farewell ceremony to mark the momentous moment was also in doubt, with TNI refusing to guarantee they would turn up.

"We are still waiting," said an obviously frustrated Australian Army colonel Mark Kelly.

Despite claims by Interfet commanders that Indonesians were becoming more cooperative, their games indicated nothing but disdain for the Australians.

Local East Timorese were not shocked by the Indonesian behaviour.

"They are cowards," said a student watching on the docks. "They are good at oppression, but now they are on the run. That is how we will remember them." With looks of resignation on their faces, truckloads of Indonesian soldiers were driven past row upon row of houses and businesses ransacked during the militia and TNI rampage of almost two months ago.

Some Indonesian troops hid inside covered trucks, refusing to take even a parting look at the destroyed city.

While there was some jeering from the East Timorese, the crowd of several thousand were kept away from the Indonesians by Australian armoured personnel carriers which blocked off the centre of Dili to ensure there was no final clash.

One woman in the crowd sobbed quietly.

Total security for East Timor was handed over to Interfet Friday night, with some Indonesians leaving their barracks in the dead of night. They were quickly replaced by Australian troops.

The final several hundred Indonesian troops spent yesterday morning packing and looting their barracks and homes they had taken over.

At the port, furniture, antiques and bags of food meant for refugees could be seen being loaded on to a rusting navy ship.

Some Indonesian officers posed for photos with international warships in the background before lowering their red and white flag for the last time on East Timorese soil.

Just metres away, about 1500 East Timorese were returning to Dili by ship after being forced by Indonesian soldiers to flee to refugee camps in West Timor.

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