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ASIET Net News 17 April 26-May 2, 1999
Jakarta -- Police suspect 11 victims found in a mass grave in East Timor were members an anti-independence militia group that has been accused of carrying out attacks and atrocities against civilians, a newspaper reported today.
The tied-up, beaten and stabbed bodies of the victims were discovered Friday in a grave in the town of Ermera. The town, 25 miles southwest of the territorial capital, Dili, has been a center of attacks by militiamen who want East Timor to remain part of Indonesia.
The newspaper Kompas quoted Lt. Col. Erri Gultom, Ermera's police chief, as saying the dead men appeared to have been members of the Aitarak or "Thorn" group, one of several militias formed in recent months.
Gultom said four suspects had been arrested. He told The Associated Press on Friday that the suspects were pro- independence supporters.
On Monday, 26 April, FOKUPERS received news from a resident of Liquisa that ABRI has threatened people living in the countryside, in places remote from the town of Liquisa, to move into the town. Those who remain behind are warned that they will be killed.
Initially, the army was forcing all males of 12 and older to leave their villages but then, everyone, including newborn babies,women who have just given birth, pregnant women and even people who are very advanced in age, ill or paralysed to move to Liquisa. anyone failing to do so before the deadline will not be allowed to enter Liquisa and will all be killed
Thereafter, officers also told residents that anyone who is known to be on an army blacklist needn't bother to move to Liquisa. On 25 April, ABRI forced everyone in Tibar (on the border between Dili and Liquisa) to take a blood oath with sheep's blood mixed with arak and a kind of ecstasy and join the Red and Whie Iron militia led by Leoneto Martins, district chief of Liquica.
Today, 26 April, at 4pm, 160 inhabitants of Asumano village left their houses and went to Ebeno, on the way to Liquisa. The large crowd, including newborn babies, children and the elderly were screaming with fear because of the threats from ABRI. No one understands why the army is forcing people to leave their villages and go to Liquisa.
Today there was a blood-drinking ceremony in Gleno, District of Ermera in preparation for an attack on people still remaining in villages in the district of Liquisa.
Simon Ingram, Bali -- A leading activist for independence in East Timor has fled the territory with members of his family saying he intends to seek asylum in Australia.
The departure of Manual Carrascalao came only days after his son and a number of other people were killed in an attack by pro-Jakarta militias on his home in the East Timorese capital, Dili. He is now in Bali enroute for Jakarta.
A squad of heavily armed paramilitary police rushed Manual Carrascalao, his 20-year old daughter and half a dozen other family members onto the airliner waiting on the tarmac of Dili airport.
The former MP and prominent supporter of East Timorese independence has been sheltering at police headquarters in Dili for fear that he could be targeted again by pro-Jakarta militias who have killed dozens of people in recent weeks.
Speaking to reporters on the plane, Mr Carrascalao said he was sad to be leaving at a time when the people of East Timor needed him most. He could hardly forget, he said, that there were thousands of other Timorese facing the same dangers as himself who did not have the opportunity to escape.
Mr Carrascalao's departure is testimony to the continuing state of fear and insecurity in East Timor, inspite of Tuesday's announcement of a date for a ballot on autonomy for the former Portuguese colony.
The pro-independence movement says the ballot date of 8 August is too late and will allow the pro-Jakarta militias to step up their brutal campaign either to abort the vote altogether or to ensure a result in favour of continuous ties with Jakarta.
Cameron Stewart -- The size of the planned UN observer force to East Timor next month may need to be increased because of unstable security in the territory, senior officials say.
UN planners will hold meetings in New York later this week to discuss the size and composition of the world body's presence in East Timor, which is expected to include up to 100 Australians.
The UN observer group for East Timor was expected to number between 400 and 650.
But senior UN officials said yesterday the number of monitors was likely to be higher than originally thought because of the poor security environment in the former Portuguese colony.
"If there is a security problem, as there appears to be, then [the UN] will be looking at putting in more people," one senior UN official told The Australian.
The UN personnel will not act as peacekeepers and Indonesia has said its troops will be responsible for security during the autonomy ballot.
However, the UN maintains that a large presence will help stabilise the security situation as well as maximising the safety of its personnel.
The UN special envoy for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, said at the weekend that the presence in East Timor was likely to be "fairly massive".
The UN is preparing to send a group of non-military observers, possibly including civilian police, to East Timor to monitor a ballot on autonomy for the territory, which is expected to be held in August.
But officials said the final decisions about the size and composition of the UN presence in the province could not be made until it was known how the autonomy ballot would be conducted.
Indonesia has not yet disclosed how it intends to hold the ballot, which is described as a "consultation".
Jakarta does not want a full-scale referendum, while the former colonial power, Portugal, wants a fully democratic vote. Indonesia has promised that it will grant East Timor independence if, as expected, voters reject the UN-brokered autonomy package.
If Indonesia opts for a "mobile" ballot, where UN officials travel to individual villages to collect votes and bring them back to their central headquarters, then the number of personnel required would be less than if Indonesia adopts a one-man-one- vote fixed ballot located in every village.
Indonesia is expected to disclose the method of voting and the related security arrangements for the ballot on or before May 5, when Indonesia and Portugal will sign the autonomy package in New York.
Speaking ahead of yesterday's summit between Prime Minister John Howard and Indonesia's President B.J. Habibie, the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said any UN presence in East Timor would need to be a large one.
"My own view is that it will be necessary to have hundreds of [UN] people to help with the consultation [election] process," he said.
"After all, you are talking about a possibility in the vicinity of 200 different polling stations. You've got 800,000 people in East Timor."
Nusa Dua -- Indonesian President B.J. Habibie said on Tuesday he fully accepted a UN-brokered autonomy package for troubled East Timor and that his government would sign it on May 5.
"I have accepted the whole draft without any changes, to be signed on the 5th of May," Habibie said after meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard in Bali. Habibie said on Tuesday East Timor's autonomy vote would take place on August 8.
Indonesia and East Timor's former colonial ruler, Portugal, reached an agreement on Friday in New York on the autonomy plan, which will allow East Timor's ballot to take place in August.
The signing of the accord was delayed until May 5 because Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas needed approval from Jakarta on security and other issues related to the way the vote would be carried out.
The crucial talks on East Timor between Habibie and Howard followed spiraling violence in East Timor, after Jakarta's announcement in January that it would consider giving the territory independence if an offer of wide-ranging autonomy were rejected.
On Monday, thousands of pro-Jakarta East Timorese pledged to die to keep their link to Indonesia. About 5,000 members of pro- integration militias gathered in the village of Gleno to launch a "Blood for Integration" battalion.
"My men and I are ready to die for integration," militia leader Eurico Guterres told the crowd, who responded with cheers and shouts of "Kill! Kill!"
An East Timorese resistance spokesman said over the weekend that more than 150 people have died in the lastest wave of killings by pro-Indonesia militias in the south of the territory.
Disarmament prospects on agenda
At the talks in Bali, officials from Indonesia and Australia were set to discuss prospects of disarming the warring militias on East Timor.
Howard has been careful not to build expectations about the outcome of the meeting, saying it was important to be realistic about what could be achieved.
Howard said he hoped Indonesia's appreciation for recent Australian financial support, and its friendship would pave the way for constructive talks on East Timor.
"It's a very important meeting in a very important association at a very important time," Howard said before his arrival in Bali on Monday.
With Indonesia, Howard faces his most important international policy test since he became prime minister in March, 1996.
It is only the second time that Habibie has spent a night away from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta since he came to power nearly a year ago.
Successive Australian governments have taken immense pains to build up strong relations with its northern neighbor, and Australia is the only Western nation that recognizes Indonesia's 1976 annexation of East Timor. But Asian experts say Howard must put that relationship on the line, given the alternative of civil war in the territory less than 500 kilometers from Australia's northern border.
Dili -- Violence by militias has risen so sharply ahead of an August 8 vote on autonomy from Indonesia that a UN peacekeeping force is needed in East Timor, human rights groups said on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Amnesty International said an East Timorese pro-integration militia is planning to "cleanse" Dili of pro- independence men, women and children from Saturday, according to a document being distributed in Dili.
The militia, known as Red Blood, plans to evacuate pro- integrationists from the East Timor capital and then "exterminate and wipe out" anyone left in the city, said an Amnesty translation of the militia's document.
Call to disarm the warring factions
"Killings, terror and intimidation by the militia in East Timor have had a great effect on the people of East Timor. Hundreds have been killed and wounded," the groups said in a joint appeal presented to visiting British Junior Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett.
"Contrary to statements of the Indonesian government which assure a peaceful solution to the East Timor problem, the incidence of violence is on the rise," the statement said.
The rights groups expressed concern that pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the armed forces (ABRI), were targeting civilians in their campaign against separation from Indonesia.
Loyalist militia have vowed to try to block the UN ballot and to fight to the death to keep the eastern half of Timor island as part of Indonesia.
The UN will send foreign police to East Timor within weeks for the autonomy vote, but Indonesia has insisted they will act only as advisers and not become a UN peacekeeping force.
Indonesian rule of the former Portuguese territory after a 1975 invasion has never been recognized by the United Nations or much of the world community. UN
Under mounting international pressure, Indonesian President B.J. Habibie on Tuesday approved a UN-brokered agreement with Portugal on an autonomy offer to be put to East Timorese.
Fatchett, left, visits victims attacked by pro-Indonesian militiamen Habibie has said Jakarta may let the territory of 800,000 people go it alone if East Timorese reject his offer of enhanced autonomy within Indonesia.
Habibie's abandonment of 23 years of Indonesian refusal to consider independence prompted pro-Jakarta militias to step up their attacks, mainly on civlians.
In the latest incident, several people were killed near the southern town of Suai, 200 km (120 miles) southwest of Dili, last week.
Church and human rights officials say up to 100 people were killed by militiamen. Military officials and militia leaders say noone was killed.
In their joint appeal, the human rights groups urged an immediate United Nations peacekeeping force, disarmament of the militias and the withdrawal of Indonesian troops, followed by the disarming of pro-independence guerrillas.
