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ASIET Net News 6 – February 8-14, 1999  

Democratic struggle

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Democratic struggle

Will the student movement succeed?

Jakarta Post - February 9, 1999

Olle Tornquist, Oslo -- Almost every day, I am asked two questions. The first is terribly hard to answer in a manner both brief and academically considered: what's happening to democratization in Indonesia?

Soeharto's authoritarian state development project is disintegrating. It is difficult to make prognoses about the future on the basis of the situation that prevailed before the crisis began.

Moreover, we can no longer content ourselves with analyzing the struggle within the elite at the central level. And having said that, we know too little about the elements which are now becoming most important: developments on the local level, both in the Jakarta area and out in the provinces; the dynamic in the new mass-based forms of politics; and the various actors' politics of democratization. We will have to return to these matters at a later time.

The second question is tricky as well, but more restricted. And since I was not able to take on the first, I'll try my hand at supplying a quick answer to the second: will the students succeed?

The answer depends, of course, on what it is they really want. Many claim that they do not know themselves. Yet the students have three fundamental demands. First, they want to put Soeharto and his henchmen on trial, and to hold them politically, economically and morally responsible.

Second, they want to put an end to the military's dwi-fungsi (dual function), its right to political and economic (as well as military) power, and to hold it accountable for the assaults, torture and murders committed by its members (among whose victims students also figured).

Third, the students are calling for truly free and fair elections, as well as the democratization of a great many state institutions. On these questions they have met with considerable success, not least in their criticism of the military. But they have only made it halfway.

For this reason, in the view of most of the students, achieving real results on all of these fronts requires that the present regime, consisting as it does for the most part of Soeharto's old associates, be replaced by a transitional government. Otherwise, the entire process of "reformasi" will be botched.

So will they succeed in this? Hardly. During the great demonstrations of November, some students actually made it all the way to the parliament building, and they could have gone inside. But they lacked broad support -- including from the moderate opposition leaders, one of whom was not to be disturbed while taking a rest. So the students went home instead. Putting the point simply, they are confronted with three great obstacles, and I believe they will only be able to surmount one of them.

The first challenge is presented by the campaign against them which portrays them as immature muddleheads who mainly cause traffic problems with all their demonstrations, and who want to bring down the old order but have no program for what to put in its place. There is, to be sure, something to this.

In Jakarta I am often reminded of the student movement of 30 years ago in Europe. The latter too was not just pronouncedly political; it was cultural and anti-authoritarian as well. Yet that was nothing to despise; indeed, it was probably that which had the greatest significance in the long run.

In addition, there is among today's Indonesian students a still greater and more hopeful and dynamic power which issues from the fact that they are not just breaking with authoritarian structures: they are also rediscovering history, which was forbidden, and opening up their society, which was closed.

The students are the weeds that break suddenly through the asphalt and burst into full bloom: beautiful but disordered. And they are not, most assuredly, naive or muddleheaded.

Great numbers of them read, discuss, analyze, and come to democratic decisions. Never, I dare say, have I encountered students with such questioning minds and such a thirst for knowledge as those who, December last, took me off in an old borrowed taxi to meet with a larger group of young leaders from various campuses, and who then insisted on a six-hour marathon lecture on the political situation and the historical background.

The hour grew late, yet it seemed to me that the gathering burned like a beacon in the Jakarta night. In the long run, the students have history on their side. When the dawn broke, however, it was still over the Jakarta of today, and that makes things harder.

The second problem faced by the students is the fact that as good as all established forces are trying to tame and use them. For one thing, President Habibie, Gen. Wiranto, the Armed Forces commander and their cohorts in the regime are doing their best to keep control and to acquire new legitimacy by directing the reform process from above, and by marginalizing radicals like the students.

In addition, the leaders of the moderate opposition (such as Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri, Amien Rais and the Sultan of Yogyakarta) are taking advantage of the fact that the students are putting pressure on the regime.

This enables the moderate leaders to compromise with the weakened establishment, and to carry out cautious changes at a tranquil pace. The moderates are also trying to tame the students, so as to be able to contest the upcoming elections with a minimum of disturbance.

The students are at a loss as to how to deal with this. They tried to build a broad and radical movement behind the moderate leaders, just as the students of the 1940s prevailed upon nationalist leaders like Sukarno to proclaim the country's independence, and to refuse any compromise with the colonial overlords. This time, however, their overtures were rebuffed.

The students are now faced, consequently, with a third problem: that of formulating a political program of their own, and building an independent political base. This is the hardest challenge of all.

Today the students function as a substitute for the broad organizations among the middle and lower classes which are missing. They lack a politics of their own, however, for linking their demonstrations both with the concerns of ordinary people and with the established political institutions, where negotiations are conducted and decisions made.

Changing this will be difficult, for the weakness of the students is also their strength. Their strength lies in independence, integrity, and a lack of self-interest at a time when most everything is dominated by new and old bosses within politics, the economy, and the armed forces. Largely gone now is the approach of the earlier students, which was to ally themselves with critics in the military, the political system, and the intellectual upper crust. Even the pro-democratic elite of yesterday now complains that the students do not always listen to them and do not follow their advice. Yet if this is a strength it is also a weakness, for what will serve as the base for the students' demands? What are the social moorings for their politics?

In order to protect their independence, as well as to avoid provocateurs and undisciplined masses of people, they even hesitate to allow "ordinary people" to take part in the demonstrations and to demand their rights and defend their interests.

In the same way, it is both a strength and a weakness that the students lack a cohesive organization with a distinct and encompassing leadership structure. It is networks that rule the roost here. This means there is no top figure to seize or co-opt. It also means it is possible to adjust to local conditions and to make use of the new vitality.

At the same time, however, this loose organizational pattern makes it hard for the students to reach out beyond their own group, to mobilize people on a broad basis, or to reach common decisions over long-term questions.

At present, the students are only able to unite behind resounding demands which are simple enough to be proclaimed on the streets and in the squares. One result of this is that the actual negotiations and decisions are anyway left to the elite and its allies.

Another is that the questions and demands raised by the students are not always so relevant for ordinary people, whose first concern is whether or not democracy will lead to more jobs and food. Not even those questions on which the students are most knowledgeable, and which others find difficult to master, complicated things such as the election laws and their implementation, make it on to the agenda. These are not suitable for the parliament of the street either.

Worst of all, the students do not know how to relate to the coming elections. If we form a party, they say, we will be divided, and our independence and moral force will be lost. And if we concentrate our resources on political education and electoral oversight, many add, we will risk legitimizing not just a few good new forces, but also all those old villains who will assuredly be elected too. So even if the students have nothing against elections, their efforts are likely to prove irrelevant when election fever spreads, and people realize that "villains or not" -- the only ones we have to vote for are the politicians of today and their parties.

So if the regime succeeds in keeping control over the reform process, and the moderate politicians place their bets on a compromise with the establishment, which is the most likely outcome, notwithstanding all the turbulence, the students will be thrown upon their own resources. And these resources are, to be sure, substantial and promising in many ways.

But the students' strength is also their weakness, as seen in the lack of a connection between the concerns of ordinary people, the actions of the students, and the established political institutions.

Hence, the admonitory conclusion here is that if the student movement does not succeed in creating such a connection, for instance in the form of a second liberation movement rooted in the interests of ordinary people, and devoted to the achievement of successive and deepened democratization both before and after the elections, it will most likely end up as a collection of fragmented pressure groups. While elected bosses attend to the making of policy and the exercise of power. This, of course, is much better than yesterday's authoritarian exploitation and the present unrest on the verge of breakdown, but it is hardly the best breeding ground for stable and deepened democracy.

Scores of students arrested

Agence France Presse - February 9, 1999

Jakarta -- Indonesian security forces arrested scores of students Tuesday as they marched towards parliament in the first big anti-government demonstration this year, witnesses said.

Vastly overhelmed by about 400 police and soldiers, at least 40 students were arrested near a major flyover some 300 metres from the parliament and taken away on two trucks. Security forces moved in as heavy rain started to fall.

The protestors, who had numbered around 100, had first gathered outside the Atmajaya Catholic University, blocking off one side of a main avenue watched by about 100 armed security members.

The student group calling itself "University Student Forum for Reform and Democracy" then marched towards the parliament building. But the students were blocked almost straight away by soldiers equiped with batons and shields.

The group demanded to be given details of foreign loans made to Indonesia, expressing fears they might be diverted, and for the government to end all links with former president Suharto.

The students also demanded an investigation into the ending of student protests last November 13 when security forces opened fire near the Atmajaya university, leaving at least seven students and six others civilians dead.

11 protesters freed, 44 fined

Jakarta Post - February 11, 1999

Jakarta -- Under the watchful eyes of some 300 supporters of the defendants, the Central Jakarta District Court on Wednesday conducted a speedy trial for all 55 student protesters arrested for holding an illegal rally on Tuesday.

Conducted in two hearing rooms over three sessions, the five- hour trial ended peacefully, the only incident occurring when one of the defendants' supporters was ordered by the judge to leave the courtroom for disrupting the trial.

After hearing the testimonies of police officers and the lawyers' pleas, the judges found 11 of the defendants not guilty and sentenced each of the remaining 44 defendants to pay fines of Rp 2,250 for holding a street demonstration without giving prior notification to the police. Half of the students found guilty by the court refuse to pay the fine, and will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The 55 defendants who were arrested during an antigovernment rally in front of the GKBI building on Jl. Sudirman in South Jakarta on Tuesday, arrived at the court in two police trucks at 11am.

At the court, they were greeted by supporters. mostly members of the Student Action Front for Reform and Democracy, under the wary eyes of scores of security officers.

Judge Rusdi Asad presided over the trial for 28 of the defendants, while Judge Purwanto presided over the trial for the remaining 27 defendants.

The police presented three banners and two megaphones--said to have been seized from the students during the demonstration--as evidence in the trials.

All of the defendants were charged with violating Law 9/1998 on freedom of expression, whose maximum punishment is a Rp 2,250 fine -- about four US cents at the current rate of exchange -- or two weeks in jail under Article 510 of the Criminal Code.

In the trial presided over by Judge Rusdi, four defendants, including a senior technical high school student, denied the charges, saying that they were passing through the area when their busses became trapped in the traffic jam in front of the GKBI building.

Rusdi found these four defendants not guilty. The remaining 24 students were found guilty of staging a street rally without giving prior notice to the police. "You may pay the fine or substitute it with three days in jail. Or you can appeal the decision," he told the defendants.

During the trial, Rusdi ordered a supporter of the defendants, later identified as a student from Jakarta University, to leave the courtroom for creating a disruption.

The student had asked Rusdi to stop interrupting the trial with long explanations. Rusdi also could not hide his anger with the noisy supporters of the defendants. His appeals for quiet were of no avail.

In the other courtroom, Judge Purwanto found seven defendants, including five female students, not guilty. The other 20 defendants, including three female students, were found guilty of holding a street rally without giving prior notice to the police.

Daniel Panjaitan, a lawyer at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute who represented the students regretted Judge Purwanto's decision to leave the courtroom without asking the defendants if they accepted or refused his decision.

"We have decided to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court," Daniel said. He said the judge based his decision only on police dossiers without considering the defendants' testimonies. Standing on a seat, Daniel attempted to calm the crowd of supporters who began to yell when the judge left the courtroom.

During the session, some of the defendants told Purwanto that they were beaten by police officers when they were placed under arrest.

Purwanto replied that the alleged police abuse had no pertinence to the present trial suggesting the defendants report the matter to the police. The 55 defendants are students from various universities in Jakarta, including Atma Jaya University, Moestopo University and Tarumanegara University.

