IFET Report

Krishna Lalbiharie umlalbi0 at SPAMcc.UManitoba.CA
Thu Aug 19 12:55:51 MDT 1999

Campaign Period Begins Amidst Widespread Intimidation
>by Militia and Indonesian Security Forces
>Follows Generally Successful Voter Registration
>Dili, East Timor (17 August)-On Saturday, August 14, 1999, the 14-
>day campaign portion of the United Nations Assistance Mission in
>East Timor began. Although there have already been many peaceful
>campaign events-both pro-autonomy and pro-independence-throughout
>the territory, they are taking place in a continuing context of
>insecurity, intimidation, and widespread fear of impending
>violence. Indeed, in many parts of East Timor, pro-independence
>forces do not feel sufficiently secure to campaign publicly.
>Although political campaigning itself may not change the minds of
>a significant number of would-be voters, the context in which the
>campaign takes place has serious implications for the sense of
>security voters will have in freely casting their votes on August
>Incidents of paramilitary and military violence directed at
>supporters of East Timorese independence have continued over the
>last two weeks. As discussed in the August 3 IFET-OP report, the
>Indonesian authorities in East Timor have not made serious efforts
>to fulfill their security obligations under the May 5 accord
>signed by the governments of Portugal and Indonesia. To the
>contrary, the Indonesian government continues to tolerate and, by
>its inaction, condone and encourage violence by pro-integration
>forces. In addition, in some instances, the Indonesian military
>(TNI) has directly participated in the violence.
>This report is based on IFET-OP field observations throughout East
>Timor between August 2 and 16, 1999, as well as discussions with
>UNAMET officials and staff, with East Timorese civilians, with
>representatives of different East Timorese political
>organizations, and with representatives of international,
>Indonesian, and East Timorese non-governmental organizations.
>As in our last report, our major preoccupations concern the
>continuing activities of TNI-supported paramilitary groups in the
>form of violence and intimidation directed against independence
>supporters in many areas of East Timor. In addition, warnings by
>government officials and pro-autonomy spokespersons of large-scale
>violence if the East Timorese people reject the autonomy option in
>the August 30 vote, along with widespread reports of arm shipments
>entering the territory, is cause for worry.
>Paramilitary Violence and its Relation to Indonesian Authorities
>Continuing violence by paramilitary groups is the greatest
>obstacle to the UNAMET-conducted consultation process. The militia
>groups and their allies in the Indonesian security apparatus seem
>to be focusing their violent attention on anyone who appears to
>favor the independence option, especially students. The following
>incidents over the past two weeks illustrate that this problem is
>widespread across East Timor.
>Ainaro, August 5: About 20 militia members hurled rocks, sticks,
>and pieces of concrete at a group of 50 students holding a
>discussion on the UNAMET registration process at a private home.
>UNAMET officials invited by the students were present to explain
>the registration. One UNAMET civilian police officer was injured,
>leading to the closure of four registration sites for the day.
>The students had advised the Indonesian police of the meeting,
>but the authorities refused to provide security. The police did
>respond to the attack but did not make any arrests, despite the
>continuing presence of militia members at the time of their
>arrival at the home.
>Batugade, August 5: A pro-integration militia group attacked a
>UNAMET registration center and threatened the local staff. UNAMET
>had opened a special registration post in Batugade and extended
>the registration period to accommodate registrants coming in from
>West Timor. The Indonesian government had arranged the
>transportation for hundreds of West Timorese residents who claimed
>to have been born in East Timor. After the UNAMET staff at the
>Batugade center rejected some of the applications in the morning,
>a crowd of about 75 militia members loitering nearby forcibly
>entered the compound, threatened the UNAMET staff, and beat two
>East Timorese staff members. The incident resulted in the closing
>of the UNAMET site for the rest of the day as well as the
>following day.
>Same, August 6: A militia named ABLAI attacked students and
>refugees sheltering at the local Catholic church after receiving
>threats from the very same militia group (see IFET-OP Media Alert
>dated August 9, 1999). One of the refugees, a man of approximately
>50 years of age, was severely cut on the wrist and shoulder by a
>machete and a knife. The militia also cut a female student with a
>POLRI, the Indonesian police force, witnessed the attack, but did
>nothing to prevent or stop it. According to IFET-OP observers
>present in Same, the police walked slowly toward the disturbance.
>Indonesian police have not yet arrested any of perpetrators of
>the attack. Eyewitnesses report that the militia member who hacked
>the man with a machete is still walking around town. According to
>the IFET-OP team in Same, the individual has been involved in two
>subsequent attacks on local persons. Reportedly, the identity of
>the militia member, a man by the name of Alexandre, is well known
>to the authorities, but they refuse to arrest him, stating that
>more eyewitnesses must come forward before they can do so.
>Viqueque, August 10-11: On August 10, 1999, the Student
>Solidarity Council opened its regional center in Viqueque. Despite
>threats of attack by a militia group, the Indonesian police
>refused the student organization's request to provide protection.
>At 7:45 pm that evening, militia members armed with automatic and
>homemade weapons attacked the center, approximately 300 yards from
>a police station. Forcing their way into the building, the militia