Ready to fight
On Wednesday, an East Timor militia leader said pro-Jakarta loyalists did not accept the planned UN-run ballot on the bloodied territory's future, threatening to take to the mountains to fight against independence.
"We reject a direct ballot," Jose Estevao Soares told reporters after meeting Fatchett in the East Timor capital of Dili.
"We are ready to face any situation, including going up to the mountains and fighting another 23 years ... or maybe longer," he said, saying he was speaking on behalf of all militias and pro- Jakarta groups in the former Portuguese colony.
"We will fight anybody who wants to trouble us and force us to accept their ways."
Soares did not say if the militias would actively fight to block the ballot. He was accompanied by another militia leader, Eurico Guterres, whose Aitarak (Thorn) militia is one of the strongest and most active. The militias, armed with a mix of guns and tribal weapons, and other pro-Jakarta groups represent several thousand people and rejection of the ballot casts a cloud over whether it can go ahead and if it will be seen as legitimate if it does.
Under the agreement, police from six nations will arrive within a few weeks as part of a United Nations operation to prepare for and run the ballot.
Habibie's abrupt U-turn on Jakarta's 23-year policy of rejecting independence outright has prompted loyalist militias to step up their campaign to keep the territory within Indonesia.
Rights groups say dozens of people have been killed so far this year. Pro-independence leaders have gone underground or into protective custody with the police.
Manuel Carrascalao, a leading resistance official, told Reuters on Wednesday he would seek temporary political asylum in Australia for himself and 11 family members until UN personnel arrive in East Timor.
Carrascalao is in protective custody after his home was attacked and several people killed during an April 17 rampage through Dili by militiamen. His son was hacked to death.
Civilian protection urged
Fatchett told reporters he had pressed government, military and police officials to carry out their duty to protect all civilians, adding that the UN-run ballot was the only way to stop the killing in East Timor.
"During the course of my meetings with the governor, with the police and with ABRI, I made it abundantly clear that their role under the international agreement signed by their government is to be wholly impartial, that they have to create the conditions in which it is possible to hold a free and fair ballot," he told reporters before flying out after a day-long visit.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the only way to stop the killing in the medium and long term, to lift the misery that has been on the shoulders of the people of East Timor, is to have the ballot."
Spritual leader says violence could mar vote
The mood in the troubled territory is too violent for its people to vote freely in the upcoming election, said East Timor's spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Belo on Wednesday. Portugal's TSF radio quoted the Roman Catholic cleric, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, as saying that fear could force the Timorese to back an Indonesian proposal for sweeping autonomy.
The territory's mainly Roman Catholic population will decide on August 8 whether to continue under the rule of Indonesia, albeit with a wide degree of autonomy, or become independent.
In a letter to the Vatican's Agencia Ecclesia, quoted by both TSF and Portugal's Lusa news agency, Belo accused the Indonesian secret service and the army of involvement in a recent upsurge of violence.
He said recent attacks by pro-Indonesia militias in Dili and other towns and villages had caused around 100 deaths.
The bishop's pessimism contrasted with the optimistic tone of Australian Prime Minister John Howard who said on Wednesday that he was confident Jakarta would deliver on pledges to disarm the militias and ensure a free and fair ballot.
"There has been a strong commitment ... to the holding of an open and clean ballot ... I had no reason to doubt the sincerity of the commitments," Howard said after a meeting on Tuesday with Indonesian President B.J. Habibie.
[Reuters contributed to this report]
John McBeth, Jakarta -- The flyer from the East Timor Pro- Integration Information Centre billed it as an "Invade Dili" rally. Three days later, on April 17, provincial governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares and civilian and military officials looked on as militia leader Eurico Guterres told several thousand followers: "As from today, I order all the pro-integration militia to conduct a cleansing of the traitors of integration. Capture them and kill them."
With that chilling order -- echoing another conflict in far- off Kosovo -- the militia peeled off and began an unimpeded rampage through East Timor's provincial capital. Over the next two days they killed as many as 30 people and wrecked businesses and homes.
For many observers, the carnage confirmed suspicions that the Indonesian military is dead-set against President B.J. Habibie's offer to give East Timor independence if it rejects an autonomy proposal. It also added credibility to expectations that the autonomy plan, now being discussed at United Nations-sponsored talks in New York, will be significantly watered down. The result, analysts say, can only be a bloodier confrontation between separatists and integrationists among East Timor's 800,000 population.
Initially, Western officials and human-rights groups blamed rogue local commanders for opposing Habibie's independence plan. Now, however, they're convinced that while armed-forces commander Gen. Wiranto and the Jakarta military leadership may not have directly ordered the army to turn loose the militias, they tacitly allowed it -- out of fear that independence will cause a ripple effect that could dismember the entire nation. The result has been the worst violence in East Timor since the 1991 Dili massacre.
"All circumstantial evidence points to Wiranto and the rest of the military leadership being overtly supportive of the pro- integration militia," says a Western military official. "They think Habibie is making a big mistake. They fear that if East Timor becomes independent, they'll be fighting independence movements in Irian Jaya and Aceh and even other places. They think it will just be opening the door." While most of the blame has been heaped on the military, diplomats note that since the original autonomy package was unveiled in June last year, separatist guerrillas have also been conducting a campaign of intimidation.
Diplomats have been sharply critical of jailed pro- independence leader Jose "Xanana" Gusmao for issuing a call to arms on April 5 that gave pro-integration paramilitaries the pretext to go on the offensive. Although Gusmao later tried to explain that he meant his followers should only defend themselves, the statement set in motion a chain of events that culminated in a massacre the next day at Liquica, 30 kilometres west of Dili. In the attack, pro-integration paramilitaries and Timorese soldiers shot and hacked to death 57 people in a churchyard.
Having originally denied that it was supplying weapons to the militia, the military is now making no secret of its support. During a meeting with visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth on April 14, Wiranto offered few regrets for the Liquica incident and said disarming the pro-integration militia will depend on Gusmao's Fretilin guerrillas turning in their weapons as well. His assertion, backed by little or no evidence, was that the integrationists had been provoked into retaliation.
Gusmao claims that senior regional military officers met Guterres and other militia leaders in Bali in March to form a 2,000-strong pro-integration front. "I think there's quite a lot to that," says a Western diplomat. "It doesn't matter what the high command is saying. At the sharp end, they're not supporting government policy."
Timorese and Western sources point out that one of the regional commanders currently responsible for East Timor is Brig.-Gen. Mahidin Simbolan, who captured Gusmao in 1992. Simbolan was head of intelligence for the Indonesian special forces before being appointed Dili commander in 1995-96.
But how much the military is actually running things is still a point of debate. Analysts note that after years of helping and doing business with the army, militia leaders would be vulnerable to retribution under independence. "Why should they be passive when the military shares their attitude and gives them support," says a senior Western diplomat. "I don't see them being under military discipline, but that doesn't relieve the military of responsibility."
Arming the militia, another Western official points out, is the military's way of "levelling the playing field," given the perception that the international community is fully behind the charismatic Gusmao, who was recently moved from Jakarta's Cipinang Prison to a special detention house.
But analysts can't determine whether the strategy is to sabotage the ballot altogether, or to intimidate the East Timorese in a way that heads off a lopsided vote in favour of independence.
The ultimate decision on East Timor's fate rests with the People's Consultative Assembly, Indonesia's highest legislative body. Depending on how the "consultation" is carried out, diplomats say the assembly is unlikely to cut East Timor loose from the republic if there's no more than a 60:40 vote for independence. As one put it: "The military appears to be following the logic that if there's not an overwhelming mandate for independence, then the government will feel justified in going with the autonomy package."
If East Timor is a pebble in Indonesia's shoe, the last seven weeks have shown why. While it initially appeared the military supported Habibie's independence offer, internal documents shown to the Review at the time the new policy was announced indicated Wiranto and the five other political and security ministers had wanted more time to study the proposal. They weren't given it, and two days later, the president made it official. From then on, the situation on the ground began to deteriorate.
Insiders familiar with the sequence of events say the military became aware Habibie was shifting his position on independence as early as December.
This may explain why two of the new militias -- the Besi Merah Puti and Mahidi -- were formed a month before the policy was announced. As with many of the 10 or more other pro-integration militias that sprouted in the weeks following Habibie's bombshell, both were raised in western East Timor, where pro- integration sentiment are stronger.
A month after Habibie's statement, the government began to backtrack on the autonomy package. At a cabinet meeting on March 8, government and diplomatic sources say, key ministers protested over the way Indonesia would have to continue subsidizing East Timor when, under an internationally guaranteed "special status" agreement, the territory would have far more freedoms than those being offered to 26 other provinces.
Serious concern was also expressed at the effect East Timor's independence might have elsewhere.
The president may have even begun to harbour second thoughts himself after a rowdy meeting with Irian Jaya leaders in late February, which showed just how high expectations had been raised by the East Timor initiative. The president was shocked and angered when some Irianese openly called for independence. Dispensing with his prepared remarks, he told them: "I'm not offering independence, I'm offering autonomy."
Foreign Ministry officials won't say which parts of the autonomy plan have changed, but they insist that a key provision removing the military from internal-security duties remains. "It has been watered down, but it's still a wide-ranging special autonomy," says an official familiar with the revisions. The changes are thought to centre on finance, the judiciary and foreign investment. "The concern is that while it has to be special, it shouldn't be to the extent where it poses a problem to our national interest," the official adds.
The question now, however, is whether a consultation process can be held at all. "Everyone is very worried," says a Western ambassador. "You can't have a free and fair process in an atmosphere when armed groups are running around." East Timorese legislator Salvador Soares agrees: "After what has happened, everything has changed drastically. The pro-integrationist forces now think they're on top. It's not the time to hold a ballot."