They were among 100 demonstrators who attempted to march to the House of Representatives to express their demands, including a thorough investigation of the Black Friday shooting at Semanggi cloverleaf last November and a transparent report of foreign loans to Indonesia.
East Timor

Military to sour independence plans

Far Eastern Economic Review - February 18, 1999

Dan Murphy, Barro Pite -- Martinho Fernandes stands four- square like an ageing middleweight, takes a pull on his beer and declares that he doesn't want to fight--but will if he feels he has to. And he may get that feeling. The 52-year-old civil servant leads a group of East Timorese who favour integration with Indonesia. The prospect of a fast Indonesian withdrawal from the territory fills Fernandes with foreboding.

He has the look of a man who is not to be trifled with, starting with his thick build, down to the rough tattoo of a naked woman on his left forearm. He keeps a flak jacket hanging on his bedroom wall and a rifle in his closet--both mementoes of his days as a Portuguese soldier. Across from his bed is a clock sporting the Indonesian special forces, or Kopassus, logo of red beret, mirrored sunglasses and hunting knife.

"Fretilin is still armed," he explains, referring to the independence group that has waged a guerrilla action against Indonesia since shortly after it invaded the former Portuguese territory in 1975. "If they put down their weapons, we won't need weapons. But as long as they have them, and the military is no longer standing between us, it's safer for everybody to put guns in our hands."

Like a lot of people, he predicts dire consequences if independence comes without substantial preparation. "If Indonesia lets us go immediately, there will be war."

There's no doubt the government is prepared to let East Timor go. On January 27, in an unexpected turn, Indonesia said it would consider leaving the territory if East Timor rejects a plan that would give it more autonomy. Under the autonomy proposal, the territory would gain more control over its finances and government while remaining part of Indonesia; rejection would lead to swift independence. Just 12 days later, however, in talks with Portugal at the United Nations' headquarters in New York, Indonesia would not agree to allow the East Timorese to vote on their future. A referendum, it said, would lead to a civil war.

So far, it's unclear what mechanism will be used to determine East Timor's fate. But judging by the mood on the ground, most East Timorese would choose independence, with Fretilin almost certain to come to power.

That frightens the significant minority of people who have stood with Indonesia. They have benefited handsomely under Indonesian rule and have everything to lose. Many of them fought Fretilin in the civil war that erupted before the Indonesian invasion and fear being at the mercy of their old enemies.

Those fears aside, the key variable for peace will be the behaviour of the Indonesian military in the coming months. The armed forces, or ABRI, have had a free hand in the territory since the invasion: Intelligence operatives have penetrated most segments of society and the military has a record of using civilians to sow fear or intimidate citizens into supporting Indonesia.

Given that track record, many East Timorese fear the military will play on existing divisions to undermine the independence process. Salvador Soares, a member of parliament and editor of The Voice of East Timor newspaper, says ABRI has invested too much time and blood in the region to walk away quietly. The government threatened this week to remove Soares from the legislature for his views.

However, he speaks for many who have grown alarmed by the military's recruitment and training of pro-integration civilian guards, or Wanra, in the past two months--a recruitment drive that was boosted by 1,000 new entrants in early February. The military has no pretensions to arming anybody but pro- integrationists, and acknowledges that part of its intention is to help them protect themselves against what it calls "terrorists." But for the most part, the East Timor military command and the central government insist the new militia are part of a national programme to provide extra security during the country's June general election.

Though there have long been informal and armed pro-integration groups (Fernandes is the leader of one) they bear little resemblance to the Wanra. The new recruits are younger and hotter-headed and, in some cases at least, sport modern M-16 rifles. They have already killed, most recently slaying four men in the town of Ainaro. A Western diplomat in Jakarta worries that "they're little more than thugs." In a separate incident, as many as 6,000 people fled their villages to take refuge in the town of Suai at the end of January after what independence activists say was a Wanra attack.

Many residents fret that the Wanra have been mustered to limit East Timor's chances of a peaceful transition. The military dismisses the accusations. "ABRI adheres to human rights and sticks to central-government policy. Our role is to protect the people," says Col. Mudjiono, ABRI's second in command on the ground. He says that reductions in military staffing have made it harder to protect everyone, though, and admits 100 rifles were distributed to integrationists in January to even the odds between them and Fretilin guerrillas.

Independence supporters and Catholic leaders like Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo don't buy the self-defence line, pointing out that the larger, better-equipped Indonesian military is more than a match for Fretilin. "What are the professional soldiers doing? What are they getting paid for?" Belo complains. "In 15 years here, I've never heard of Fretilin raiding a village and causing 6,000 people to flee. Yet, the moment the Wanra are formed, 6,000 had to flee."

The military says the Wanra weren't responsible for the exodus from Suai and says the Ainaro killings were an act of self- defence against a raid by Fretilin fighters, who it accuses of "terrorizing" the local populace. "People have to protect themselves," Mudjiono says, adding that ABRI reclaimed the weapons after the shootings. Villagers from Ainaro disagree. They say the killings were unprovoked.

Fernandes is no thug but he does support the general idea of arming civilians, using his personal history to illustrate why. He joined Apodeti, a small party that favoured integration with Indonesia (and had significant Indonesian backing) in 1974. He says his reasons were practical and that Indonesia promised--and delivered--a much better life to the territory after 450 years under Portugal, something he doesn't think the poor region of 830,000 could have done on its own. "We had nothing; the people lived on dirt floors," he says. "Now people have permanent homes, some even have cars! Under the Portuguese, no one even had a horse."

He says he was jailed by Fretilin for about six months in 1975 for his political views, and subject to periodic harassment until 1977, when Fretilin lost control of the region around the town of Wikeke, where he grew up.

Fernandes put his military skills to work, acting as a guide and all-round assistant to Kopassus as they hunted independence fighters across the island. Kopassus developed a reputation for its own brand of brutality, often executing prisoners out of hand and dabbling in so-called psychological operations. Though the special forces are a particularly hated element of Indonesian rule, Fernandes is unapologetic, saying it was war on all sides and that he was proud to be with them. "They're the best soldiers the army has. The rest never wanted to work." Now he says he wants to give reconciliation a shot--but he adds that he won't be able to trust Fretilin as long as it remains armed.

Among the military's victims was the father of Francisco Gusmao, a relation of jailed Fretilin leader Xanana Gusmao. When Francisco was five, he watched as his father was executed by an Indonesian soldier who cut his throat. Fernandes later adopted the boy. Francisco, now 26, says he has been pro-independence ever since his father's death--but that he and his adoptive father get along well.

Ironically, their relationship illustrates one of the things peace has got going for it. As in Belfast or Jerusalem, there is a tangle of tragic histories that many people struggle to put behind them. But the key difference from those troubled cities is that East Timor's divide doesn't break down on religious or tribal lines. In Dili, the lines between the two camps are crossed every day, with political opponents attending church together, doing business together and occasionally living together.

Though many in East Timor are clinging to hopes that those communal ties will help prevent more bloodletting as they take their first steps towards independence, it's clear the province's short-term stability is in ABRI's hands. After 23 years of well- documented extra-judicial killings and torture by the army, the local population isn't relying on its good faith.

"After 23 years of abuse, they have a moral responsibility to see that the transition is peaceful," says Francisco Gueterres, a politics professor at East Timor University who's trying to promote reconciliation. "But will they?"

Indonesia ready to lift Horta travel ban

The Australian - February 11, 1999

Don Greenlees -- Indonesian Justice Minister Muladi yesterday signalled that a ban on Nobel peace prize winner Jose Ramos Horta from entering the country could be revoked to enable him to join in talks on the future status of East Timor.

"He [Mr Ramos Horta] has to join [the talks]. It's only a matter of how. Is it enough to send a letter, to come here or [meet] in another country? That's another problem," he said. Asked about restrictions on Mr Ramos Horta entering Indonesia, he said: "That's no problem. We can revoke that."

It came as Fretilin leader Xanana Gusmao appealed to all parties to the conflict in East Timor to bring an end to the bloodshed.

Speaking shortly after being transferred out of Jakarta's Cipinang jail to house arrest, Gusmao said: "If all sides do not want to reduce their enmity or their hostility, then the problem will become more and more difficult.

"In my opinion, the priority now in solving the problems of East Timor is to create a peaceful climate."

Later, Mr Muladi, who greeted Gusmao on his arrival at the central Jakarta house where he will be held, said Indonesia maintained its opposition to demands by East Timorese pro- independence groups for a referendum on the status of the former Portuguese colony.

He praised Gusmao and expressed the hope his removal from prison would enable him to "work and participate" more actively in a solution for the two-decade-old dispute over East Timor. "Xanana is very moderate and co-operative," Mr Muladi said. "He is one of the key figures."

But former East Timorese guerilla commander Antonio Gomez da Costa, known as "Mahuno", called on Indonesia immediately to free Gusmao, describing house arrest as "not enough".

"The reason is simply that Xanana is East Timor's leader," Mr Gomez da Costa said. He said work should begin immediately on Gusmao's proposals for a ceasefire between all armed factions, a process of disarmament, followed by a UN presence to help maintain peace.

Yesterday's move from jail to house arrest marked a long journey for the man who was once Indonesia's most wanted. Known as Ze by fellow inmates, Gusmao was serving a 20-year sentence for plotting against the State and illegal possession of weapons.

The second eldest of nine children, he was born on June 20, 1946, and grew up in a village near north central Manatuto. Devoted to the cause of East Timor's independence, he spent 18 years hiding out with pro-independence guerillas.

By 1974, Gusmao was caught up in politics, becoming a member of the Associacao Social Democratica Timor -- a new pro- independence political party.

Leaving behind a wife and two children, he joined the guerillas two days after Fretilin proclaimed a free East Timor on November 28, 1975. A week later, Indonesia invaded Dili.

Gusmao took on the leadership of the armed wing of Fretilin in 1979 and played a game of cat and mouse with Indonesian authorities for the next 15 years.

Indonesia frees rebel leader

Washington Post - February 10, 1999

Keith B. Richburg, Jakarta -- With a smile, a wave and a clenched fist thrust defiantly in the air, East Timorese resistance leader Jose Alexandre Xanana Gusmao emerged from prison today to be driven to a refurbished Jakarta bungalow, where the nation's best-known guerrilla leader and political prisoner begins a new role at the center of negotiations over the future independence of his disputed homeland.

Xanana has been in prison since he was captured by Indonesian troops in 1992 while leading the Fretilin guerrilla movement fighting Indonesia's occupation of East Timor. His life sentence was later commuted to 20 years, but he was moved today to a form of "house arrest" as part of a deal with government officials to allow Xanana to take part in intensifying talks between the United Nations and Timor's former colonial power, Portugal, aimed at resolving the 24-year-old conflict.

If East Timor is granted independence -- and the Indonesian government has now said that is a possibility if a current autonomy offer is rejected -- then Xanana, 52, a Jesuit-trained poet who has become the recognizable face of Timorese resistance, is widely considered most likely to become the new nation's first president.

Xanana is still in custody, but his move today was nonetheless an unmistakable sign of how far Indonesia has moved in its willingness to abandon a chunk of its territory, and to open a dialogue with a man once considered a dangerous separatist. Today's scene of Xanana at his new house, surrounded by cheering supporters with a large flag of independent East Timor, was another startling reminder of the changes that have swept Indonesia since the fall of president Suharto ushered in a new period of openness and democratic reform.

