site menu spacer Jakarta plot to reclaim free Timor

Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, July 20, 1999

Jakarta plot to reclaim free Timor

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Indonesia should prepare to give up East Timor after 23 years of occupation, with a vote for independence virtually certain in next month's ballot, says a secret Government report.

But at the same time the report reaffirms support for the pro-integration militias responsible for much of the political violence since January that has left more than 100 people dead.

"We have been left behind in the effort to win the hearts of the people," says the document, dated July 3 and signed by Mr H.R. Garnadi, special assistant to General Feisal Tandjung, Co-ordinating Minister of Politics and Security/Internal Political Affairs.

"There is still time to confront the situation, but time is running out, without any sign of hope for a victory for Option 1 [autonomy].

"Therefore, a contingency plan in case of independence must be developed as quickly as possible. The Government must allocate a budget to finance such a plan.

"And if now the Government is already finding it difficult to support a victory, then trying to face this undesired possibility without a contingency plan will only cause Indonesia's image in the eyes of the world to become worse, especially in the eyes of the rest of the Indonesian people."

The six-page document, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald, is addressed to General Tandjung, who is also a former armed forces chief. Written in Indonesian, it is stamped "secret" and titled: "General Assessment if Option 1 Fails."

The report also calls on the Indonesian Government to confirm its commitment to the militias by "empowering the pro-integration forces".

"They [militias] place great hope in receiving a new injection of strength in order to conduct an operation of sympathy," it says.

In less than six weeks an estimated 400,000 East Timorese will choose between continuing broad autonomy within Indonesia (Option 1) or outright independence (Option 2).

The United Nations-organised ballot follows an agreement signed on May 5 by Indonesia and former colonial power Portugal. Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 after Portugal abandoned it and in 1976 annexed the province.

In January, President B.J. Habibie made a historicoffer of a "popular consultation" for East Timorese to decide their future.

The report outlines an entire policy position on East Timor.

If autonomy is rejected, it lists a series of recommendations, including a plan to immediately evacuate all Indonesian public servants and immigrants to Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), the Indonesian province which includes West Timor.

Other recommendations include a proposal that the entire Indonesian armed forces "must be put on alert and prepared for action near the evacuation areas".

"NTT must be made ready to receive huge numbers of refugees and their security forces. The evacuation routes must be planned and secured, possibly destroying facilities andother vital objects."

The report praises the pro-Indonesian militias, responsible for bloody political violence since January that has left more than 100 people dead - mostly unarmed pro-independence civilian supporters.

"We cannot ignore the attitude of the indigenous East Timorese militias that were recruited from the pro-integration groups," it says. "They are heroes of integration."

It also forecasts a violent and bloody payback by pro-independence Falintil fighters if autonomy is rejected, a situation it warned would be worse than the 1998 troop withdrawals from northern Aceh.

"For a while the Acehnese felt they had won a victory and as the TNI [military] made their display of withdrawal to home base, the people mocked and stoned them," it says. "This could also happen in East Timor on a much more sadistic scale.

"The Indonesian Government will perhaps feel relieved of a heavy burden of responsibility for the prolonged and seemingly unsolvable problem of East Timor which has only besmirched the nation's image in the eyes of the international community.

"However, the pro-integration forces are prepared to take up the present position of the anti-integration forces. In such a case, the Indonesian Government will not be able to wash its hands of the problem, if later the integration supporters are butchered."

The report says pro-independence fighters had received "air drops of a significant number of firearms" and that, regardless of the ballot outcome, there was little prospect of the weapons being surrendered.