[On April 26, Lusa reported that an East Timorese guerrilla commander has died on April 17 from wounds suffered in an attack against an Indonesian military convoy near Laclubar. Commander Xerife, of the Falintil guerrillas' 3rd military region, Laclubar. Lusa said the guerrillas claim they destroyed five army trucks and seized weapons, including a machinegun, in the attack, which killed the brother of Indonesia's roving ambassador for East Timor - James Balowski.]
Peter Hartcher -- John Howard's emergency summit today with the President of Indonesia is not the high-risk event as advertised - both men want the same thing.
This is not a classical diplomatic negotiation where the two sides seek to persuade each other of different positions. The reason the meeting is occurring at all is that the two leaders essentially agree on how to handle the future of East Timor.
Howard and President B.J. Habibie already agree that the Indonesian colony, annexed by force of arms and held at the heavy expense of blood, should finally be offered the option of independence.
And they both want this to be done in an orderly and peaceful manner, supervised by the United Nations. And they concur that Indonesia should not just storm off in a chaotic huff if the poor benighted East Timorese should exercise that option.
So while the TV reporters do their earnest stand-ups outside the Hilton Hotel at Bali's Nusa Dua today about the grave high- risk confrontation going on behind them, Howard and Habibie will be inside busily agreeing with each other.
The catch, however, is that neither man has the power to implement this happy vision. Although Habibie bears the title of president and lives in the presidential palace, it is a polite fiction that he can transmit his will to the streets and jungles of East Timor.
The fiction operates on two levels. The first is that he can issue orders to the Commander of the Armed Forces, General Wiranto.
Habibie holds office at the pleasure of the armed forces, not the other way around. Habibie was not consciously endorsed by anyone for the presidency but was an emergency stand-in when Soeharto was forced out.
He has no legitimacy, a truth so irrefutable that even one of his own top advisers, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, has stated it baldly and openly. Habibie is unpopular with the bulk of the armed forces.
The second level is the fiction that Wiranto has untrammelled control over the armed forces. The Indonesian armed forces are not a military organisation but a military-political grouping.
Wiranto presides over a tense balance between powerful factions rather than a strict hierarchy of command, more like a leader of the Australian Labor Party than an Australian army general. He was obliged to rescind two of his most senior military appointments because of a revolt among his own officers. And the limits to Howard's powers are entirely obvious. Australia will never employ aggressive tactics to defend the East Timorese if those tactics might upset Jakarta. So if Howard and Habibie can agree on so much but enforce so little, why hold the summit at all?
The reason is that it suits both leaders. Habibie's policy of freedom for East Timor is not popular with either the reactionary or the liberal ends of the Indonesian political spectrum. The army and the hardline nationalists are very uncomfortable with it.
But so are populist reformist elements and their pin-up girl, Megawati Soekarnoputri. Only a soft middle of moderates like the idea. So the spectacle of an emergency summit with a foreign leader is useful to Habibie in shoring up domestic support for his East Timor policy.
And it suits Howard because, first, it might do some good. But, secondly, he needs to demonstrate to us that he has done everything reasonably possible to get a happy ending to the East Timor story.
The sad truth is that today's summit will succeed in diplomatic terms but fail in the only sense that really matters -- delivering peace and freedom to the East Timorese.
Powerful interests in the Indonesian armed forces do not want to surrender the province. And if they are forced to withdraw, are determined to leave a civil war behind them.
In a statement issued on his behalf by his lawyer, Hendardi, chair of the PBHI, Xanana Gusmao, the president of the CNRT said that generally speaking, nothing new had emerged from the meeting between President Habibie and PM John Howard. The two men exchanged information about the postponement of the UN tripartite talks till 5 May and announced that the date of the ballot had been fixed for 8 August.
"Our client regrets the political position adopted by the Australian Prime Minister as expressed in his statement in Denpasar which made no reference to the terrible events in Liquisa and Dili which resulted in a number of civilian deaths. This is in contrast with the Prime Minister's angry reaction when he was still in Australia." At that time, reacting to the Dili tragedy, he said that he wanted to meet President Habibie as soon as possible.
Xanana was hoping that the Australian Prime Minister would pay attention to these tragedies and would exert pressure on President Habibie and the Army commander in chief with regard to the serious events in East Timor during the past weeks. It is necessary to seek clarification about the army's political standpoint because it has still failed to adopt a position of neutrality even though it promised to do so.
This is extremely important, said Xanana, because the security situation in East Timor has failed to improve in spite of the peace accord that was signed on 21 April. "On that occasion, the army leadership committed itself to a position of neutrality."
But at the same time, Xanana welcomed Australia's commitment to provide financial assistance and medical staff as part of its involvement in helping take forward the peaceful settlement of the situation in East Timor.
"Our client also expressed the hope that the tripartite talks leading to the signing of an agreement would not be further postponed on 5 May." The postponement from 24 April till 5 May had given the militias the opportunity to mobilise their forces and to exert more pressure by means of threats, terror and other acts of violence against the civilian population, resulting in yet more people dead and wounded and the destruction of property, all of which had forced thousands of people to go into hiding.
Suara Merdeka also reported the military commander in Dili Colonel Tono Suratman as saying that the pro-integration militias would soon be disarmed. "It will happen in a few weeks time," he said. He gave no further details although the militias who want to remain with Indonesia are continuing to take actions against the pro-independence people.
The paper also reported that the East Timor solidarity organisation Solidamor has issued a statement signed by a number of non-Timorese NGOs urging the Indonesian government to release Xanana Gusmao before the ballot on 8 August.
Jakarta -- 150 students who went to Timor ro assist in the reconciliation process were forced to return to Java following threats from Eurico Guterres, head of the Aitarak militia, demanding that all students should adopt a position of neutrality. "If they refuse, we will use "other means" to force them to do so," said Guterres.
The students left Dili by ship on 26 April after having been in Timor since 22 March. They are expected to arrive back in Tanjung Priok, today.
They have good reason to fear for their lives as the militias have shown themselves to be only too ready to use violence against anyone who doesn't agree with them. We still remember the killings that occurred in the parish house of Fr Rafael in Liquisa and in Manuel Carrascalao's home in Dili.
Rumours are circulating today in Delta, Dili that the army and the militia are warning all East Timorese to take part in the Indonesian elections on 7 June. "If not, there will be a second Liquisa," according to the rumours.
These rumours started circulating following an announcement from the head of the Election Commission to the effect that only 22,244 people have so far registered to take part which is 4.65 per cent of the official figure for the number of Timorese eligible to vote.
Sydney -- Reports that a document has been made public by Amnesty International which comes from a group called Red Blood Commando (Komando Darah Merah) saying they will "cleanse" Dili of pro-independence men, women and children.
It says that the document was circulating in Dili and the translation used the words, "Top Secret".
After quoting from the document, Kompas Online said that Jose Tavares, spokesman for the Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice, said he knows nothing about the group. He said he was aware of an earlier document signed by the Red Blood Command. That contained a threat -- to attack homes in Dili that did not hoist the Indonesian flag -- but it was not carried out, said Tavares.
"I have never seen this latest statement although I read the earlier one, and I dont know who they are or where they are." He was not convinced that they were part of the pro-integration forces in Timor
According to AI, Red Blood said they would carry out a "Universal Sweep" beginning Friday night, in an operation aimed at smashing the anti-integration organisations.
It said that "when the ultimatum for evacuation has passed, we will assume that all those remaining in Dili, men, women, children or elderly people are anti-integration people who must be finished off and annihilated." It is signed by Lafaek Saburai, leader of the Red Blood Command. It is addressed to all pro- militia commanders in Timor and has been copied to all the militia groups. It asked the armed forces not to do anything but to remain at their posts.
The Australian Section of Amnesty International said that the document had been received and translated by its London office, but they did not know whether the original document was in Indonesian of Portuguese.
"Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the statement issued by the Red Blood Command that they will wipe out the pro- independence supports at the end of this week and we are calling on the Indonesian government to take immediate action to disarm and prohibit the militia before too late," said Amnesty. The document entitled "Operation Cleansing," (Operasi Pembersihan) states that Red Blood has decided to attack Dili as part of a broader campaign of violence in order to reach a settlement regarding the future of East Timor.
Democratisation in Indonesia has forced president Suharto to end his 32 years of rule. International pressure, specifically by donor countries, have forced the Indonesian government to take steps which reflect its commitment to democracy. This concession to international pressure included an opening of democratic space in East Timor.
In the first months of reformation in Indonesia, this political opening allowed for peaceful demonstrations which involved thousands of East Timorese expressing our aspiration for independence and freedom. On the other hand, a number of counter demonstrations were staged by the Indonesian government and military to show the support of some East Timorese to continue integration with Indonesia.
In order to show the world how committed Indonesia is to human rights, the Indonesian government announced the possibility for independence, if an autonomy plan is rejected by the peopleof East Timor.
However, there still exists strong factions who wish to maintain the status quo in East Timor. Popular support for independence in East Timor clearly threatened their interest.
In this effort to preserve the status quo, a concerted campaign to exacerbate the security situation in East Timor was launched. In November 1998, the unofficial ceasefire between ABRI and Falintil which has been observed since May 1998 was disrupted by the killings in sub-district of Alas by the Indonesian military. Following this, new militia groups were formed since December 1998.
Since the forming of these militia groups, the status of human rights situation in East Timor has deteriorated. Militia groups have conducted forced recruitment of civilians and campaigns of torture and intimidation throughout East Timor. The killings of unarmed civilians, including women and children, have forced many to flee their homes. Data gathered by Posko for Emergency Aid for Internal Refugees show that since November 1998 to March 31 1999, there have been a total of 18,091 internally displaced peoples (IDP's). These IDP's have become a target for killings by militia groups, as clearly demonstrated in the attacks of the Liquiga Church on April 6 1999 and of the home of Manuel Carrascalco on April 17 1999.
Violence in East Timor
Contrary to statements of the Indonesian government which assure a peaceful solution to the East Timor problem, incidents of violence is on the rise. Particularly concerning is the targeting of civilians. Data gathered by Yayasan HAK on attacks towards civilans in Alas (November 1998), documents 15 dead and 95 detained out of which only 15 have received due process of law, and the other 80 disappeared. Also during this same incident, 30 people lost their homes to arson.