When he arrived at the house, surrounded by a crush of journalists and chanting supporters, Xanana urged a halt to the fighting, and asked all sides to be patient while he begins finding a solution to the Timor dispute.

"I feel that I have been given a very heavy task, and I have to do it. That's why I am here," the soft-spoken Xanana told reporters. "I feel that with talks with East Timorese from all sides, I can create an East Timorese nation."

"In my opinion, the priority now in solving the problems of East Timor is to create a peaceful climate," he said, adding that all sides in the conflict should "reduce their enmity or hostility" to make his job easier.

Indonesia's Justice Minister Muladi, who was at the house to greet Xanana, said: "Xanana is here not only to sit, but also to work, to help solve the problem of East Timor."

Talks in New York this week between the Indonesian and Portuguese foreign ministers, Ali Alatas and Jaime Gama, produced the broad outlines of an agreement, but the two sides still differ over a key issue: Portugal insists on a popular referendum to decide East Timor's fate, while Indonesia wants an alternative method of "consultation" to gauge local sentiment. Indonesia fears that a new referendum on Timor -- coming as the country prepares for its own democratic elections in June -- could be costly, hard to organize, and might trigger new fighting between rival Timorese factions.

For the many East Timorese who have been fighting the independence struggle, Xanana's move to house arrest was an important step in a long process. But some expressed anger that the rebel leader was not freed unconditionally and allowed to return to East Timor, while others viewed Indonesia's latest independence offer, and its rejection of a referendum, with suspicion.

"Something is not now clear," said Fernando La'Sama de Araujo, general secretary of Renetil, the National Resistance of Timorese Students. "Alatas said if East Timorese reject the proposal for autonomy" they could have independence. "The problem is how to know if East Timorese reject autonomy. [Indonesian authorities] don't want a referendum. They are allergic to a referendum."

"We know the majority of East Timorese people want to be independent," he added.

Antonio Joao Gomez de Costa, a colleague of Xanana's in the resistance and a member of the movement's central committee, said, "Xanana should be released. He should not be here in Jakarta."

East Timor, 1,250 miles east of Jakarta with a population of 800,000, was claimed by Portugal in the 17th century. The Portuguese remained there for three centuries, until a coup in Lisbon brought a socialist government to power that sought to sever links with far-flung colonies. When Portugal withdrew from Timor in 1975, fighting erupted between rival Timorese factions. The socialist-leaning Fretilin emerged on top and proclaimed independence in November of that year.

Nine days later, Indonesian troops invaded East Timor on the pretext of stopping the bloodshed, and in 1976, East Timor was annexed as Indonesia's 27th province. The annexation was never recognized by the United Nations, which still considers Portugal the administrating power. Human rights groups say as many as 200,000 Timorese have died from fighting, starvation and disease since Indonesia's invasion and annexation.

At the time of the invasion, then-President Suharto said he wanted to prevent the leftist Fretilin from turning East Timor into "a Cuba in our backyard."

Today, some of the triumphant young Xanana supporters who showed up at his bungalow wore T-shirts with the face and name of the late Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, an icon for the Timorese resistance movement.

International community nervous

Agence France Presse - February 12, 1999

Jakarta -- The speed of Indonesia's change of heart over the future of East Timor, which could now become independent within months, has worried diplomats watching the troubled territory.

Officially other governments have welcomed President B.J. Habibie's statement Thursday that the former Portuguese colony of less than one million people could be independent by Janaury 1.

But UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and diplomats in Jakarta say major obstacles remain before East Timor's future can be decided. Australia is so worried about a new conflict erupting near its shores that Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has sought emergency talks with Habibie.

Indonesia, then under strongarm president Suharto, invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it a year later. The United Nations and most countries refused recognition, but for more than two decades Suharto kept a firm grip on the province.

Suharto fell last year and in less than a month, the Indonesian government has raised the possibility of independence, re-established tentative diplomatic relations with Portugal and moved East Timor rebel leader Xanana Gusmao out of prison.

Now Habibie says East Timor should be independent by January 1, 2000 so the government can concentrate on its other 26 provinces.

The speed of the U-turn, guided by Habibie, stunned diplomats in Jakarta -- who have officially welcomed the new policy -- the population of East Timor and the Indonesian government.

The foreign ministry and the powerful army were only consulted at the last minute, according to separate sources. This would explain, the sources said, the lack of coordination between some ministers and their contradictory statements.

The main reason for the change is that Indonesia's economy is on its knees. The government can hardly feed its 206 million people and is only surviving with massive international aid.

Indonesia has also faced international condemnation over human rights abuse and military repression over the past 24 years in East Timor, where most of the population still rejects the Indonesian presence.

According to well-placed sources, Habibie knew when he made his announcement Thursday that when US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Jakarta in early March, East Timor would be top of the agenda.

But Indonesia's leaders now seemed resigned to giving up East Timor, and some even seem relieved. Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a foreign policy advisor to Habibie, described the territory that Portugal withdrew from as "a sick appendix which has to be removed."

Foreign Minister Ali Alatas had some blunt words for Jakarta- based ambassadors, according to one participant. "You wanted it, you got it, its all yours now," Alatas was quoted as saying.

Indonesia's sudden change has also complicated the United Nations' search for an accord between Indonesia and Portugal over East Timor. UN chief Annan cautioned following Habibie's comments that "major hurdles" remained ahead of a political settlement.

Annan noted that just-ended talks here between Portugal and Indonesia focusing on draft UN autonomy proposals had "gone very well, and have made some progress." But "we still have some major hurdles ahead. It will require major efforts by the international community either way," he added.

One western diplomat in Jakarta said Habibie's announcement had come "out of the blue" and added: "We have got to review everything now."

"What we need now is a solid process that can be protected against any other change of policy in Jakarta, such as a new government or a nationalist backlash," said the diplomat.

Foreign governments are also concerned that the small territory could descend into chaos and conflict between separatists and those who want East Timor to remain Indonesia's 27th province.

Gusmao urges dialogue to avert civil war

Reuters - February 12, 1999

Patrisia Prakarsa, Jakarta -- East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao said Friday dialogue was needed among all groups involved in East Timor to prevent the troubled territory descending into civil war.

In Adelaide, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer also warned of the potential for conflict but said Indonesia had assured him it would not suddenly abandon the province to chaos, despite comments by Indonesian President B.J. Habibie that he wanted the East Timor issue resolved by January 1, 2000.

Gusmao told reporters after meeting Portugal's special Jakarta envoy that everybody should be consulted about Timor's future.

"In order to reach a peaceful resolution, it is important to include all sides in the dialogue to reduce the likelihood of a civil war," he told reporters, adding he had repeated his demand for independence to Portuguese envoy Ana Gomes.

"She asked me if I prefer autonomy or independence. It is clear what I want, not what I prefer ... I want independence for East Timor," Gusmao said.

It was the first official visit since Gusmao was moved to house arrest Wednesday after serving five years in Jakarta's Cipinang prison. Gusmao, 52, was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to 20 years in jail for his fight against Indonesia's 1975 invasion.

Indonesia has offered autonomy to East Timor, but says if this is rejected it will consider independence. Habibie said Thursday he wanted to concentrate on Indonesia's other 26 provinces from January 1, suggesting the separation of East Timor could be swift.

But some observers warn the territory could descend into chaos unless it is given time to prepare for independence. The population was deliberately divided by Indonesia's military and pro- and anti-independence groups have clashed in recent weeks.

Australia's Downer said he would meet Indonesian President B.J Habibie later this month to urge a stable and peaceful transition for East Timor to either autonomy or independence.

"I have spoken to the Indonesians ... and they have ... given me an assurance they will absolutely not leave East Timor ... in the way the Portuguese left," he told a news conference.

Portugal withdrew from East Timor in 1975. Indonesia invaded later that year and annexed the territory in 1976 in a move never recognized by the United Nations. Human rights groups say up to 200,000 died in the invasion and subsequent crackdown and famine.

Downer said he was convinced Habibie's new urgent approach to resolving the issue was genuine, and it was possible East Timor could become independent by early or mid-2000.

Prime Minister John Howard said earlier Australia would support any decision by the East Timorese for independence and Australia would be appropriately generous to the new state. But Howard said he was wary the hasty granting of independence to the troubled province would cause massive internal problems in East Timor and be a burden on Australia.

"I'm not saying for a moment that I'm against independence, I think in the short term a period of autonomy within Indonesia would be better," he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

"But if we just have an arbitrary granting of independence without much preparation or ongoing assistance, you could have a lot of internal collapse in Timor ... and there would be an enormous potential burden thrust on Australia," he said.

Portugal and Indonesia are locked in UN-sponsored talks on East Timor's future. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday it was too early to call the talks a success.

Short ride for rebel, long path for Timor

Reuters - February 10, 1999

Terry Friel, Jakarta -- Nestled in a leafy Jakarta suburb, number 47 Jalan Percetakan Negara VII is an unlikely place to decide the fate of a nation.

But the poet-turned-guerrilla leader who now lives in the modest whitewashed bungalow, and the steady stream of visitors who will meet him, are pivotal to the future of the 800,000 people in the bloodied territory of East Timor.

The transfer of rebel chief Xanana Gusmao from his cramped prison cell to house arrest on Wednesday is a sign of the sea change in Jakarta's thinking on its most troublesome province.

"(House arrest) is really just symbolic," pro-independence figure Manuel Carrascalao told Reuters from Dili. "But it's still a good step. Indonesia is opening up a little, but we still want independence."

The government and Gusmao say he will use his increased freedom to help unite pro and anti-Jakarta Timorese after 23 years of bitter and bloody divisions.

"I feel that with talks with East Timorese from all sides I can create an East Timorese nation," said the man many expect to lead a free East Timor despite his protestations that he doesn't want the job.

The government has made it clear that Gusmao will be closely involved in domestic and international negotiations over East Timor's fate.

Analysts and diplomats believe a solution to the problems of the disputed former Portuguese colony is now closer than at any time since Indonesian troops stormed the sleepy capital of Dili in December, 1975.

"I have been working on East Timorese issues for 19 years," US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Stanely Roth said last week after talks in Jakarta.

"This is the first time in that 19 year period that I am optimistic that there is a basis for a political settlement."

But much remains to be done. President B.J. Habibie says he still wants the eastern half of Timor island to remain part of this sprawling archipelago.

Searching for a way to finally win international approval for Indonesia's rule, Jakarta is offering "special autonomy" giving East Timorese more power over their own affairs, including their own elections, parliament and party system.

However, it is a take-it-or-leave-it deal. Rejection means the government will ask the top legislative body, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to consider letting East Timor go it alone after the June 7 national election.

The prospect of an abrupt Indonesian withdrawal after years of brutal rule which encouraged Timorese divisions has sparked fears of a return to the civil war that erupted after Portugal quit suddenly in 1975.

Some analysts believe Habibie is bluffing and simply wants to distract attention for the countdown to an election polls show the ruling Golkar Party has little hope of winning, at the same time pandering to international donors.

"It is for domestic political reasons -- he's trying to take people's attention off the election, because he can't win," said Muhammad Hikam, from the government's Institute of Sciences. "He is also hoping he will have more latitude in bargaining with international donors," he told Reuters.

Even if the Habibie government is serious about considering independence, pro-independence activists face what may be a bigger challenge -- the election. Polls show Habibie's government is likely to be dumped or at least forced into a coalition, possibly as a junior partner.

Fearing similar demands from other restive provinces, none of the major opposition leaders support the idea of immediate independence for Indonesia's 27th province.

One, the National Mandate Party's Amien Rais, does support an eventual vote by East Timorese on their future in about a decade.