>members shot into the roof, broke all the windows, stole all the
>equipment, and beat a number of the students. The paramilitary
>group also kidnapped one of the students, holding him overnight.
>The next day, at 12:30 pm, the militia members attacked again.
>This time, according to eyewitnesses, uniformed members of the
>Indonesian military and police joined in the attack. The
>assailants shot and killed three students, all in their early 20s.
>The Indonesian authorities have taken no action against the
>suspected perpetrators.
>Paramilitary Posts and Intimidation
>In addition to acts of direct violence, paramilitary forces
>continue to engage in shows of force, and to man militia posts and
>roadblocks throughout the territory, thus inhibiting freedom of
>movement and creating a general climate of insecurity.
>On Saturday, August 7, two IFET-OP members traveled to Same to
>meet with the local team. On the way, the vehicle had to pass
>through two militia checkpoints (13 and 11 kilometers north of
>Same). About a dozen militia members were at the second post, and
>six of them armed with knives approached the IFET-OP vehicle as it
>Even in Dili, there are numerous militia posts in and around
>the city. On August 11, for example, IFET-OP members interviewed
>Mateus de Carvalho, the local commander of Pam Swakarsa, a militia
>organization under the guise of a "civil defense group" in the
>village of Akananu, to the immediate east of Dili. Mr. Carvalho
>had usurped the position of village head (kepala desa) and
>admitted to having 80 homemade guns, one of which he proudly
>displayed for the IFET-OP members. Carvalho's group has
>constructed a guard post and a mechanism to block the road upon
>which his house faces. An Indonesian military post was located
>500 meters down the road.
>In the town of Maubisse, the militia presence has intimidated
>UNAMET officials so that they are afraid to fly the United Nations
>flag at their local office. Similarly, UNAMET tried to place a
>United Nations flag at the central registration center in the
>town, but Indonesian police immediately warned them that this was
>probably a bad idea and that the police would not be able to
>guarantee the safety of the UNAMET staff if they did so.
>In the few cases where Indonesian authorities have taken
>actions to punish perpetrators of militia violence, their
>activities have been more for show than for substance. Seven
>members of the militia group Besi Merah Putih were sentenced on
>August 11 to four months suspended sentence and 10 months
>probation for their roles in the widely publicized July 4 attack
>on the humanitarian aid convoy in Liquica (see IFET-OP Report #1).
>None are serving prison time, although the charges against them
>would normally result in many years in jail.
>Intimidation and Climate of Fear
>Such events undoubtedly undermine the sense of security needed to
>guarantee that the people of East Timor are able to vote freely.
>Frequent warnings by paramilitary groups of impending widespread
>killings if people do not vote for continued integration with
>Indonesia only exacerbates the sense of fear and insecurity. IFET-
>OP has received numerous reports of such warnings from East
>Timorese civilians throughout the territory.
>Even more worrisome is the fact that such warnings (albeit,
>often less direct ones) often come from local Indonesian
>government officials, or from representatives of pro-autonomy
>political organizations. On Saturday, August 16, 1999, for
>example, Basilio Araujo, spokesperson for the for Forum for Unity,
>Democracy and Justice (FPDK) reportedly made such a veiled threat
>at the first campaign event of pro-autonomy forces in Dili.
>"Believe it or not," Araujo warned, "we will have to face a war if
>there is any attempt to bring down Indonesian flags in East
>Such threats reinforce a pervasive climate of fear, one in
>which there are widespread reports and rumors of the stockpiling
>of weapons and weapons shipments by the TNI and paramilitary
>forces. Based on IFET-OP's numerous field visits, it appears that
>a significant portion of the East Timorese population believes
>that the time of the vote will be a time of war. This fear has
>caused thousands of people to flee their homes since the beginning
>of August. Near the border, many have fled into West Timor. Many
>others have fled into the mountains. In the last few days, for
>example, several families living in the neighborhood of the IFET-
>OP team in Maliana have packed up their belongings and gone into
>the mountains. Although some families plan to come back to vote
>and then return to their place of refuge, many will not be able to
>participate in the August 30 ballot unless the Indonesian
>authorities fulfill their obligation to provide security. The
>international community has a duty to help eliminate the cause of
>these fears and to ensure that the consultation process and its
>aftermath are peaceful.
>The current situation in East Timor demands an immediate and
>radical change in the behavior of the Indonesian security forces.
>Unless that happens, there is a serious possibility that the TNI-
>backed paramilitaries and the Indonesian military itself will
>engage in widespread violence aimed at disrupting the vote and/or
>engage in large scale violence against the general population
>around the time of the vote. In this regard, IFET-OP makes the
>following recommendations:
>* That the Indonesian police make a commitment to protecting the
>offices of political organizations campaigning around the
>consultation by deploying officers at the premises when asked;
>* That the Indonesian authorities guarantee freedom of movement
>throughout the territory by removing all militia posts and
>roadblocks; and
>* That the international community work diligently through the
>   United Nations to broaden the UNAMET mandate as it relates to
>   security, and to increase significantly the numbers of United
>   Nations security personnel in East Timor before the August 30
>   vote.

More information about the Marxism mailing list