In the first 3 months of 1999, Yayasan HAK has documented at least 40 dead, 22 wounded, 8 illegal detention, 2 women raped by militia. Among those victims dead and wounded, included also are women and children.
Despite statements of concern from various parties, officials in East Timor have remained passive in controling the action of militia groups. In many occassions, Indonesian officials claim that Indonesia is the sovereign power in East Timor. This is ironic given the fact that none of the acts of violence conducted by the militia receive legal sanctions. Infact, Indonesian officials are clearly involved in these incidents.
According to eyewitness statements, Indonesian security forces were actively involved in the attack towards internally displaced people seeking refuge in the Liquiga church (5 April 1999). The Indonesian mobile police brigade (BRIMOB) threw tear gas at the refugees before the attack by the militia. During a rally before the attack of the home of Manuel Carrascalco (17 April 1999), Eurico Guterres, leader of one militia group, openly named and threatened the lives of a number of people. However, Indonesian officials at the rally took no action to prevent attacks by the militia towards these known targets. In the sub-district of Cailaco, regency of Bobonaro, as an act of revenge to the killing of 3 militia members and 2 Indonesian soldiers allegedly conducted by Falintil, the District Commander of Bobanaro (Kodim), Letkol Kav. Burhanudin Siagian, commanded the execution of 5 civilians in public on April 12 1999. He also ordered the capture and killing of community leaders thought to be pro- independence which led to a hunting down of civilians and attacks on homes.
Indonesian officials' involvement in the forming of militia groups and its actions is clearly seen in their participation in their ceremonies and rallies. Also, Forum Persatuan Demokrasi dan Keadilan (FPDK or Forum for Unity, Democracy and Justice) which controls the activities of the militia is headed by a regent (Bupati). Forum members are made up of local Indonesian officials.
These acts of violence is engineered to prove a thesis held by the Indonesian government-that a referendm will bring East Timor to civil war. Ironically, despite the publicly known fact of military involvement in these incidents of violence, the Indonesian Minister of Defence, Menhankam/Pangab, Jenderal Wiranto, brokered a "peace agreement" between pro-independende and pro-integration groups in Dili on April 21 1999. Facts have shown that even after the so-called "peace agreement" acts of violence and killing still continue. In the regency of Suai, hundreds of young men have been captured, according to reports from the parish priest, Pe. Hilario Madeira. At least 8 bodies have been found in the Tavara river, and there are indications that many more have been killed. The same situation is found in other regencies. Militia groups and the military continue to intimidate, detain and kill civilians even after the peace agreement.
Killings, terror and intimidation by the militia in East Timor has had a great effect on the people of East Timor. Hundreds have been killed and wounded. Many have been treated in the Motael clinic in Dili. Many people have lost their homes as they were attacked and/ or burned by militias. In Viqueque, at least 500 people have left their homes to unknown location to seek refuge. The same situation can be found in Bobonaro, Ermera and Suai.
Phsycollogicaly, there is an atmosphere of fear leading to a paralysis in economic activities. In the countryside, farmers have stopped their agricultural activities due to militia threats. In Dili, there are at least 1200 internally displaced. A number of these refugees were killed during the militia attack at Manual Carrascalco' house on 17 April 1999.
Terror and intimidation is also directed towards civil servants. They have been forced to sign documents indicating their allegiance to the Indonesian Republic. Threatened with dismissal, in some areas civil servants are being forced to become members of FPDK.
Threats and terror are also directed towards humanitarian workers in East Timor. These humanitarian organisations are not granted access to provide necessary medicine and food for internally displaced people. These 0rganisations have been targeted for attack, and their workers have received threats on their lives.
Based on this situation, we, humanitarian NGOs in East Timor, demand:
Mark Riley -- It was promoted as a historic event, an agreement on self-determination for East Timor after 24 years of hostile occupation and the loss of more than 200,000 lives.
But there was no fanfare, no celebration at the United Nations on Friday. Just trepidation, suspicion and questions -- lots of questions.
A long line of international diplomats formed outside the offices of the UN's Asia-Pacific section shortly after Indonesia and Portugal finally agreed to the framework for a vote on East Timorese autonomy.
All wanted to know what could be read between the lines of the bare statement that had accompanied the announcement.
Were they really being asked to accept that the same Indonesian troops who are accused of arming and encouraging the pro-integrationist militia in their killing sprees should now be trusted to provide security for the vote?
Is it really an act of self-determination under the UN's definition when the Indonesian Government will not allow a referendum on the choice between autonomy or independence but only a lesser level of vote, which it insists on describing as a "consultation"?
A referendum would be binding, a consultation would not. And, most importantly, if an unlikely peace could be constructed and the vote was able to proceed, would Indonesia really accept the verdict?
They were all good questions, and none could be answered definitively. The only certainty was that any agreement struck in the plush offices of the UN headquarters in New York would be extremely difficult to implement on the blood-stained streets of East Timor.
The parties have agreed to come back to New York on May 5 to sign the agreement, allowing time for the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Ali Alatas, to consult his government on the draft proposals on security and on the modalities of the vote.
Diplomats said a compromise had been reached on security that would see some form of UN involvement, but for the time being, not a peacekeeping force.
This has not stopped senior UN officials from canvassing contingencies for a future peacekeeping mission, even if the continuing bloodshed in East Timor suggests there would be precious little peace to keep. Neither Indonesia nor Portugal would elaborate on the draft security agreement, which remains the most important element of the package. In a significant shift in rhetoric, Mr Alatas said this week that his government was no longer talking of "disarmament" in East Timor, but calling for a voluntary laying down of arms by both the pro-Jakarta militia and Falantil, the armed wing of the Fretilin resistance movement.
Portugal has long pushed for a UN military presence on East Timor, but Indonesia has staunchly resisted, insisting its armed forces, ABRI, control security.
It now appears that ABRI will retain principal responsibility for protecting peace in the period leading up to the vote. What happens beyond that depends on how Indonesia reacts to the outcome of the poll.
There is a growing fear at the UN that Indonesia could simply wash its hands of East Timor and leave it to descend into civil war if its people vote against the autonomy proposal and opt for independence. Observers believe President B.J. Habibie's Cabinet significantly increased the possibility of the autonomy package being rejected by gutting it last week of several key elements.
Indonesia removed a clause giving control over East Timor's lucrative natural resources to a future autonomous government and excised the rights to a national flag, anthem and independent representation on international bodies.
Dr Habibie and Mr Alatas
have said they would ensure all the necessary constitutional changes were
made to allow East Timor to move to full independence if autonomy was rejected.
However, diplomats question whether they can issue any such assurance in
the unpredictable political and economic climate that has engulfed the
territory in the past year. There are also grave concerns that ABRI's staunch
opposition to any loosening of Indonesia's grip on East Timor could lead
to a military uprising. History always comes at a price. The question diplomats
are now asking is how much higher a price will the East Timorese have to
|June 7 election|
John McBeth, Jakarta -- While Indonesian students and other activists were expending their considerable energies trying to get rid of President B.J. Habibie and drag his predecessor to court, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Politicians quietly chipped away at reform initiatives that would have reshaped Indonesia's political landscape.
Introducing better local representation for Indonesia's 130 million voters was one of the guiding principles for the Habibie government's nonpartisan drafting team when it set about revamping the country's electoral and political-party laws after President Suharto's downfall last May.
Yet, fearful of taking a step into the unknown, the ruling Golkar Party -- aided and abetted by the leaders of the Indonesian Democratic Party, or PDI, and the United Development Party, PPP -- recently discarded proposals for district voting. They settled instead for a modified version of the proportional- representation system that has existed under the New Order administration. Reformers such as Home Affairs Director-General Ryaas Rasyid and his disappointed drafters had to be satisfied with an agreement to reappraise the system in three years' time, when voters have had an opportunity to weigh what the politicians have done.
Now, the National Election Commission, which is charged with making preparations for the June 7 parliamentary polls, has compounded the issue. Largely unnoticed, the commission decided in April to leave it to party leaders to decide after the election which candidates will gain parliamentary seats. Choices may be based on candidates' percentage of the vote or the total number of votes polled. (Electors will vote for parties rather than candidates.) Under the percentage system, a candidate who did well in a small electorate would land near the top of a party list. But if votes are tallied, small electorates with several hundred thousand voters probably won't be represented at all when neighbouring districts have several million constituents. Most analysts believe the numerical system better guarantees seats for party leaders because they are likely to get the most votes in larger constituencies.
At the end of the day, that's likely to give the political elite a vice-like grip on who gets seats in the new 500-seat House of Representatives. "What we have seen is a coup d'etat by the political parties -- and no-one even noticed," says a Western expert involved in planning the June elections. "Party leaders want to continue to play God, but what they could get is civil war within their own parties."
All this was probably to be expected. Although the 53-man election commission, known locally as the KPU, is meant simply to organize the election, many of the 48 party representatives on the commission are party chairmen or secretary-generals who seized the opportunity to wield influence. "They're acting more like a parliament than an executive committee," says the Western expert.
The commission's decision to leave parliamentary kingmaking to party leaders isn't the only example of its eccentric sense of priorities. In early April, while a controversy was bubbling over whether ministers would be permitted to take part in the election campaign, they spent a day complaining about the government's lack of assistance in providing campaign funds. "It's not ignorance," says a commission official. "For most of them it's either a last grab, or an effort to get back the investment they put into establishing a party."
Some parties have no real money problems. By most accounts, Golkar is set to spend an average of 1 billion rupiah ($116,000) a district, or more than 300 billion rupiah in total. And judging by the sea of red flags flapping across the length of Java, Megawati Sukarnoputri's new Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle isn't hurting for cash either -- in large part because of strong support from Indonesian-Chinese businessmen.
But many of the 45 newcomers to Indonesian politics are struggling. For now, at least, the government has allocated only 150 million rupiah to each of the parties to fund their campaigns. At election-commission meetings, some party representatives have been demanding 10 times that amount. Given that the funding would have to come from the government budget, any such increase would probably require presidential or parliamentary approval.