But the other leading opposition figures, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Abdurrahman Whid, reject independence outright. Said Wahid: "East Timor has to be a part of our nation."

Military structure in East Timor

Gerry van Klinken - February 10, 1999

The armed forces (ABRI) includes the army, navy, air force and police. All are involved in repression in East Timor, but the army is the most important. Note that the lack of a civilian police force has been blamed as the cause of human rights problems by various UN rapporteurs on East Timor.

Leaked ABRI documents published last year (see The Australian 30 October 1998, and Budiardjo & Liem 15 November 1998) show there have been approximately 18,000 regular Indonesian army troops in Indonesia for some years (much higher than officially claimed). This excludes the navy, which also has marines on the ground in East Timor. Army troops fall into two main categories: territorial or garrison troops (also called organic, about 10,000), and non-territorial troops (about 8,000).

The territorial military structure runs as follows:

While the government claims territorial troops are engaged mostly in building infrastructure, their main task appears to be intelligence gathering, riot control, small scale repression, making money to supplement a meager budget, and running local government at every level through a complex arrangement of cross-postings.

Non-territorial troops fall into troops rotated into East Timor from other territorial commands in Indonesia (about 6,000), and combat troops commanded directly from Jakarta (about 2000). The latter include the red beret elite forces Kopassus, and the green beret infantry Kostrad, who both tend to use East Timor as a combat training ground.

The conflicting chains of command between territorial and non-territorial troops has repeatedly led to serious problems -- most notably during the Santa Cruz massacre of November 1991, which was committed by non-territorial troops but for which the territorial commander got the blame.

In addition, East Timor knows a variety of militias. They are all broadly called "trained civilians" (rakyat terlatih, or Ratih). Together with civilian emergency services they fall into the category of civil defence (tahanan sipil, Hansip). They are employed by the Interior Ministry and then seconded to whichever military command requires them. The militias fall into various categories, including public security (keamanan rakyat, Kamra) and people's resistance (perlawanan rakyat, Wanra).

Although they are specified in the 1982 Defence Act, militia have not been used elsewhere in Indonesia until Armed Forces Commander Wiranto introduced them last January to help safeguard the upcoming elections. However, they have long been known in East Timor -- since shortly after the 1975 Indonesian invasion (see Budiardjo & Liem 1984). There they have been used to "Timorise" the conflict -- including in combat operations and ongoing surveillance of the population.

Militias are meant to be flexible means of recruiting locals for a specific purpose. They may exist only for one operation, for a specific campaign or some period of time.

Since mid 1994 reports have emerged of a number of "special" militia "teams" attached to military district commands in East Timor, for example Makikit in Viqueque, Alfa in Lospalos, Saka in Baucau, and Mahidi in Ainaro. Presumably these groups are officially considered to be Ratih. Most of them (but not the most feared of them, Gadapaksi) are mentioned in the leaked October documents as being on the ABRI payroll, where they number about 4000.

The local military commander in Dili announced on 5 December 1998 that the Kamra/Wanra were to be armed with firearms to help protect them against increasing attacks by Falintil guerrillas. In subsequent disputes in early February over the arming of militias in East Timor General Wiranto claimed that the groups under the media spotlight (he specifically named Saka and Makikit) have now been disbanded and that they are in any case distinct from Ratih/Kamra/Wanra. However it seems reasonable to assume that, contrary to Wiranto's claims, Makikit et al are indeed part of the regular Ratih structure, and there is as yet no independent evidence that they have been disbanded. It is not clear whether there is some strategic purpose in arming these groups at this time.

The most notorious one of them -- Gadapaksi -- may not fall under the regular militia structure but may be a counter- terrorist improvisation established in late 1995 by Maj-Gen Prabowo, at that time the new commander of Kopassus and a man with much East Timor experience. It is unclear whether Gadapaksi remains active after the sacking of Prabowo in May 1998.


  1. Carmel Budiardjo & Liem Sioe Liong, East Timor under the Indonesian jackboot, Tapol, 15 November 1998 (or briefly in The Australian, 30 October 1998).
  2. Robert Lowry, The armed forces of Indonesia, Allen & Unwin, 1996.
  3. Carmel Budiardjo & Liem Sioe Liong, The war against East Timor, Zed, 1984 (based especially on captured ABRI documents of 1982).

East Timor is a burden: Habibie

Antara - February 7, 1999

Troubled Province's Release To enable RI To Concentrate on Development, Says President

Jakarta -- If Timor is release from its fold, Indonesia will be able to concentrate on developing its remaining provinces toward the next millenium, President BJ Habibie said here Saturday.

With East Timor's release, Indonesia would no longer be burdened with the East Timor issue, the president said.

"In another 11 months, we are coming to the next millenium and we would like to concentrate on development for all here," the president said in a two-hour interview with Chinese Television Network (CTN). Local journalists were allowed to view a video recording of the interview.

East Timor was accepted as Indonesia's 27th province through a resolution of its People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) 22 years ago. Indonesia, Habibie said, did not wish to be burdened with the East Timor question much longer.

The Indonesian government had so far been spending more funds on development in East Timor than on the same in its other provinces. Only two percent of East Timor's total budget came from the province's own income with the rest being supplied by the central government, he said.

The Indonesian government now had two options to settle the East Timor question. The region could have an autonomy plus which meant an autonomy plus tolerance and understanding to adjust with other provinces' development. "But if they could not accept this, they could separate from us and okay, good luck with you," Habibie said.

On the other hand, if the East Timorese accepted wide autonomy, they would not have the right later to insist on being given independence. "But they could ask for independence from the Portuguese who colonized them (East Timor) or the United Nations," he said.

"That is the reaseon why I am not using the term referendum. It is to prevent it from being distorted,," he said. On the topic of Indonesia's forthcoming general election, Habibie said the government was committed to holding a fair and just election by providing fair information to the people.

Megawati may hamper independence

American Reporter - February 10, 1999

Andreas Harsono, Jakarta -- In a move which surprised both supporters and opponents, Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri declared late last month that she cannot accept a new Indonesian proposal to give independence to the internationally-disputed East Timor.

Many political observers here believe that Megawati, the daughter of former President Sukarno and widely known to be a consistent person, is quite serious. She rarely makes political statements, but her very few remarks are usually tailored to carefully reflect her political thinking as well as the strategy of her Indonesian Democratic Party.

"The East Timorese people support Megawati to become the new president of Indonesia," said Mario Viegas Carrascalao, a former governor of East Timor, in an interview with the Jakarta-based Merdeka daily, adding that the East Timorese delegation had clearly stated at a PDI congress in October that they prefer to stay jopined to Indonesia if Megawati becomes president.

The Merdeka newspaper also frequently champions that view. It is a public secret here that the newspaper functions as a mouthpiece of the nationalist camp headed by Megawati. Megawati apparently believes that the "problem" of East Timor is really a problem with former Indonesian strongman Suharto, who was forced to resign last May 21. If someone else becomes president -- her, for instance -- the "problem" might be totally different, and not somuch a problem as a challenge of governance.

Megawati declared her opposition just one day after Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas told the media in a surprise announcement that the Indonesian government will suggest to the People's Consultative Assembly -- Indonesia's highest state institution -- that the nation offer independence to East Timor if the East Timorese cannot agree to a wide-ranging autonomous status with Indonesia.

Megawati said a release on Jan. 29 that the President B.J. Habibie administration is a "transitional government" which is not democratically elected by the people. The government is consequently not authorized to make a decision which would to fundamentally affect the unity of Indonesia.

"The integration of East Timor into the state and the nation of Indonesia is politically and constitutionally legal in accordance to the will of the people of East Timor. It has been approved by the House of Representatives in 1976 and the People's Supreme Assembly in 1987," said Megawati.

Interestingly, Abdurrahman Wahid, the chairman of the 30- million strong Nahdlatul Ulama organization, Indonesia's largest Muslim group, who is also a close associate of Megawati, aired a similar statement, saying that Indonesia had once decided to integrate East Timor and "that decision should be respected." What is the impact of such a stance? How can respected figures like Megawati and Wahid, who painfully fought for democracy during the 32-year rule of President Suharto, take such an anti- democratic position? It is also ironic that Megawati makes reference to the Suharto- controlled parliament, as well as to the whole political system in Indonesia, which contributed to her removal from her chairmanship of the PDI in 1996. Megawati then fought back by filing lawsuits against the Suharto government.

Various surveys organized by universities, media organizations and independent research groups show that Megawati is the most popular figure in Indonesia and the most likely to win the election next June, ensuring her the best chance to become the fourth president of Indonesia since independence. Other candidates include Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party, Habibie himself, and Sultan Hamengkubuwono X of the Yogyakarta monarchy.

According to political researchers, Megawati's PDI also has one of the nation's best-equipped political machine, controlling branches and offices throughout most of Indonesia's thousand of villages, especially those on the main and the most-populated island of Java.

What will be the future of East Timor if Megawati becomes president? Will East Timor becomes independent if Megawati's PDI and Wahid's Nation Awakening Party control the majority of the parliament as well as the assembly? Megawati is also closely associated to retired, but influential, army generals like Try Sutrisno and Edi Sudrajat. Both of them are former commanders of the armed forces and have recently established their own political party, the Justice and Unity Party. Won't these three parties vote against the liberation of East Timor? The common analysis here is that both Megawati and Wahid made their move out of short-term political necessity. They want to win the election. To do so, like it or not, they have to team up with a part of the military.

Since active generals are very unlikely to be involved in politics, Megawati has to team up with generals like Sutrisno and Sudrajat. But those generals dislike the idea of abandoning East Timor. They consider themselves as the guardians of a united Indonesia.

A retired major general is also sitting on the PDI national board. PDI deputy chairman Theo Syafei, in fact, was the Indonesian commander in charge of East Timor when East Timor resistance leader Xanana Gusmao was arrested.

Gusmao, captured in 1992, was sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting against the state and illegal possession of weapons in 1993 but his sentence was later commuted to 20 years in jail. He is now involved in a UN-sponsored negotiation to solve the question of East Timor. Generals like Syafei also understand clearly that an estimated 10,000 Indonesian soldiers have already died in East Timor fighting the East Timor resistance between 1975 and 1998.

Indonesia's respected Tempo newsweekly, in a biting editorial this past week, said that Suharto must have been surprised to learn that Megawati's political thinking is similar to his "integration or nothing" stance. It is a true irony that the similarity of their positions is only now being learned.

Alatas: No agreement on referendum

Kompas - February 9, 1999

Jakarta -- Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Alatas, denied that an agreement between Indonesia and Portugal has been reached to settle the East Timor problem by means of a referendum.

"That is not true. Indonesia shall never agree in a referendum," the Minister told Kompas who spoke with him on a long distance line to New York, Monday evening (8/2).

"I have repeatedly explained that a referendum would not be the best way," he went on saying. Ali Alatas, has said on several occasions before, that a referendum could setback the Timtim people to zero point, and that a civil war might break out.

Alatas explained further that the tripartite dialogue between the Indonesian Foreign Minister, his Portugese counterpart, under the umbrella of the Secretaris General of the United Nations at the moment, is to find out the best method in gauging the all- over opinion of the Timtim people. Those who are for pro- integration with Indonesia and those who are not.

"That is what we are presently talking about. Referendum is not mentioned, people like to jump to conclusions, saying that Indonesia will be releasing Timtim. At the moment we are trying to find the right way, how to establish autonomy in an acceptable way, or, it might be rejected by the Timtim people. We have not found a way yet. The United Nations is still looking for a way. So, how did referendum come up, everything is still under negotiation," he said.

