site menu spacer World Bank Funds and Timor Paramlitaries

For Immediate Release
June 18, 1999
Contact: John Miller, 718-596-7668 Lynn Fredriksson, 202-544-6911

East Timor Action Network Urges World Bank to Withhold Funds

Social Budget Used to Fund Military's Civil Defense Units, Electioneering

Defense Units Incorporate Violent Paramilitary Militias, ETAN Calls for Audit

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today urged the World Bank to continue to withhold Social Safety Net funds for Indonesia as evidence mounts that the funds are being misused in East Timor. Leaked local East Timorese government documents show that the funds are to be used to pay civil defense units (CDUs), some of which incorporate paramilitary militias whose violent activities threaten to derail the August vote on the territory's political status. The documents show that funds are also to be used to actively campaign in violation of the agreement setting up the vote.

In a Friday afternoon meeting with bank officials, ETAN also called for an audit of any bank funds used to date in East Timor. The World Bank placed a hold on $600 million in safety net loans after approving them in May. They were supposed to be released after the June 7 national Indonesian legislative election, but have been held in a blocked account until at least June 30.

"We know that the World Bank supports the U.N.'s plan for a free and fair vote by the East Timorese in August. Withholding World Bank funds and initiating an audit of those already spent are the best ways to ensure that happens," said Lynn Fredriksson, ETAN's Washington Representative.

Leaked government documents reveal plans to use the funds to support "civil defense units" in the Indonesian-occupied territory. In some areas, Indonesia has absorbed some paramilitary militias into the CDUs. The CDUs function as an arm of the Indonesian military in all areas.

The documents, copies of which were delivered to the World Bank this afternoon, consist of regional requests to East Timor's Governor to use funds "for the socialization of the special autonomy package." The documents show that Abilio Jose Osorio Soares, the Indonesian-appointed Governor of East Timor approved the Regencies' requests, including funding for the CDUs.

The Manufahi regency requested US$400,000 for its pro-autonomy campaign. While the amount requested by the other 12 regencies is not available, over US $5 million may have been authorized.

"The World Bank funds are meant to help feed the poor. They are not to feed the people of East Timor Indonesian government propaganda," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. According to the World Bank, the Social Safety Net Adjustment Loan (SSNAL) is to help safeguard "budget expenditures crucial to the poor" during Indonesia's economic crisis.

"The Indonesian government should not be receiving more World Bank funds at least until after a free and fair vote takes place in East Timor. The paramilitary militias are responsible for widespread abuses throughout East Timor. With Indonesian military backing, they have killed unarmed civilians and run a brutal campaign of intimidation against anyone they think supports independence. They should be prosecuted not funded," said Fredriksson.

In early June, Eurico Guterres, leader of one of the most notorious militia groups, was appointed to head the civil defence unit (PAM Swakarsa) in the Dili regency. Gutteres has publicly called on his men to slaughter pro-independence activists. On April 17, within hours of one such statement in Dili at least 12 people (including refugees from previous militia attacks) were killed at the home of prominent pro-independence activist Manuel Carrascalao. Guterres' appointment was welcomed by Colonel Timbul Silaen, chief of police of East Timor who heads the force entrusted under the May 5 U.N. agreement with responsibility for security in East Timor during the vote.

Indonesia has made it clear that they intend to use the civil defence corps for policing duties during the U.N. consolation. Under the U.N. agreements, the police are supposed to remain neutral.

U.N. officials in East Timor have vigorously protested ongoing activity by the paramilitary militias as a violation of the U.N. accords. The U.N. has also criticized plans by the local government officials to campaign for autonomy.

The East Timorese are scheduled to vote on their future on August 8 under a U.N.-sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal. They will choose either special autonomy under Indonesian sovereignty or independence. Campaigning by government officials is prohibited by the U.N. agreement. (See UN Mission in East Timor website:

In the last two months Indonesian-backed paramilitary units have killed more than 150 people. Many prominent Timorese have been forced into hiding or exile after receiving death threats. Militiamen have driven tens of thousands of people out of their homes and into makeshift refugee camps, described by human rights groups as similar to "concentration camps."

Copies of the documents can be found on-line at