Political scientist Andi Mallarangeng, one of five government representatives on the commission and a member of the original law-drafting team, opposes any increase. He thinks the parties should find the money themselves -- some, he says, are more interested in getting their hands on election funds than in actual campaigning.
For all its politicking and bickering, the election commission has completed about 80% of its work, and Mallarangeng discounts the possibility of the election being postponed. "It's lousy, its messy, there's a lot of partisanship and everything is taking too long," he says. "But things are rolling." Indeed, election committees have been formed down to district level. Registration is 70%-90% complete in many places. And the commission has done the right thing on occasion. Well, almost the right thing.
Take the case of the 413 million ballot papers, which have to be distributed to the 250,000 polling stations across the country for elections covering the House of Representatives and provincial and district parliaments. When the commission got round to considering printers, it discovered that all eight companies with licences to handle government work were owned, or partly owned, by members of the Suharto family and their friends.
Naturally that wouldn't do in the reformation age, so the commission accepted applications from 58 other "nonsecure" printing houses, most of them politically connected in some other way, to perform the work. With the government representatives staying well out of the process, party representatives then whittled that number down to 18 -- albeit without a proper tendering process -- and designed a special stamp to validate each of the ballots.
For all that, the crowning insult came from Suharto himself. During a recent interview, he suggested Indonesia wouldn't be able to hold a democratic election in the time available. A response wasn't long in coming. Wrapping up a political discussion some days later, a young television host asked viewers rhetorically if the former president's comment should be taken seriously "or seen as the worthless gibberish of a 77-year-old." She left little doubt what she thought.
Jakarta -- Five weeks ahead of the June 7 general election, poll watch organizations warned on Friday of various disruptions, including separatists' calls for a boycott in troubled Aceh, bribery and alleged military intimidation of poll monitoring volunteers.
The Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KIPP) revealed a report that members of the separatist Free Aceh Movement distributed sharp weapons to residents of Pidie and North Aceh regencies, and threatened those who expressed their wish to vote.
KIPP secretary-general Mulyana W. Kusumah said the report was from the organization's Aceh chapter. So far only about 11 percent of the 2,315,244 eligible voters in Aceh have registered for the elections, he said.
"The security forces there have not anticipated such a [situation]," he said, urging the authorities to guarantee the safety of people wishing to exercise their political rights.
"We want the Indonesian Military and Police to take serious measures to protect the people's rights not only in Aceh, but also in troubled provinces such as Maluku, Irian Jaya and East Timor."
Antara reported on Friday that residents of West Aceh regency were terrorized by three people who threatened them with abduction if they voted.
"The three are outsiders and claim to be supporters of the referendum for Aceh. They live in Babah Nipah village, about 120 kilometers west of Aceh's capital of Banda Aceh," regency legislator Radja Radan was quoted by the news agency as saying.
"Since their arrival, proreferendum banners have been hoisted along the main road from here to Banda Aceh. They also have been conducting searches of buses and cars on the main road, extorting money from motorists," he said. Security forces are reluctant to take firm action against them "due to a lack of evidence", Radja added.
KIPP also disclosed new reports about cheating compiled by 70 of its 145 offices across 25 provinces. "Some volunteers in Kudus, Central Java, have been threatened by Army officers there to stop monitoring the polls, and that they should not discredit Golkar," Mulyana said.
In South Kalimantan, about 500 fake voter registration forms were found. Local polling officials reportedly filled in the forms themselves, using fictitious names and addresses, he said.
Almost all of the major parties have breached rules by mobilizing their supporters for gatherings, he said.
"The United Development Party (PPP), Golkar and the Crescent Star Party did it in Bengkulu, while the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) broke the rules in Denpasar, Bali, and the People's Sovereignty Party in Lombok West Nusa Tenggara."
Mulyana also complained that poor facilities hampered voter registration at the subdistrict level and that the supposed number of registrants was incorrect.
"We believe the General Elections Commission (KPU) made an overestimation when it said 69 percent of the total 130 million eligible voters were registered. Many of the registered voters are actually ineligible, for instance, members of the military."
According to Article 30 of the Elections Law. Indonesian Military and Police personnel are not allowed to vote.
"There also are written orders and policies from parties that every legislative candidate has to give a certain amount of money to the parties, depending on the electoral level," he said.
Some PPP legislative candidates for the House of Representatives have had to pay up to Rp 100 million Mulyana alleged. Under the law, a Rp 15 million donation from an individual and Rp 150 million from a corporate body are permitted annually
Also on Friday, KIPP and four other independent poll watch organizations vowed to defy restrictions imposed on them by the government and continue with their activities.
The others were the University Network for Free and Fair Elections (Unfrel), Public Network of Indonesia's Poll Monitoring (JAMPPI), Poll Monitor of Indonesian Prosperous Workers Union (KPP SBSI) and the Network of People Voters Education.
"A KPU decree on election monitoring stipulates that we submit reports of our findings on every electorate level to the commission before the announcement of the balloting results," Agung Suprayitno of Unfrel said.
"That's unfair. Furthermore, we refuse to submit data on our volunteers for security reasons."
Ujungpandang -- Electoral Commission (KPU) Chairman Rudini said that there was now a distinct possibility that the 1999 general election could be postponed, following the government's suggestion to administratively divide the provinces of Maluku and Irian Jaya before the election. Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Syarwan Hamid was unable to comment, as he had yet to see the details of the planned division of the two provinces.
"I wasn't at the meeting. I'll seek further clarification," he told reporters during the return trip to Jakarta after a meeting with North Sulawesi Governor H.Z.B. Palaguna and electoral officials in Ujungpandang on Saturday (24th April).
It was agreed at a meeting last Friday of the Council for the Consolidation of Security and the Legal System, attended by President Habibie, that Maluku would be divided into two provinces and Irian Jaya into three. This process had to be completed before the election, and the government - through Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security Faisal Tanjung - asked that the KPU accommodate this change.
Running out of time
KPU Chairman Rudini, himself a former home affairs minister, on the same aircraft as Hamid, said, "Electoral preparations are already behind time; many stages in the timetable have been postponed. I don' t think the changes to these provinces can be completed before June. There is still so much to be determined."
Home Affairs Department Director-General for Public Administration and Regional Autonomy Ryaas Rasyid said that it took at least six months to prepare legislation covering the establishment of a province.
Given that the suggested changes had to be completed before the election, Ryaas signalled the possibility that his office could prepare a government regulation for the purpose, which would have the same legal status as a law...
Rudini said that he would study the government's request. "This can be discussed at a plenary session of the KPU to be held as soon as possible," he said. How soon? He said it would have to wait until next week, because this week the KPU would be in recess. During the recess, KPU members would be inspecting election preparations in the regions...
Benefits those in power
The idea of dividing Irian Jaya and Maluku would promote government administrative efficiency, according to Institute for Policy and Community Development Studies Director Dr Sutradara Gintings. However, the division of the two provinces had to be done through legislation. The government should not be imposing its wish to divide the provinces through other means, such as by government regulation.
"I am sure that many will support the idea of dividing those provinces. But it would be better if the idea was realized after the election," he told 'Kompas' on Sunday.
He regarded the government's suggestion, put forward and expected to be realized before the election, as an attempt to win public approval. This would benefit the current power-holders. In fact, he thought, important policy decisions such as the division of provinces should not be taken by transitional governments.
"The government is looking for political popularity, so the idea of splitting up Maluku and Irian Jaya has been proposed, and will be realized, while the DPR (People's Representative Council) is in recess. The government seems to be acting in a politically opportunistic manner, which it should not be," said the former DPR Golkar faction member.
He stressed that Irian Jaya and Maluku were formed on the basis of parliamentary legislation, and if the provinces were to be "abolished" and turned into a number of new provinces, then that process had to be achieved through new legislation...
Jakarta -- Three prominent Muslim parties have formed a coalition for the next general election, saying they want to grab a sizeable share of the votes to champion Islamic values.
The three Islam-based parties are the United Development Party (PPP), the Nahdlatul Ummat Party (PNU) and the People's Awakening Party (PKU).
The Indonesian Observer reported that because they had the same platform aimed at boosting Islamic values, they agreed to join forces with each other to form a single Muslim power.
Mr Hamzah Haz, the coalition spokesman, denied that the coalition was aimed at paralysing the coalition's biggest competitor, the National Awakening Party (PKB).
"Our coalition has got nothing to do with paralysing PKB," said Mr Haz, who is also Minister of Investment.
He said that PKU had suggested the idea of a coalition to PKB once before, but it turned the idea down because it could not agree to PKU's condition that there would be no women presidential candidates.
Jakarta -- Politicians from four of Indonesia's 48 political parties planning to contest in the June 7 general election Tuesday took part in the first ever open public debate among presidential hopefuls.
The debate, organised by students at the state University of Indonesia, featured Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party, Yusril Ihza Mahendra of the Moslem-oriented Crescent and Star Party, Sri Bintang Pamungkas of the Indonesian Union Democratic party and Justice Party's Didin Hafidhuddin.
Only two of the candidates -- Amien Rais and Mahendra -- engaged in an animated exchange, in the first such exercise in Indonesia where previously, Suharto, ousted as president last year ensured there was virtually no contest.
Mahendra, proposed a parliamentary system of governance and criticised Rais' favouring of coalitions, saying it put a heavy stress on distribution of political posts in the presidential cabinet.
"This is because he doesn't understand what coalition is all about in the context of state administration," Mahendra said. But Rais argued that a change to the parliamentary system would require amendement of the constitution.
Mahendra said although his party was Moslem-oriented, it respected plurality and the party was willing to share with non- Moslem ministers.
All candidates agreed that Suharto, who is under official scrutiny over alleged corruption and abuse of power during his 32 year reign, should be brought to trial. "If 97.5 percent of the fortune he got from corruption is returned, we will pardon him," Rais said.
Hafidhuddin, whose party draws wide support from Moslem student activists, stressed the "development of the nation's character through religion."