Indonesia will be providing an alternative in the release of Timtim from the Indonesian Republic, should the people reject the offer of a special autonomy status. The government would then hand over the problem to a legislative body at the future General Meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) after the election.

Indonesia has to proceed in this way as it has to withdraw MPR rule Number VI/MPR/1978 dated March 22, 1978, through which Timtim was integrated. With the new MPR rule, Timtim would be released from the Indonesian fold.

He further explained that Timtim's status would be restored to the original position, before 1976. The withdrawal of the rule would return the region to the United Nations and make it a non- self governing territory with Portugal as its administrator.

"We are not making it independent, we are not a colony. The United Nations will have to take over in this case." Timtim stated in the Balibo Proclamation of November 30 1975 that it wanted to be integrated with Indonesia. Indonesia legalized their desire with Laws Number 7 1976 dated July 17 1976. It was enforced by MPR with Rule Number VI/MPR/1978 dated March 22 1978.

He underlined that Indonesia's offer of a special status, would not include the wish of other parties having intentions to accept the offer for a time period of five to 10 years alone and thereafter, alter in into a referendum.

Hopes are set on an autonomy agreement between Indonesia and Portugal in April, at the latest, said Alatas. After that the autonomy package will be consulted over or made public in Timtim through the best possible way.

Director General of Police, Nugroho Wisnumurti, who also spoke on a long distance line in New York explained that discussions over the autonomy style has reached the Draft Agreement stage and that they were held at top levels.

He admitted, however, that several matters were still pending for further discussions at ministerial levels. Subjects covered were the court system and management of natural resources.

United Nations The Foreign Minister of Portugal, Jaime Gama, said meanwhile, that an agreement on the polling system organised by the UN in the region, has been reached. Gama has also requested the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to dispatch as soon as possible a United Nations mission to Timtim. The request is pending until an agreement at the meeting has been forthcoming.

The results of the meeting in New York will also decide the end of the Tripartite Meeting in April 1999 when a "new plan" has been decided upon, followed by a poll in Timtim.

Gama also said that both Foreign Ministers have agreed that Indonesia would withdraw its personnel from Timtim in several months time. At the time of withdrawal, Portugal, the United Nations mission and the United Nations Police, will be governing Timtim.

Indonesia talks peace, but unleashes thugs

The Independent (UK) - February 7, 1999

Diarmid O'Sullivan, Dili -- In the garden of a house in Dili, capital of East Timor, a hundred villagers are camping out in fear of their lives. They have fled from the district of Maubara, an hour's drive west along the coast, to escape a gang of young thugs, armed and encouraged by the Indonesian army.

Indonesia has announced it is ready to consider independence for East Timor, after 23 years of oppression and much bloodshed. But many East Timorese fear the Indonesian army is trying to stir up violence amongst them, just to prove they cannot rule themselves.

Maubara is a sleepy, rundown place, situated on a hillside above the tropical sea. A few months ago, local officials and soldiers began recruiting young men for a pro-Indonesian militia. Those who refused to join were threatened with death.

"The officer came to me on the beach and said you have to join the militia," said a 21-year-old farmer, Francisco Dos Santos. "'Don't follow demonstrations in Dili or support a referendum on independence,' he said. I said OK, but I didn't do it." Around him, dozens of other refugees from Maubara gathered in the shade of a tree, listening quietly.

Tensions rose to a peak at New Year, the refugees said. The district official handed out six M-16 rifles and 12 hand grenades to the militia. After a brawl with soldiers, many young men fled to Dili. There they are staying in the house of Manuel Carrascalao, a conservative grandee who has switched from supporting Indonesia to backing independence. "We feel safe for now," Mr Dos Santos said.

Four houses in Maubara since have been smashed up by the militia, with papers and clothes strewn across the concrete floors. It isn't clear why these particular houses were attacked, as two of the owners are civil servants. The militia may simply have acted out a grudge against affluent members of the village. Villagers are afraid to comment.

They have good reason to be afraid. Five young men came back from Dili on 14 January to pick up their possessions, according to the refugees. On the way, they were stopped at an army roadblock. Three men made a run for it and two got away. The third, Jose Sarmento, was shot in the head. His body was found later on the beach. The refugees don't know what happened to the two who were caught, Manuel Sarmento and Agiapito de Jesus. It isn't hard to guess, in a land where 250,000 people are estimated to have died since the Indonesians invaded in 1975. This is about one-third of the current population.

Now East Timor has a chance to break away. Indonesia is negotiating at the UN in New York with Portugal, the former colonial power. Jakarta's new line is that East Timor is entitled to autonomy within Indonesia, but that if that is rejected by the population, Indonesia will wash its hands of the territory. That could happen in as little as a year.

Many East Timorese suspect the army is backing the militias to justify its own brutal role in controlling the territory. "Indonesia has said for a long time that if they leave, there will be a civil war. This is manipulation," said Mr Carrascalao

Rapid independence would certainly please most ordinary people who simply want the hated Indonesian soldiers to leave. But most East Timorese leaders do not wish to move so fast. They think the territory needs several years in transition to build up the economy and democratic institutions and remedy the shortage of trained professionals. After that, most want independence.

The pro-Indonesian minority is now in a weak position. A few have joined the militias. Others have gone to Jakarta to plead against independence. Many are prudently lining up behind Jose Alexander "Xanana" Gusmao, the pro-independence leader still in jail in Jakarta, and his Fretilin movement.

"I regularly talk to Fretilin leaders and we all agree that we need to have a dialogue," says Gil Alves, a pro-Indonesia politician who owns a bottling plant. He fought against the left-wing Fretilin in a brief civil war in 1975. When Fretilin won, its right-wing enemies, including Mr Alves, joined forces with the Indonesian army.

"There was a big mass of killing," said Mr Alves, sitting on the veranda of his elegant house at sunset. "But while we were with the Indonesian troops I didn't see any killings [of civilians]. Maybe some of them could have done some mistakes." He still thinks East Timor should settle for autonomy within Indonesia, but agrees with Fretilin to put off the debate for now.

But some Timorese still want to take up arms for Jakarta. Militias are springing up to defend the status quo, and they are thought to have several thousand members. Many are backed by the army. They have extravagant names like "Live and Die for Integration" (with Indonesia) and parade openly with their rifles -- at least they did until foreign journalists started to show up in large numbers last week.

The army says they are needed to "preserve security", but all they have done so far is spread fear. HAK, a human rights group, thinks 21 people have been killed and 7,608 made into refugees in the last two months alone.

East Timorese leaders want the militias disarmed, preferably under United Nations supervision. They know that whatever the outcome of the New York talks, they have a hard slog ahead. "If we think the UN or Portugal will deliver everything, that's wrong," says Fr Domingo Suarez, a priest and political activist. "If we talk all day and night there will be nothing to eat, and we'll kill each other."

Indonesia, Portugal chart Timor's future

Reuters - February 8, 1999

Evelyn Leopold, United Nations -- Indonesia apparently has agreed for the first time to a UN ballot in troubled East Timor as its foreign minister and his Portuguese counterpart mapped out steps that could lead to Jakarta's withdrawal from the territory by the end of the year, diplomats said.

Both Ali Alatas of Indonesia and Jaime Gama of Portugal expressed optimism on Sunday after the first of two days of UN- brokered talks. Alatas said he "agreed in principle" on consultations with the Timorese that could include some type of vote, an idea previously rejected by Jakarta.

According to officials in the talks on the future of the former Portuguese colony that Indonesia controls, the ministers reached an informal understanding on the following steps:

"We hope that by April, at the latest, we can have a model that we can show to the Indonesian people and of course to the East Timorese," Alatas said.

He said that if the autonomy plan was rejected East Timor would revert to its pre-1976 status as "a non-self-governing territory with Portugal as its (administrator) and still within the fold of the United Nations."

He refused to call the election a referendum, something Indonesia has objected to in the past, apparently fearing other regions in the archipelago would demand the same. He said the type of consultations, which could be a ballot, would be discussed in the future.

Gama said there was broad agreement on a "vote organised by the United Nations in the territory." He said he had asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a UN mission in Timor as soon as possible but this question had not yet been decided.

Indonesia suggested independence as a "second option" on Jan. 27. The offer came some eight months after Jakarta was plunged into economic and political turmoil last May when President Suharto was replaced by President B.J. Habibie after three decades of rule.

Senior officials from Indonesia and Portugal have been negotiating an autonomy package for months at the United Nations under the mediation of Jamsheed Marker. The talks gained momentum after the Habibie government took office after years of stalemated negotiations.

The two ministers saw Annan earlier on Sunday before he flew to Jordan for King Hussein's funeral. Annan made it clear that "whatever we do, the East Timorese will be very much part of it and nothing will be done without their participation."

Tension and fighting in the territory of 800,000 people heightened after Indonesia announced it might let East Timor go -- abruptly reversing years of staunch opposition to any suggestion of independence.

The Indonesian army has been reported to be handing out weapons to civilian recruits in East Timor, which it denies. "If they supply the arms they have to control them," Gama said. "We hope that they fully control them to disarm."

Asked what major difference remain, Gama told a group of reporters "there is the negative temptation to have an unsuccessful transition to independence -- a worst case scenario for moving to independence."
Political/economic crisis

Untouchable bogeymen still roaming free

Jakarta Post - February 8, 1999

They have no identity and are nameless. They are almost invisible, and, above all, certainly untouchable. Yet, they are so powerful as to have left a trail of untold deaths and massive destruction across the country in the space of only a few months.

The authorities would have us believe that they were there before the massive riots in Jakarta in May, and again during the serial killings in and around the East Java town of Banyuwangi in September and October. They were present in some of the recent outbreaks of unrest that erupted in the West Jakarta district of Ketapang, in Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara, and in Ambon, Maluku, as well as in smaller riots elsewhere in the country. And they were supposed to have been present in some of the student protests which turned into riots or clashes with security forces.

They are the bogeymen who instigated the people to riot, loot shops, burn houses and buildings, kill and rape, and make bomb threats. If this was a year ago, they would probably have been called "communists". But to continue blaming the communists today for every thing that goes wrong in this country would make our police force a laughing stock. Instead, the military and police, supposedly working within a new reform paradigm, have come up with a new shorthand for them: provokator, or provocateurs.

Not only has the series of incidents of unrest that has rocked this country in recent months followed a predictable pattern. The police handling of these cases also follows certain familiar and disturbing paths. Essentially, the police never get anything solved. The police and the military claim that they have drawn blank in all these major cases.

Sure, they have made a few arrests and some of those arrested were later convicted in court, but these were the small fry. These arrests and convictions raised more questions than they gave answers.

And the biggest question "Who was, or were, behind these riots and killings?" has gone unanswered. Provokator is more of a diversion than an answer. Police insistence that these were purely criminal rather than politically-motivated cases has only confused us even more since they have not even arrested any of the mysterious provokator.

With the authorities unable to explain these cases satisfactorily, theories abound about who these provokator might be. Indulging in conspiracy theories remains our favorite pastime, even in this supposedly transparent era of reform. Some of the theories seem plausible. One only needs to determine who would profit most from this chaos, who had the motives and the means to carry out such deeds on a massive scale, and one would find the answer, or at least come up with a short list of potential bogeymen.

If the police had the political will, the least they could do was pursue some of the more plausible theories, even if only to disprove them. The way things are at the moment, one is left to wonder whether our law enforcement agencies are run by a bunch of incompetents that cannot solve even a single case, or they simply do not have the political will because they are dealing with truly powerful and untouchable bogeymen, as some of the conspiracy theories suggest.

