Indonesian Support of Paramilitaries

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  • by Anup Shah
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"Well before the referendum, the commander of the Indonesian military in Dili, Colonel Tono Suratman, warned of what was to come: "If the pro-independents do win all will be destroyed. It will be worse than 23 years ago". An army document of early May, when international agreement on the referendum was reached, ordered "massacres should be carried out from village to village after the announcement of the ballot if the pro-independence supporters win". The independence movement "should be eliminated from its leadership down to its roots". -- Noam Chomsky, from this Guardian news article.

Pro-integration paramilitaries in East Timor were armed and supported by the Indonesian government and military. This had been known for a long time, months before the voting began, when killings were already occurring and the global media were not covering it. Many of the militias were not East Timorese people themselves, but also Indonesian troops in a bid to discredit and disrupt the referendums and independence movements.

Documentary evidence of an Indonesian army-supported "scorched earth policy" to wipe out the independence movement has also emerged, even from the UN itself, and yet the international community had hardly done anything regarding this. (But, Indonesia itself is well-equipped and well trained by the US, UK etc., which may help to explain why the "international community" was slow to respond.)

This report points out the various economic and political interests that Indonesia had in East Timor. For the military East Timor was also a matter of prestige, and additionally, many military generals etc. own coffee plantations, have oil interests etc. in East Timor.

Indonesian had been saying that East Timor pro-independence movement is backed by the US and was trying to break up the unity of the nation. An irony of this is that the US has been backing the Indonesian military for over 2 decades.

It has turned out that even before the referendum much of the money to be used to promote the ballot was misused and redirected.

Having withdrawn from East Timor, a new bill to give the military even more powers led to riots in Jakarta.

There has even been some border clashes between Australian troops and Indonesians, suspected of being military.

Indonesia initially lacked the political will to disarm the paramilitary groups and did not want the peace process to work. Finally the last soldiers have left East Timor. At the 5th May Tripartite agreement, 1999, Portugal and the UN said that Indonesia would be solely responsible for maintaining law and order until the ballot had ended. A 1999 UN Security Council resolution (1246) backs this. Indonesia therefore violated international law by supporting the paramilitaries and killings.

March, 2000, an Indonesian General, Johny Lumintang, was served notice of a lawsuit filed against him in US courts for the post-vote destruction, by a couple of organizations on behalf of the relatives of some victims.

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  • by Anup Shah
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