"So far our slogan has been that Indonesia is not a country based on religion but also not a secular country," he said.
The Indonesian constitution gives equal footing to the five religions it recognises -- Islam, Catholicism, Christian Protestantism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Indonesia is the world's largest Moslem-populated nation where followers of Islam account for some 90 percent of the 202 million people.
Susan Sim, Ujung Pandang -- More than two thirds of the 131 million Indonesians eligible to vote in June have registered to do so in the country's first voluntary voter-registration drive, electoral planners said.
And this high sign-up rate, despite a shaky start three weeks ago, could augur well for the major opposition parties, some of their leaders predicted.
Said Mr Jakob Tobing of the Megawati Soekarnoputri-led PDI-P Party which, according to most pundits, is the most likely front-runner:
"Compared to the short time we've had to prepare, 60-80 per cent is quite high in terms of voter registration. This shows that people are quite politicised. PDI-P supporters tend to come from this politicised segment of society."
A list of the latest enfranchisement figures across the 27 provinces seen by The Straits Times showed a sign-up rate of 70- 90 per cent in the provinces considered PDI-P strongholds -- Bali and Central and East Java.
Topping the list was South Sulawesi with 98.98 per cent of the nearly five million voters already registered. The home province of President B. J. Habibie, it is considered a Golkar party bulwark although residents told The Straits Times that PDI-P and the Amien Rais-led PAN were making inroads.
But where the ruling party expects to do well in the provinces east of Java, registration appeared to be slow, with four yet to post returns, including riot-torn Maluku, Irian Jaya and East Timor.
Voter appeal also appeared to be low in Aceh and Riau, two provinces locked in battle with Jakarta for a greater share of their revenues. Their sign-up rates of around 20 per cent were the lowest posted.
Analysts note, however, that low voter interest in these provinces can be more beneficial to the ruling party with its better-geared mobilisation network.
A greater challenge for the Habibie government, which wants to create Indonesian history by conducting the first free and fair polls, is ensuring that any campaign violence does not erupt into firestorms which will deter people from going out to cast their ballots.
Thereafter comes its most important test -- convincing the public that the victor did not win by fraud nor the loser lose because of interference by the bureaucracy and the military.
Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday at the end of a three-day swing through West Timor, Lombok, Bali and South Sulawesi, Interior Minister Syarwan Hamid said he hoped to persuade Indonesians to accept the poll results by making the ongoing preparations transparent to all.
Political parties and grassroots organisers were all encouraged to report any violations and complain about the process itself, an opportunity many seized upon at a long dialogue session here with the minister and the head of the national election commission, Rudini, yesterday morning.
The government also hoped that the presence of both domestic and international poll monitors would assure voters that no fraud had been perpetuated.
"The important thing is that we will seriously work towards a free and fair election so that there's no opportunity for people to blame us. Not like before," Mr Syarwan said.
He was alluding to what Golkar cadres and officials are beginning to acknowledge was massive vote-buying and intimidation in previous polls to ensure that the ruling party won by massive majorities.
Said one official: "There
isn't going to be another case where Golkar wins 100.5 per cent of the
vote! That really happened in one south-east Sulawesi district in 1971
because officials manipulated an excessive number of ballot papers."
John Aglionby, Jakarta -- Mobs of angry Balinese have been rampaging through the usually tranquil beach resort of Kuta this week -- an area previously thought to be impervious to the tensions tearing apart the social fabric elsewhere in Indonesia.
The spread of the trouble to this area threatens not only the safety of local people but also Bali's tourism earnings.
Several hundred men have burned or destroyed hundreds of Kuta businesses owned by immigrants from the neighbouring island of Java.
Early on Thursday morning they made huge bonfires from surfboards, beach umbrellas and foodstalls, then dumped the charred remains in the breakers beloved of surfers the world over.
"We have no idea why they did it," said Aryianto Kosasih, a Javanese tattoo artist, as he surveyed the remains of his kiosk. "We hadn't done anything to annoy them."
Locals disagree. "The migrants don't respect local customs and don't even try to fit in with our way of life," said Oka Gede, a Balinese restaurant manager. "They've had it coming to them for a long time."
No one has been killed or seriously injured in the Kuta unrest. But the events echo those in half a dozen other provinces this year, which have left 600 people dead.
There is no sign of the widespread social unrest being brought under control. As the state's grip on society weakens after the fall from power of the longtime dictator Suharto 11 months ago, and the Asian economic crisis continues to crush the country's commerce, Indonesians are increasingly taking the law into their own hands.
"It's been beneath the surface for so long, and now you have a central government with no legitimacy or authority. So any spark can set it off," said Jusuf Wanandi, head of Jakarta's Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
In West Kalimantan, Borneo, and in Maluku, famous for its spice islands, there is similar tension between locals and migrants.
In the Sambas district of West Kalimantan hundreds of migrants from the island of Madura have been massacred and their homes burned. Tens of thousands of refugees are waiting to be resettled, but the government's choice for this of two small islands off the mainland is roundly condemned by human rights organisations. In Maluku, Muslim migrants have fought back against the Christian locals, carrying out ferocious revenge killings. Much of the provincial capital, Ambon, looks as if it has been heavily bombed. But ethnic-religious tension is one of several causes of unrest in an archipelago of 17,500 islands and more than 350 ethnic groups. Dissatisfaction in out lying provinces over the central government's pillaging of oil, gas, timber and minerals is mounting.
In Riau, south-west of Singapore on the island of Sumatra and arguably the richest area in Indonesia, people are calling for independence. Led by students and university lecturers, protesters have become so disenchanted with Jakarta that they see independence as the best way forward.
This is a stance people in Aceh, on the north-western tip of Sumatra, and Irian Jaya, the western half of New Guinea, have taken for decades, and particularly in the past 10 years when the Indonesian army's repression has reached unprecedented heights of barbarity. Students in the Aceh town of Lhokseumawe have intensified their demands for a referendum in the past two weeks.
"The anti-Jakarta feeling is now so strong in Aceh," a western aid worker said, "that the only places where the Indonesian flag is flying are army bases and government offices."
Java, the heartland of Indonesia, has not been immune to the chaos. Several bombs, thought to have been planted by radical Muslim groups, have been set off in the capital, and a mysterious killing spree has begun in the Ciamis area.
Munir, head of the Commission of Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, said the Ciamis carnage, in which more than 100 people have been killed and left at the side of roads, was being perpetrated by groups loyal to Mr Suharto.
Their motivation, Mr Munir said, was a desire to disrupt the general election on June 7. "They fear a new reform government will prosecute them seriously," he said.
The current president, BJ Habibie, has made only half-hearted attempts to investigate allegations of corruption and abuse of power made against his former mentor.
Foreign observers fear the military might also be playing a role. "Their once-powerful position is being steadily eroded," one diplomat said. "They are now being seen as part of the problem, not part of the solution."
The army has been accused of being deliberately slow in responding to outbreaks of violence. "There are two camps in Indonesia," the diplomat said. "People who want the election to succeed and those who want it to fail. It is still not certain that the former group will emerge victorious."
Jay Solomon, Pekanbaru -- One of Indonesia's richest provinces is slowly prying control of its natural wealth from the central government, posing a major challenge to Jakarta and some big multinationals at a time when foreign investors are already wary of the archipelago.
Riau is home to only 2% of Indonesia's population, but economists estimate that the central Sumatra province's resources generate up to one-fifth of the government's total revenue. The province contains the giant oil fields of PT Caltex Pacific Indonesia -- owned by Chevron Corp. and Texaco Inc. -- which produce roughly half the country's crude oil. It has vast oil- palm and rubber plantations, and includes Indonesia's most sophisticated industrial park, Batam Island, near Singapore. Off Riau's shoreline sit the Natuna gas fields, which promise to be one of the world's largest producers of natural gas.
But Riau's people argue that they have prospered little from the home-grown riches and want greater autonomy from Jakarta, if not outright independence. Riau's students say they are infuriated by the sight of destitute indigenous peoples living in wooden shacks beside Caltex's elaborate tangle of oil pipes. Before the economic crisis hit Indonesia, Riau's average per capita income stood at about $1,000, slightly better than the national average -- but lackluster in light of the area's natural wealth, locals say.
'Flawed development policy'
The poverty is "a sign of the government's flawed development policy," said Gumpita, a 25-year-old student activist from the University of Riau. "You take a rich area and make it poor."
Mr. Gumpita and his fellow students want that to change. Last week, at least 1,500 students and other protesters rallied at Caltex's headquarters in Pekanbaru, demanding that oil production cease until the central government agrees to channel 10% of the field's future revenues to Riau's local government. This would be no small sum, considering the central government's portion of those revenues constitute 14% of Indonesia's budget.
Caltex refused to stop production and a riot ensued. Company offices were looted, causing approximately 300 million rupiah ($34,800) in damage. Nearly 30 vehicles were damaged and eight students required medical attention after Indonesian security forces moved in to stop the mayhem. Late last year, students briefly occupied Caltex's sensitive port area.
In response, the province's governor, Saleh Djasit, says security will be increased around Caltex's vital installations. The company's managing director, J. Gary Fitzgerald, won't comment on steps Caltex is taking to guard against violence. But he emphasizes the ways in which Caltex has benefited Riau. The company employs 6,000 people and subcontracts nearly 30,000 more jobs, he notes, and has also helped to build schools and hospitals. Company officials proudly show off one Caltex project, a dusty wooden schoolhouse on stilts in a swampy village. About 30 children have gathered at the school to collect the shirts, hats and pants being handed out, along with backpacks with the Caltex insignia. Tellingly, outside the school a hulking oil pipeline snakes through the impoverished village of about 100 shacks.
Riau's activists are also pressing their agenda in the courtroom. This month, a Riau physician-turned-revolutionary, Tabrani Rab, launched a class-action lawsuit -- in itself a rarity in Indonesia -- demanding $23 billion in damages from the Indonesian government and Caltex. That money represents a portion of the revenue Dr. Rab says was "stolen" from Riau by the government over the past 54 years. He says other multinationals in Riau, such as Conoco Inc., which is partly developing the Natuna gas field off Riau's coast, and Sinar Mas Group's giant PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper Corp., also will need to start working more closely with Riau's government.