Whether our law enforcement agencies are incompetent or simply helpless, one can hardly find any comfort in knowing that these cases remain unresolved, while the riots are occurring at a greater frequency, each seemingly more destructive than the previous one. And as the nation gears up for a general election, always a turbulent event in this country, one fears that things will get worse as long as the bogeymen are still roaming free.

Death toll in Ambon riots exceeds 160

Reuters - February 8, 1999

Jakarta -- Indonesia's official Human Rights Commission said on Monday religious rioting could easily break out again in the eastern island of Ambon, saying the death toll from clashes last month had passed 160.

Commissioner Albert Hasibuan criticised the military for being ineffective in preventing the unrest erupting and slow in putting it down.

"The armed forces was slow to act and were ineffective in preventing the riots from spreading," he told reporters, adding that the violence had left the Ambonese traumatised, vengeful and suspicious of one another.

"If there are no efforts to ease those feelings and the security forces remain tardy, I am worried it will happen again."

The official death toll from several days of Christian-Moslem clashes that erupted on January 19 is 105.

But authorities expect the toll to climb as more bodies are pulled from the hundreds of homes, churches, mosques and shops destroyed in the unrest on Ambon, 2,300 km (1,440 miles) east of Jakarta.

Hasibuan was a member of a Human Rights Commission team which travelled to the devastated area last week to investigate.

As fresh violence erupted last Tuesday, the team was forced to abandon plans to visit some of the worst hit areas when a mob blocked their path, pointing spears and waving machetes at them.

Hasibuan said many of those who died were tortured or burnt to death. "The victims died from all kinds of violence but in general, they died from torture ... and fires," he said.

National police chief General Roesmanhadi earlier said that the riots happened suddenly and spread so quickly that it was difficult to bring the situation quickly under control.

Like many political, military, religious and community leaders, Hasibuan said he had uncovered evidence that the riots were incited by provocateurs. But, like others, he refused to name them.

Indonesia has been rocked by waves of violence over the past year as simmering ethnic, religious and social tensions boil over as the country faces its worst economic and political crisis in three decades.

Military gets shoot-on-sight orders

Agence France Presse - February 6, 1999

Jakarta -- The Indonesian military has been given orders to shoot-on-sight in a bid to stamp out violence, Indonesian armed forces chief General Wiranto told reporters Saturday.

"An order to shoot-on-sight will be imposed for the whole of Indonesia, especially in areas prone to unrest, to protect the population from actions that destroy, that destroy national assets, or that (lead to) physical assault on others, that engage in robbery or resist law personnel," Wiranto added.

The decision came in the wake of a continued unrest, looting and mob violence in different regions of the country has left more than 100 dead, massive destruction and material losses.

"ABRI declares war on all forms of violence ... ABRI will take firm and decisive measures to protect society," Wiranto told a press conference here referring to the armed forces' popular acronym, ABRI.

He stressed the shoot-on-sight order would remain in force as long as necessary saying "violence and forms of assault have now destroyed national assets."

"This needs special theraphies, this needs specific handling," he said, adding the security forces could not longer simply rely on its local personnel, especially in isolated regions, to prevent and contain unrest.

Therefore, the military would set up a "special task force" to face "the actions of our own society which has forgotten that the law should be respected and that their actions can cause losses to the rest of society." He cited cases of violent fights between large groups of people, the torching and vandalizing of public buildings, including places of worship. He said the task force would "prevent the spread of such actions."

The task force, Wiranto said would be empowered to undertake "repressive actions", to seek out the root cause of unrest to ensure adequate punishment. He did not elaborate but said the task force would soon be operational.

The Indonesian armed forces, which includes the police, have been coming under fire for failing to prevent or to quickly contain the series of mass violence that has rocked several regions of Indonesia in the past months.

In one of the most bloody incidents in recent years, at least 95 people were killed in several days of violence clashes between Moslem and Christian communities in the eastern province of Maluku last month.

Fighting between villages and large mass groups, the looting of state and private properties by mobs and rising violent crime have also been reported across the country in the past months.
Aceh/West Papua

Military bullets found at site of shootings

Serambi Indonesia - February 9, 1999 (BBC summary)

Idi Cut -- Residents have found bullet cartridges produced by the Bandung-based State Munitions Industries [Pindad] scattered around the Idi Cut Military Sector Command post in Darul Aman Subdistrict, East Aceh, the day after shots were fired to disperse a crowd gathered there early on Wednesday morning (3rd February). More cartridges and projectiles were found where bodies were disposed of, and bullets were recovered from the bodies of victims who received medical attention. People who found the cartridges said that they bore the markings "Pindad-88" and "Pindad-91" ...

Witness statement

Elsewhere, Serambi yesterday met two witnesses to the bloody incident at Idi Cut -- Razali (18) and M. Yusuf (25), both Idi Cut residents.

These youths, who said that they had been detained at the East Aceh Police Headquarters, claimed that early on the Wednesday [10th February] morning, the crowd had been proceeding home at a leisurely pace, on foot, or by motorcycle, pickup or larger truck, after attending a meeting on the theme "A Call for a Free Aceh" at Matang Ulim village.

When they reached Seunuebok Aceh village, not far from the military post, they were stoned by a group of youths. A number of troublemakers, who had mixed with the crowd, hurled stones at the military post. These people then disappeared. Razali and Yusuf said that they could not recognise them, as the lights at the military post had been turned off. A few moments later, fully armed ABRI [Indonesian armed forces] troops suddenly appeared and fired into the crowd. "I saw several people lying on the ground with bullet wounds," said Razali.

As the wounded cried out, two military trucks appeared, into which the victims were loaded. Some were presumed already dead. One of the trucks then headed east, the other west.

The truck that went into Langsa handed over its "cargo" to the East Aceh police. The other truck is presumed to have thrown its "cargo" into the Arakundo River, weighted...

No-go area

Students who have set up an information post have received a peculiar report from residents. Apparently the military authorities have forbidden them from examining the long grass or clearing the bush in the vicinity of Kampung Seuneubok Aceh village.

The village head, Usman Husin, told Serambi that ABRI had indeed issued this order. Residents had planned to check the bushes for bodies of people missing after the Idi Cut incident...

Death toll rises to 21 in Aceh

Reuters - February 7, 1999

Jakarta -- The death toll from a clash between civilians and security forces in Indonesia's troubled Aceh province last week has risen to 21, a human rights group said on Sunday.

On Wednesday, police opened fire as they tried to disperse a crowd of around 5,000 people listening to a separatist speech in Idi Cut, east Aceh, 1,530 km northwest of Jakarta.

"The total number of dead bodies discovered so far is 21," Hamzah Yakob of the Legal Aid Institute told Reuters.

The dead bodies were pulled out of a local river and all had gunshot wounds. Yakob said at least eight of the bodies had been weighed down in sacks with stones.

Aceh, which has centuries-old tradition of separatist struggle, has been hit with violence since the beginning of the year.

Colonel Johnny Wahab, military commander for Lhokseumawe, in the northern tip of Sumatra, told Reuters the death toll from the shootings currently stood at seven but the number may rise.

"We are currently verifying the numbers," he said. Wahab also said a team comprising police and military police has been set up to investigate the shootings.

[According to a February 11 report by Amnesty International, Anwar Yusuf, a 23-year-old volunteer with a human rights organization, has reportedly "disappeared". AI said it was "seriously concerned" for his safety and belive his "disappearance" is linked to the February 3 killings. Yusuf was apparently taken from his home by a man who identified himself as a member of Koramil Idi Rayeuk. The man had no arrest warrant and according to Yusuf's mother, he was told that he would be taken to Koramil at Idi Rayeau for questioning in connection with the incident on February 3. When he failed to return the next day his mother went to Koramil and was told that they had no information but that she should check with the East Aceh regional police command (Polres). Polres did not give her any information either - James Balowski.]
Labour issues

Five workers wounded in labor protest

Agence France Presse - February 12, 1999

Jakarta -- Indonesian police opened fire on thousands of workers staging a protest in East Java, wounding four people while another was injured by a rifle butt, a report said Friday.

Some 3,000 workers at PT Sinar Indo Megantara in Surabaya held a protest on Thursday to demand the personnel manager resigns, the Republika daily said.

But as 20 representatives of the workers were received by the management, thousands of workers from a nearby sister company, PT Polinesia, joined the protest in front of the factory.

Police tried to disperse the crowd and opened fire after they were pelted with stones and other objects. Four workers were wounded by the gunfire while another suffered a serious head injury after being hit by a rifle butt, the daily said.

The head of the Tandes subdistrict police said his men had only been authorized to fire warning shot in the air. Captain Onto Cahyono said "Our underlings did not fire their guns into the workers and the bullets given to them were all rubber-coated bullets," Republika reported.

The head of the armed forces, which also includes the police, General Wiranto, has ordered security forces to get firm on law violators, including protesters who fail to seek police permits for rallies.
Human rights

Three soldiers admit to kidnappings

Agence France Presse - February 11, 1999

Jakarta -- Three out of 11 Indonesian soldiers being court martialled for a series of kidnappings Thursday admitted to abducting some political activists, a witness said.

Three junior officers from the elite army Kopassus special force described how they were involved in kidnapping eight pro- democracy activists.

"I came along to pick up three activists, each Haryanto Taslam, Mugiyanto, and Feisol Reza," First Sergeant Sukardi said, questioned by the prosecution at the military court martial in East Jakarta.

He was referring to Taslam, a loyalist of popular opposition Indonesian Democracy Party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri and activists of the outlawed People's Democratic Party, Mugiyanto and Feisol Reza.

Two other defendants, Master Sergeant Sunaryo, Master Captain Sigit Sugianto, made similar confessions during the four-hour trial. Sunaryo and Sugianto said they took part in the abduction of Aan Risdianto and Nezar Patria from their apartment in East Jakarta on March 13, 1998.

Sunaryo also admitted taking part in the kidnapping of Andi Arief in Jakarta on March 27. Sugianto told the court he had also taken part in the abduction of Pius Lustrilanang on March 4 and Raharjo Waluyojati on March 12.

Presiding judge Colonel Susanto decided to question the three after none of the five witnesses summoned for the trial appeared in court -- four of the witnesses had been kidnap victims.

The activists were seized in the last months of the regime of former president Suharto by unidentified men. Some were held in solitary confinement for weeks and some also spoke after their release of being tortured.

Nine of those who were kidnapped have resurfaced, one was found dead and 13 are listed as missing. Most were warned never to talk of their ordeal. At the time the Kopassus unit was under the command of one of Suharto's son-in-laws, the now-retired lieutenant general Prabowo Subianto.

Press reports in August said Prabowo had admitted during a two-week investigation by the military's Officers Honorary Council that he ordered the kidnappings. The council discharged Prabowo and two other officers for their role in the abduction and torture of activists.

Activists oppose shoot on sight order

Jakarta Post - February 9, 1999

Jakarta -- Observers urged the Armed Forces (ABRI) on Monday to reconsider its shoot-on-sight order against rioters, saying that capturing the masterminds of recent unrest would do more to improve the military's image.

Albert Hasibuan of the National Commission on Human Rights said the order must not be implemented arbitrarily, while Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party outspokenly said the order was against the law.

Albert pointed out how the destruction inflicted on humans and properties in recent incidents of unrest showed that the masterminds must have well- organized networks and were powerful.

"ABRI has no other alternative but to investigate the riots thoroughly and arrest any mastermind," Albert said after attending the opening ceremony of a seminar on military-civil relations here on Monday

Armed Forces Commander Gen. Wiranto on Saturday told his men to shoot on sight anyone found to be provoking and masterminding riots or looting and killing. National Police Chief Gen. Roesmanhadi responded on Sunday in Semarang that police officers who did not dare to open fire on rioters would be dismissed.

Albert said the military should show that it was committed to investigating and revealing who or which parties were behind the unrest.

Amien concurred. "In principle, I agreed with ABRI campaigns to arrest criminals who commit murder and loot with violence. [But] I want to insist that the shoot-on-sight order is against the law," he said after installing PAN executives in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, on Monday.

He shared Albert's observation that ABRI had an adequate intelligence network to detect who and which groups were behind any unrest. They should be arrested and brought to court in order to restore people's sense of security.

The latest unrest occurred in Maluku where 16 spots, especially the capital city of Ambon, reportedly erupted in violence almost simultaneously last month. Following the spreading of rumors that churches and mosques had been burned, Muslims and Christians began to attack and kill each other and destroy properties.

Albert, who visited Ambon last week, conceded that the province was prone to religious clashes and rioting persisted because there was never any strong religious coexistence. "The religious harmony there was built upon a weak and fragile foundation," he said.

At least 95 people were killed, thousands of buildings were burned down, 127 cars and 98 motorcycles were damaged in the riots that rock the provincial capital beginning on Jan. 19.

Rights activists grouped in the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) also said shooting on sight should be a last resort for police officers only, in handling crime.

Lt. Gen. Agum Gumelar, the governor of the military's National Resilience Institution (Lemhanas) think tank, said the recent riots all displayed a similar pattern which indicated that they were masterminded by a well-organized extremist power. "The extremist power has been organized so well that ABRI has difficulty detecting it," he said.

Wiranto dismissed the observation, saying it was impossible for an extremist power to exist within the government as a whole. "It is impossible," he said, after receiving Minister of Justice Muladi at his office on Jl. Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta on Monday.

Separately, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Haryono Suyono and ministers under his coordination reported to President B.J. Habibie on Monday the results of their visit to Ambon last week.

Haryono said refugees were gradually moved to healthier shelters, food and medical supplies had been sent, and so far there were no outbreaks of diarrhea. This morning Minister of Health Farid Anfasa Moeloek is to send another medical team to the riot-stricken areas, while the rebuilding of houses will start this week.
News & issues

17 political parties eligible for elections

Indonesian Observer - February 10, 1999

Jakarta -- Forty-nine new political parties have registered at the Justice Ministry to contest the June general election, but only 17 have met administrative requirements, officials said yesterday.

Rasi Manopo, secretary of the ministry's registration committee, said 49 parties have applied to participate in the June 7 election since registrations commenced on February 5.

The 17 parties that qualify for the election include: Indonesian National Party (PNI) chaired by Supeni, Justice and Unity Party (PNI), Murba Party, Indonesian Muslims Party, Republican Party, and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Other qualifiers are: Indonesian Muslim Unity Party (PSII), Indonesian National Christian Party, National Democrats Party, Unity in Diversity Party, and National Awakening Party (PKB).

The 17 still have to pass a final selection test that will be conducted by an 11-member independent team chaired by prominent Muslim scholar Noercholish Madjid.

Manopo said six political parties were found bearing the same names -- namely four PNIs and two PSIIs. Newly passed political laws prevent parties with the same names or symbols from contesting the election, which the government has promised will be democratic and fair.

The Justice Ministry has given three days for non-qualifying registered parties to complete the requisite administrative conditions, including notary certificates. Registrations will close on February 22.

Suharto assets overseas yet to be found

Agence France Presse - February 9, 1999

Jakarta -- The initial findings of an investigation by the attorney general's office and the foreign ministry have failed to find any wealth or assets belonging to former president Suharto abroad, a report said Tuesday.

"The foreign ministry has submitted a report to the attorney general's office that included a preliminary conclusion that there has not yet been any wealth belonging to former president Suharto overseas," Attorney General Andi Muhammad Ghalib said according to the Antara news agency.

He said the search had sought to uncover Suharto's wealth in the form of bank accounts and time deposits as well as land and properties.

The foreign ministry report, dated February 2, covered the results of an investigation by Indonesian missions in 16 cities abroad, including in Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East, in North America and in Pacific region.

Suharto, who resigned as president under mounting public pressure in May, is currently being investigated for possible corruption, collusion and nepotism.

He has so far been questioned over the many charity foundations that he has chaired and over his "national car" policy that involved a company controlled by one of his sons.

Interview with Suharto's brother-in-law

Tempo - February 8, 1999 (BBC summary)

Jakarta -- Ex-president Suharto's brother-in-law, Ibnu Hartomo, has denied that he is seeking to protect Suharto by setting up a coalition of new parties. In an interview with the opposition weekly magazine Tempo he said that there was no need to issue such protection; his purpose was to uphold the constitution which in itself would prevent legal action being taken against the former president

Fears of a comeback of the Cendana [Suharto] forces have begun to spread. An indication of this is a coalition of 70 parties -- previously 90 parties -- under the guidance of Hartomo, who was once involved in promissory note fraud.

The rumour is that these parties, including the Farmers' and Fishermen's Party and the All-Indonesia Workers' Solidarity Party, are funded by [the Suharto family]. Evidently the aim is to restore Suharto's forces to prominence and lay the groundwork for the failure of any attempt to bring him to trial...

Tempo: Do you need to try to protect Suharto from legal retribution through mobilizing these 70 parties?

Hartomo: That is a lie. It is not true that I have set up these parties to protect Suharto. He has never told me to fund any parties. The parties came to me and asked for guidance. At first there were only one or two, but eventually many came, and I held meetings to unify our perceptions.

Tempo: Are you certain that the parties you are guiding will have popular support?

Hartomo: Sure. I have been leading 200 mass organizations, with 40 million followers. Their votes used to go to Golkar [Functional Group Party]. In fact I only have one person in the DPR [People's Representative Council]. So I thought, why do they not all form a party? With two million votes, five of my members would be in the parliament. I am sure we could get five million votes. My organizations will support the party that I support.

Tempo: How will you direct those dozens of parties?

Hartomo: We must straighten out what "reform" means. Today should be better than yesterday. No destruction. What we see at present is not reform, but extremism and rioting masterminded by ex-Communist Party people. They are taking revenge because they were routed by Suharto. Things were good in the Suharto era. Six months after he resigned, the situation was chaotic. I have been to several parts of the country, and the people there agree with me. They ask: "How would it be if we went back to Suharto?"

Tempo: Is the current crisis not the result of corruption, collusion, and nepotism [KKN] during the New Order [Suharto] era?

Hartomo: True. But KKN really took off after Suharto was no longer head of Kopkamtib [Command for the Restoration of Security and Public Order], and could no longer keep an eye on the top echelon of government.

Tempo: In other words, unlimited presidential powers...

Hartomo: It has to be that way. Third World countries must have guided democracy.

Tempo: So those 70 parties are determined to see Suharto return?

Hartomo: There is absolutely no connection with that. They asked for guidance and I said that reform must be straightened out, and there must be constitutional discipline. Frankly, if the constitution was upheld, it would be difficult to take legal action against Suharto. Why? Because he held the MPR [People's Consultative Assembly] mandate and he has given an account of all aspects of his presidency to the MPR. What he did was constitutional, was it not?

Tempo: Is it true that they will protect Suharto?

Hartomo: Our perspective is clear -- to uphold the constitution. There is no need to protect Suharto; the constitution itself will protect him.

Tempo: Are they in agreement over Suharto not going to trial?

Hartomo: I did not ask them. But I think so. They would not accept Suharto being put on trial.

Tempo: So why did 20 parties then withdraw?

Hartomo: That is their business. They withdrew not because of [differences of] perception, but because of differences between the party officials.

Tempo: How much have you spent directing these dozens of parties? Hartomo: Not a cent. I cannot afford to fund them. If there is a meeting at my house, they even bring their own refreshments. Tempo: Do you not have special access to [the Suharto family]?

Hartomo: Yes, I do sometimes provide letters to help people find work or meet certain officials; but not to ask for funds there.

Tempo: After the case of the fraudulent promissory notes, do your notes still have value?

Hartomo: Yes. That case has been dealt with by the police, and I was proven to be not guilty. Everyone knows the kind of person I am.

Tempo: Will these parties join together or go their separate ways?

Hartomo: I have suggested that they form five parties, in accordance with the five principles of the Pancasila. They would be called the Party for Fostering Ethics and the Faith, the National Prosperity Development Party, the Indonesian Democratic Development Party, the Indonesian Unity and Integrity Party, and the People's Prosperity Development Party.

Tempo: Have these parties registered with the Justice Department?

Hartomo: Not yet. Time is short. In my view, it is very difficult for new parties to take part in the election. It seems like the players are being deliberately restricted to [existing, Suharto-era parties] Golkar, PPP [United Development Party], and PDI [Indonesian Democratic Party]. This is no joke. I have, therefore, suggested that the 70 parties align themselves with the larger parties, which have many cadres and can guarantee a future for the country. In fact, only Golkar can do that. But it is up to them; they can join forces with any party.

Tempo: A financial audit of party leaders and candidates for representative office is one of the general election procedures. Are you prepared to have your affairs examined?

Hartomo: Oh, I am not a party leader and I have no ambition to be a candidate. Why should I be examined?

Wahid nominated for presidency

Agence France Presse - February 12, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta -- The newly formed National Awakening Party (PKB) has nominated popular Moslem leader Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid as its candidate for the presidency at the upcoming elections, a newspaper said Friday.

"This is serious. The PKB is nominating Gus Dur," PKB executive Muhaimin Iskandar was quoted by the Jakarta Post daily as saying.

Gus Dur, 58, established the PKB last year after Indonesian President B.J. Habibie relaxed Suharto-era political laws which restricted political parties to three.

PKB Secretary General Said Aqiel Siradj confirmed the nomination and added that "it would be better if the next president is from the PKB."

Iskandar said Gus Dur, who heads the 30-million strong Moslem group Nadhlatul Ulama, would be the ideal candidate for Indonesia's future leader as the country struggles to restore economic and political stability.

"Such an administration requires a leader with the ability to forge reconciliation; a professional who enjoys the support of the masses and the international world. Such support is needed for Indonesia to heal its economy," he added.

Only one other party has nominated its presidential candidate. The People's Mandate Party (PAN) has nominated its chairman, leading Moslem reformist Amien Rais.

Gus Dur supports shoot-on-sight policy

Straits Times - February 12, 1999

Jakarta -- Influential Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid has warned that a social revolution in Indonesia could claim up to three million lives and all parties should therefore work to prevent the possibility of such a national disaster, the Indonesian Observer newspaper reported yesterday. "Considering incidents of lawlessness that have occurred in many parts of the country, Indonesia is now on the brink of a social revolution.

"And if a social revolution really does happen, it would be a truly massive national tragedy," Mr Abdurrahman, who is better known as Gus Dur, was quoted as saying.

He was speaking in Jakarta at an interactive dialogue on "Preventing Social Revolutions". Other speakers were National Mandate Party Secretary, General Faisal Basri, National Resilience Institute Governor, Lieutenant-General Agum Gumelar, and former Environment Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja.

The Muslim leader's estimation on the number of possible casualties was based on a comparison to the 1949 social revolution in China. The upheaval at the time claimed about 12 million lives, said the Indonesian Observer.

"If the population in Indonesia is a fifth of China's, then a social revolution in Indonesia would claim about two to three million lives," he said. Therefore firm measures were needed from security officers to stop trouble-makers from trying to disrupt security and order, he said.