The Minister of Mines and Energy, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, dismisses the lawsuit's ability to deter Caltex's oil operations. But he concedes the lawsuit has important "political" ramifications, given that several other parts of Indonesia, from Timor to Irian Jaya, are also calling for autonomy, if not independence.
Dr. Rab himself has a broader agenda for Riau: He envisions it eventually either forming a new federation with neighboring Malaysia and Singapore, or perhaps becoming the 51st US state, should Jakarta not grant sufficient autonomy. "We're a rich country, like Hawaii," Dr. Rab says, noting Riau's potential usefulness as a military base for the US
While statements like that have branded him an eccentric, many locals do sympathize with the underlying sentiment. Tiolina Pangaribuan, a local government trade official, says many Riau citizens feel culturally and socially closer to Malaysia and Singapore than to Jakarta. Centuries ago, the ancient kingdom of Riau Linga encompassed part of Malaysia and Singapore, with Riau at its center, they say.
Dr. Rab's message of greater autonomy resonates with local leaders, too. Mr. Saleh, the governor, says that while a desire for outright independence isn't the answer, desire for autonomy "is felt at all levels of society." Students protesters say their motivation derives partly from Dr. Rab's ruminations. (Dr. Rab denies any role in organizing the protest.)
Jakarta appears to be responding to the message Riau is sending. Last week, Indonesia's Parliament passed laws permitting provinces additional leeway in administering budgetary and investment decisions. More importantly, parliament agreed to share 15% of all oil revenue, and 30% of all natural-gas revenue, with the provinces that produce it.
Dr. Rab and others remain skeptical about whether Jakarta really will cough up that money, estimated at 5.8 trillion rupiah. The governor also says the figures aren't "concrete." He says his community's satisfaction depends on the implementation of the reforms. "In principle, it's sufficient," Mr. Saleh said, "but certain figures are still unsatisfactory."
However, Parliament's decision has left many businesspeople in Pekanbaru, the provincial capital, giddy with optimism. After all, in a certain sense it represents Indonesia's new democracy at work: Citizens protested and lobbied, and parliament listened. They anticipate trade increasing as Jakarta's bureaucratic hurdles diminish. Riau officials envision the new oil-revenue windfall paying for improved roads and ports, better schools, and a promotional fair. Riau borders the Straits of Malacca and is less than an hour's flight from Singapore and Malaysia, putting it at the center of a lucrative trading zone.
Indeed, while student activists assert that some 90% of Riau is ready to secede, many businesspeople in fact say they prefer to remain part of Indonesia. But they say that if Jakarta really wants to win over Riau, it first has to loosen its grip. "Our heart and blood are still in Indonesia," says Aslaini Agus, who until January headed Riau's chamber of commerce. "But our loyalty depends on how the government handles our aspirations" for autonomy.
But if the government fails to implement its pledges, even some of the most moderate Riau citizens warn of dire results. Chaidir, a local leader of Golkar, Indonesia's ruling political party, says that "if the government lies, then we'll have to think seriously about [Dr. Rab's] proposals."
Marianne Kearney, Jakarta -- Riau, Indonesia's most oil-rich province in central Sumatra, has demanded that it become a semi- autonomous federal state despite Jakarta's proposal last week to return a significant proportion of oil profits to the province.
Dr Trabani Rab, the head of the Riau Cultural Institute, said the Riau people would still demand federation.
"The government is not serious about giving money to the provinces. Maybe they make the rules about profit-sharing but they're not serious about following the rules," said Dr Rab, referring to the revenue-sharing Bill last Friday which would return 15 per cent of oil profits to the provinces.
He was speaking after Monday's court case, where the Riau Cultural Institute is suing Indonesian President B. J. Habibie for failing to keep a promise he made in the middle of last year to return 10 per cent of oil profits made in the province. Dr Rab caused a stir last month when he declared Riau was a sovereign province.
The province has one of Indonesia's richest oil fields, producing more than 60 per cent of the nation's oil. Until now, however, it has only received 1 to 2 per cent of the profits from the Jakarta central government.
Mr Eko Wahu, from a Riau student group, threatened to take direct action unless Jakarta paid Riau province 10 per cent of the oil revenues. "We're counting on the honesty of the central government, otherwise we will destroy Pertamina in Dumai," he said.
He was referring to a student plan to occupy the harbour, blocking all oil exports unless they received a more honest evaluation of Riau's projected production from the Finance Minister. Pertamina, a state-owned Indonesian company, has been accused of corruption.
Mr Wahu accused the government of trying to trick the people of Riau into thinking they would receive huge revenues by overvaluing the oil to be produced in the next two years.
He said the Finance Minister and Pertamina have doubled the value of Riau's oil profits in a parliamentary report, estimating that the fields will make US$4.6 billion. But according to Caltex, annual profits were projected at US$2.2 billion annually, he said.
Riau student groups have demonstrated an increasing frustration with the slow response from the central government to their demands.
On Tuesday last week, 5,000 students demonstrated outside Caltex offices, some venting their anger on Caltex's housing complex by setting cars alight and stoning offices.
Three months ago the students staged a demonstration in the harbour, blocking all exports for four hours.
Caltex representative Renville Almatier said Caltex could not comment on whether the students' demands for a larger share of oil revenue was fair. "It is up to the government to decide that," he said.
Student groups are currently circulating questionnaires asking thousands of residents whether they wanted Riau to become a federated state, gain independence or join another country such as Singapore or Malaysia.
If there is a groundswell of support for independence or federation, student groups say they will demand a referendum to determine the province's future.
Dr Rab has also launched a criminal case against Pertamina, the Minister for Mines and Energy, and the Minister of Finance for corruption. The case would be used as a "gateway to opening up corruption in Pertamina", he said.
In the case, which will resume next week, he said either Pertamina or the Minister of Finance with the Minister of Mines and Energy had lied about profits and oil prices since the 70s in order to deprive the local government of funds.
Late last year, Corruption Watch, an independent organisation investigating company and government corruption, found that Pertamina had lost US$300 million since 1984 in its deals with one oil marketing company whose major shareholder is former Indonesian President Suharto's son, Tommy Suharto.
Corruption Watch found that the government failed to take action against Pertamina officials and 160 business partners that were involved in corrupt or nepotic business deals.
Dr Rab questioned why Riau province should be asked to contribute to Indonesia's huge foreign debt when the Jakarta government was so corrupt and only allocated about US$100 million of the state budget to the provinces.
Riau, like other resource-rich provinces such as Aceh, Irian Jaya and Kalimantan, has, for years, been frustrated with the central government's almost total control of its economy and government.
The new legislation, which allows for local elections, a return of 15 per cent of oil revenues, 30 per cent of gas revenues and 80 per cent of forestry and fishing revenues, is intended to ease these tensions but it will not come into force for another two years.
Dr Rab said the ordinary people in Riau were tired of waiting for the economic independence they deserved.
Riau's riches: it doesn't get to the people
Riau province has for years been frustrated with the central government's almost total control of its economy and government.
Jakarta has tried to quell the disquiet with a new legislation which allows for local elections, returns 15 per cent of oil revenues, 30 per cent of gas revenues and 80 per cent of forestry and fishing revenues. The snag is that this legislation will not come into force for another two years. The ordinary people are tired of waiting for economic independence.
Tual -- Police fired shots Tuesday to disperse battling mobs of Muslims and Christians in a region of eastern Indonesia that has been plagued by religious violence this year. At least four people were killed.
Rioters with knives and bows and arrows set nine houses afire in the village of Cansas on Kei Island, 2,800 kilometers northeast of Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
On an adjacent island lies Tual, a city in Maluku province, where more than 300 people have died this year in religious fighting. The provincial capital, Ambon, has also been hit hard by the violence.
In Cansas, police and soldiers fired at the rioters after warning shots were ignored. Dozens of Christians and Muslims suffered bullet and knife wounds.
Thousands of people on at least eight islands in Maluku have fled their homes in the last few months because of the unrest, which left dozens of churches and mosques gutted by fire.
Indonesia has endured widespread civil unrest since the downfall last year of President Suharto after 32 years of authoritarian rule.
Jakarta -- A series of mass murders have thus far killed more than 100 people in Ciamis, West Java, and some of the victims were those who had discredited Suharto or were against his rule. The murders were carried out by two groups led by two men with the initials S and SU.
Speaking in Jakarta at 1500 West Indonesian on Friday (April 23), Munir S.H., coordinator for the Commission for Missing People and Victims of Violence (Kontras), disclosed the outcome of Kontras investigation, noting that there are five categories of people who have become the target for murders. Kontras also managed to detect the modus operandi of the murder operations.
The five categories of the murder victims are black magicians, traditional healers, midwives, rich and arrogant people, and lastly, those who were known to have discredited former President Suharto. " However, we cannot give the percentage of each category yet," Munir said.
Munir said Kontras investigation showed that two groups led by two men with the initials S and SU were behind the said murders. The group led by S is based in Pagargunung village while the other group led by SU is based in Ciokong village.
Munir said the murder operations were led by coordinators, who were known to have received military training in the mountainous areas nearby...
The mass murders, which clearly resembled earlier incidents in Banyuwangi, East Java, some time ago, have in fact been reported to local police stations, but the authorities have not taken any action. They have neither prevented new murders nor arrested the offenders.
Munir noted that local residents in Ciamis are now clearly intimidated. "They dare not speak out about the murders," Munir said. Asked by Kontras why the authorities have taken no action thus far, the officials gave a nonsensical reply: "These groups have many members. If some of them are arrested, their friends will storm us"...
Jakarta -- At least 10 people were injured when security forces opened fire Saturday to quell rioting mobs in Indonesia's riot-torn Maluku islands, residents and reports said Sunday.