Such action would also reduce the level of violence, which has increased drastically in many areas across the country in recent months, he added.

Mr Abdurrahman, who is head of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, voiced support for the policy of Armed Forces Commander General Wiranto to shoot on sight anybody trying to disrupt security and order.

The policy was unpopular, particularly among human-rights activists, but was necessary to save the nation from bankruptcy, he said. "I know the military will be criticised in implementing the policy," he was quoted as saying in the newspaper.

Mr Sarwono agreed with the Muslim leader that a social revolution could still haunt Indonesia because people no longer respected the legal system. That was because there were still a number of incidents involving military officials that had not been satisfactorily resolved, he said.

"How could people believe in the legal system if there are still many cases that remain unfinished?" asked Mr Sarwono, referring to a number of cases involving military personnel, such as student massacres, kidnappings and other killings.

Therefore, he urged military leaders to be sensitive to the people's demands by solving a number of cases, particularly those which have strong political aspects involving a number of military personnel.

"If the military can solve such problems, I believe the people will back its policies in trying to overcome a number of security problems."

The dialogue on Wednesday was organised by the Forum for Political Journalists Discussion and the Alumni Association of Bandung's Padjadjaran University.

Gen Faisal said a social revolution could only be avoided if tensions among the masses were eased while the political elite peacefully resolved their differences among themselves.

Elections won't harm economic program

Dow Jones Newswires - February 10, 1999

McCarthy, Jakarta -- Indonesian elections and the prospect of a new government this year probably won't derail the country's major economic reform program, the International Monetary Fund's top official in Asia, Hubert Neiss, said Wednesday.

In an interview with Dow Jones Newswires, Neiss said this view was based on conversations with Indonesia's main opposition leaders who, he says, broadly support the government's agreement with the IMF.

"The IMF program is not a big controversial issue among the major opposition leaders," Neiss said. "This is a very positive development that the economic measures of the government are not subject to fierce political dispute, and that is because there's basic, basic agreement among the various opposition leaders that the country should be pursuing this program."

Neiss met this week with major opposition figures, including Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur -- leader of the country's largest Muslim organization, Nadhlatul Ulama -- as well as representatives of presidential hopeful Megawati Sukarnoputri's economic team and others.

Indonesia is set to hold landmark parliamentary elections early June, which will pave the way for presidential elections in November. The poll is expected to be the most open after three decades of authoritarian rule under former President Suharto.

But Indonesia, mired in its worst economic turmoil since the 1960s, has endured riots and protests since Suharto's tumultuous ouster, and many fear renewed unrest in the lead up to the elections and beyond. That instability and political uncertainty is hobbling Indonesia's economic recovery and stalling new investment.

Neiss, who along with an IMF team has just completed a review of Indonesia's economic program, said he gauged the current political situation to be "more certain," however.

Neiss said the passage of electoral laws has helped to bring more certainty. "Some of the uncertainty of the transition has been removed with the election laws, which are basically accepted, so there is more certainty," Neiss said. "You have an election date and you have broad acceptance of elections laws."

Up to 200 political parties have been formed since Suharto's successor, President B.J. Habibie, began dismantling the tightly controlled political system, although only about 30 of them are expected to be deemed eligible to contest the elections.

Last month, Indonesia's parliament approved political reforms that set the stage for the elections. Parliament's most controversial reform was the decision to reduce the number of appointed seats for the military from 75 to 38, thereby allowing it to maintain influence in the 500-member legislature.

Student activists said the reform falls short of real democratic change, but some opposition groups say that gradually phasing out the military's role in politics is acceptable.

Neiss said the meetings with the opposition leaders were useful to "get their input" on the economic situation. The IMF official has met frequently with members of the opposition over the past year, particularly since the ouster of Suharto, to keep them briefed on economic developments.

Poll watchdogs shift into high gear

Jakarta Post - February 8, 1999

Jakarta The rush to prepare independent observers of the polls, slated to take place in barely five months, continues as the country's two largest Muslim organizations cooperate to prepare 123,600 volunteer poll observers.

In Ujungpandang, South Sulawesi, the Joint Forum of Election Monitoring was set up on Friday and aims to recruit 20,000 volunteer poll observers. Earlier, the Indonesian Rectors Forum launched in Bandung, West Java, preparations to recruit 450,000 university students and lecturers for the sarne purpose.

The new cooperation between Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah organizations comprises 11 of their community and religious bodies. Like other networks, activities include preparations for voter education and training for volunteers. The 11 organizations are under the coordination of Nahdlatul Ulama's Institute for Human Resources Development Studies.

"We are nonparty oriented and independent. The volunteers will be ready for deployment in all provinces, except East Timor due to current political developments there," Helmy Ali Yafie told The Jakarta Post on Friday. The volunteers will be ready to work from the province level to the district level, he said. "We have to move fast because of the tight schedule," Helmy said

On Friday, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating it would channel aid from at least 14 countries for the purpose of poll monitoring. The aid is estimated to reach US$10 rnillion.

Earlier established networks such as the Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KIPP) and the University Network for Free and Fair Elections (Unfrel) are among recipients of the aid.

Nahdlatul Ulama's network will start its one month voter education program on Wednesday through talk shows on television and radio, discussions, information dissemination through the media and through posters and flyers.

"We will spread the idea of a free and fair election up to the subdistricts and villages," Helmy added. In April, the network will start actual monitoring activities. "We are open to any independent participants," he said.

Fajrul Falaakh, an executive in charge of Nahdlatul Ulama's human resources development, noted that the task of monitoring a general election was relatively new here.

"None of the monitoring groups in this country will be really ready to run their tasks smoothly," Fajrul also a UNDP advisor, said. He cited the hardest job of the network would be determining whether voters were really free of pressure, apart from counting ballots and verifying them.

"All this needs special standardization, both in rules and systems. We have to set this with other monitoring groups," he added.

In Ujungpandang last week, a monitoring network coordinator under the Joint Forum said its 20,000 volunteers would not adequately cover the ideal of two observers at each election post in South Sulawesi's 21 regencies and two townships. "But we hope they can be effective anyway," M. Darwis said.

Meanwhile, the "team of eleven" in charge of selecting poll contestants will start working on Monday by composing duectives for 87 chapters in the new law on political parties and on general elections.

The drafts of the directives will be submitted to the yet-to be-established National Elections Committee (KPU) on Feb. 28, according to team member Mulyana W. Kusumah who expressed optimism that with good division of labor the task would be carried out well.

The team does not have decision-making power, and the drafts will only be submitted as recommendations, according to Mulyana. The team of eleven comprises 11 respected scholars and activists. Its main duties are to select and recommend to the KPU political parties eligible to contest the June 7 poll.

The elections committee itself will be set up after registration of political parties is completed on Feb. 21. A total of 140 political parties have been registered at the Ministry of Home Affairs, but in order to contest the poll they have to register as corporate bodies at the Ministry of Justice.

They will be processed further by the team of eleven and, finally, by the elections committee.
Economy and investment 

WB rates its performance as 'marginal'

Agence France Presse - February 10, 1999

Jakarta -- In a highly critical self-assessment the World Bank has admitted it may have overlooked warning signs as the "Indonesian miracle" faded because of a desire not to upset Jakarta.

In a confidential document, the bank reveals that corruption in Indonesia was often glossed over and that self-seeking staff mixed strongly worded policy notes with praise for the government.

The World Bank rated its performance in Indonesia as only "marginally satisfactory," not just during the current economic crisis but for much of the past 30 years.

The report demanded to know why the "myth of the Indonesian miracle" was still alive in July 1997 when Asian economies went into a tailspin and why the bank was so unprepared for the crisis.

"Perhaps the bank tried to preserve the image of the Indonesian miracle for too long. Perhaps the bank was too concerned with maintaining good relations with one of its best clients," the internal evaluation suggests.

The 40-page inquiry report, a copy of which has been obtained by AFP, says Indonesia "was widely perceived within the bank to be a miracle and a symbol of the bank's success.

There was little incentive "to take a close look at Indonesia's development model" because for many bank staff association with a "successful" large country was beneficial to their career.

"Serious structural problems which were well known to the bank persisted (in Indonesia)," the report says, referring in particular to the major issues of governance and corruption.

"Corruption has been and continues to be a problem in Indonesia," it says.

"With a large and well established mission in Jakarta, bank staff were aware of the country risk. The mission had easy access to senior officials who frequently prepared confidential policy notes.

"[But] bank management was ambiguous in its messages to the Indonesian government. Strongly worded policy notes on major structural issues were mixed with constant and vocal praise for the government's performance, and significantly contributed to complacency."

Dennis de Tray, the head of the World Bank in Indonesia for the past five years, refused to comment on the substance of the document when questioned by AFP. But he said a first draft was "downgraded after being submitted to the Indonesian government."

While the report denounces staff performance in Jakarta, it does not pinpoint higher responsibility for the lack of supervision despite the fact that more than 25 billion dollars was committed over some 30 years to a country often rated as one of the most corrupt in the world.

The report simply makes mention of "an unfortunate combination of staff turnover, some of it due to policy disagreements and the 1997 reorganization".

A key question posed by the document, according to a Jakarta- based Western economist, is what credibility can now be put on analyses provided by international financial institutions, particularly the World Bank.

"The Asian economic crisis has shown that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) systematically wear rose- coloured glasses," the economist said.

"The lessons of the Asian crisis do not always seem to have been understood, in any case not in Indonesia. These financial bodies will be stuck from now on to justify retaining the handling of grants."

The economist cited a paper presented last month to a Bangkok conference on the Asian crisis in which the IMF gave a preliminary assessment of its programs in Indonesia, Korea and Thailand.

"The Fund and the authorities appear to have erred on the side of optimism in part because of concerns that realistically pessimistic forecasts would have exacerbated the situation further," the paper said.

As the value of Indonesia's rupiah collapsed against the dollar, the IMF arranged 46 billion dollars in aid for Indonesia and the World Bank organised a one-billion dollar loan package.

But the disbursement of funds was often delayed as Jakarta hedged on wide-ranging economic reforms demanded by the donors.

Japan to the rescue: $2.4bn

Financial Review - February 8, 1999

Greg Earl, Jakarta -- Indonesia has pushed ahead with its new quest for international assistance, as Japan confirmed it would provide $US2.4 billion before Indonesia holds general elections in June.

The Japanese money was the key to Indonesia plugging a $US9 billion to $US10 billion shortfall in its Budget for the financial year, which starts in April. However, it falls short of the $US3 billion that Indonesian officials had forecast.

But both Japanese and Indonesian officials said on Friday that Japan would provide more money in the middle of the year.

The package of yen-denominated loans makes Indonesia the largest recipient of the $US35 billion Miyazawa and associated funds, with Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines having now each received $US1.5 billion to $US1.8 billion. Japan is also providing an additional interest rate subsidy to Indonesia to help reduce the cost of a $US600 million loan from the Asian Development Bank which the country had earlier taken on as part of its crisis funding.

Indonesia says it had already arranged $US4 billion in foreign budget funding, which is believed to be project funding from the major multilateral lenders rolled over from the current financial year.

The finalisation of the Japanese funding coincided with discussions with the IMF over the latest tranche of aid, and the growing pressures within Indonesia to embrace affirmative action and redistributive policies.

Indonesia's reform program suffered another blow with a dispute over how private bank Lippobank was included in the first round of banks for recapitalisation under a government-funded scheme. Parliament members on Friday demanded that the government postpone the assistance until a more transparent decision-making process was put in place.

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