"Ten people were hospitalized on Saturday evening, mostly with gunshot wounds. They were shot because they resisted orders to disperse," a resident who saw the wounded at the general hospital in Tual told AFP.
A police officer in Tual said that only one resident was shot by a soldier during a search operation in the Sion Protestant church Saturday evening after he resisted attempts to disarm him. "But it's calm at the moment," Seargent Jefry said.
The state Antara news agency reported Sunday that at least 11 people were injured in Saturday's shooting.
In the latest oubreak of sectarian violence between members of the Christian and Moslem communities in Maluku province, angry mobs from both religious communities rampaged through the streets of Tual carrying crude weapons on Saturday afternoon, Antara said.
The violence followed an attack by villagers in Tual the previous day which left three people dead, according to Maluku police.
On Saturday, the security forces fired warning shots but failed to quell the crowds, and finally opened fire into the crowds injuring people in the legs, backs and arms, Antara said.
The Jakarta Post on Sunday quoted Maluku military commander Colonel Karel Ralahalu as saying that at least three people had been killed and 29 others wounded in Friday's violence.
Ralahalu was also quoted by the Kompas daily as saying that the military had arrested a man suspected of being a provocateur in the Friday rioting in Tual.
Friday's outbreak of unrest in Tual was the third of flare-up since April 1.
The violence in Tual, in the district of Southeast Maluku, followed weeks of clashes between Moslems and Christians elsewhere in Maluku province since January.
The sectarian violence in
the Maluku islands has left more than 280 people dead and forced some 30,000
people to flee the area.
Lhokseumawe -- A crowd of thousands held a Free Aceh gathering and feast at the village of Cot Plieng, Blang Mangat sub- district, North Aceh on Sunday night (25th-26th April). At the same time, a crowd burned two buses belonging to Mobil Oil Indonesia at Alue Liem in the same area.
The gathering was attended by prominent figures and sympathisers of the Free Aceh movement, and local residents. The activities blocked the main Banda Aceh-Medan highway between Bayu and Punteuet.
Ten cows were butchered for the occasion, and people were invited to attend from other sub-districts in the area. Free Aceh members held a similar gathering in Banda Masen, Banda Sakti sub-district, Lhokseumawe, last night. There were no incidents.
Meanwhile, at around 1730 local time, a crowd stopped and burned two Mobil Oil buses (without passengers) on the pipeline road, near the plantation of former North Aceh District head Karimuddin Hasybullah...
That morning, Mobil Oil had contributed several tanker loads of clean water for the feast. Waspada reporters noted students writing graffiti -- the word "referendum" -- on the roads at Birem Bayeuen, Langsa Barat, East Aceh.
North Aceh police confirmed the [burning of the two buses] but could not establish a motive. However, another source said that the culprits were probably drivers who had unsuccessfully sought employment with the company.
North Aceh police planned
to begin on Monday (26th April) a total clean-up of all banners, images
and billboards containing the flag or any mention of the Free Aceh movement.
N. Priharwanto, Jakarta -- Thousands of workers from the Jabotabek industrial zone gathered on the grounds of the University of Indonesia campus in Salemba, Central Jakarta on Saturday (May 1). They came to commemorate May Day and hold a demonstration.
At 3.30pm the commemoration began with the singing of the Workers' marching song with the left had raised in a fist. As the agenda was begun masses of workers could be seen still arriving, most arriving by public transport such as buses.
The workers had begun entering the campus grounds since 2pm and the group initially only totaled around 200 workers. However as time went by the number of workers continued to increase and by 3pm the total had reached more than a thousand people.
After the workers had gathered the atmosphere was full of colour. There was a group which brought a banner with the writing "Free Dita Sari and Free [all] Political Prisoners", their shouts echoed across Jakarta.
While the workers were concentrated on the campus grounds, security forces formed a cordon around the campus. More that one hundred anti-riot troops could be seen guarding [the campus].
[Translated by James Balowski]
Jakarta -- Hundreds of employees of the state-run water company, PAM Jaya, staged peaceful demonstrations at the British and French embassies and Provincial Legislative Assembly here Thursday, demanding the termination of cooperation between PAM Jaya and two British and French water enterprises.
The protesting workers started their action at about 1100 local time. They brought posters rejecting the cooperation between PAM Jaya and PT listed company Thames Water (UK) and PT Lyonnaise Des Eaux (France).
As they staged their peaceful demonstration in front of the British embassy in Central Jakarta at about 1130, three representatives of the noisy demonstrators were accepted by Ambassador Robin Christopher.
First Secretary of the British embassy, Hamish Daniel, confirmed that Ambassador Christopher received the demonstrators' representatives but refused to tell about the result of the meeting. "We are not making statement on that (meeting) to the media," he told Antara.
Meanwhile, four people representing the protesting workers were received by French ambassador, Gerard Cros. They also aired a similar demand that the cooperation between PAM Jaya and PT Lyonnaise Des Eaux be cancelled.
The three demonstrations
ran in an orderly manner and they did not cause traffic congestion.
Vaudine England -- The "disappearance" of activists, whether temporary or permanent, is a political instrument common to past and present governments, a victim who was tortured said yesterday.
Raharjo Waluyo Jati was a victim of a "disappearance" a year ago at the hands of the Indonesian armed forces in Jakarta. At a press conference held at Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club, Mr Jati described the trial of 11 Special Forces (Kopassus) troops held responsible for recent kidnappings as a farce and "very ridiculous". "Kidnapping has been happening since at least the 1997 election, and the wide geographical spread of the victims shows it is the military who is doing it," he said.
"But the highest-ranking officer on trial was only a major." Mr Jati said the trial failed to take into account the political motives behind the abduction and torture of activists, and failed to target the leader of the Special Forces at the time, Lieutenant-General Prabowo Subianto, a son-in-law of former preside nt Suharto.
"We believe the motivating force for the kidnappings was Prabowo, but the trial ignored the Prabowo factor," he said. General Prabowo was given an honourable discharge in the wake of the kidnappings last year and retains significant influence in the military. The 11 junior soldiers convicted in the recent trial received sentences of up to 22 months for the abductions, b ut no one was charged with torture.
Mr Jati was captured early last year, and his account of his treatment is a harrowing insight into the methods of intimidation used by the armed forces against people advocating change.
Over a six-week period, he was repeatedly beaten, burned with cigarettes, deprived of food and sleep, and given electric shocks.
He was stripped and forced to lie on blocks of ice. He was nearly strangled by rope hanging from the ceiling as masked soldiers interrogated him.
Mr Jati noted that Mr Suharto's rise to power in the mid-1960s was marked by the disappearance and murder of thousands of people. "At the end of the Suharto regime, 23 students were reported to have disappeared, and at least six people disappeared during the new government of [President Bacharuddin] Habibie," he said.
Only nine of the activists kidnapped in the last months of the Suharto regime have reappeared. One was found dead, 13 are still missing.
Jakarta -- An Indonesian human rights group has claimed that more than 50 people have been murdered in a wave of mysterious serial killings this year, news reports said Saturday.
The murders in western Java Island recalled attacks on the eastern side of the island last year in which more than 150 Muslim clerics and people believed to have been dabbling in black magic were killed. Dozens of others died in revenge attacks by vigilantes.
The Jakarta-based Committee for Disappeared People and Victims of Violence said it had compiled the names of 50 villagers believed to have been killed since January in the West Java region of Ciamis, 140 miles southeast of the capital, Jakarta.
The victims included alleged black magic sorcerers as well as vocal critics of former President Suharto, The Jakarta Post quoted committee chief Munir as saying.
Indonesia has been plagued by civil unrest since the downfall a year ago of Suharto after 32 years of authoritarian rule. Rumors have arisen that 77-year-old Suharto may have instigated some of the violence, although no proof against him has emerged and he has denied the charges.
Munir, who like many Indonesians uses one name only, said 24 bodies have been found in Ciamis and that 26 other people were missing and believed dead. Police have said at least 18 people died and that about 40 suspects have been arrested.
Munir said the suspected
killers were unemployed or criminals and had been paid by unidentified
groups to carry out the murders.
|News & issues|
Elizabeth Bukowski -- Pramoedya Ananta Toer may have lost more than a decade of his life to the forced labor camp on Indonesia's Buru Island. But he hasn't lost his spirit, his sense of humor or his hope for a stable, democratic Indonesia.
The author of several novels, short stories and works of nonfiction, Mr. Pramoedya is Indonesia's most famous -- and outspoken -- writer. In 1965, he was living in Jakarta, writing fiction and populist essays. Then an abortive coup threw the country into chaos. President Sukarno was ousted, Suharto took control and thousands of people, many of them communists, were killed or imprisoned. As for Mr. Pramoedya (pronounced "pra-MOO- dee-ya"), he was arrested and spent the next 14 years in prison, most of it on Buru. He was never charged with a crime.
"The Mute's Soliloquy" (Hyperion East, 375 pages, $27.50) is his memoir of those years. It is not a continuous narrative but a collection of the notes he managed to hide from his captors, mostly recollections of his life before Buru, records of the island's severe conditions and letters to his children that he knew would never be sent.
Last week, at a Manhattan hotel during his first trip outside Indonesia since the 1950s, Mr. Pramoedya explained that he never planned to publish these secret writings. They were intended for his eight children "as a witness to history and testimony that I, their father, did once exist."
"I am surprised the book has appeared in English. I never even thought it would be published in Indonesian," Mr. Pramoedya remarks, smiling as he "blames" his friend and American editor, John McGlynn, for the book's publication. "It's not that I wanted to announce my suffering to the world," he adds.
Dressed in slacks and a batik shirt, Mr. Pramoedya, 74, is a compact figure with wispy white hair. His expression flickers from grave concentration when considering his country's history to a mischievous grin when making a joke. He speaks in Bahasa Indonesian, and Mr. McGlynn, seated on his left, translates. Mr. Pramoedya has been almost deaf since soldiers beat him with rifle butts in 1965; his left ear is his "good" ear.
Mr. Pramoedya had been under either house or city arrest since his release from Buru in 1979. Then the government of B.J. Habibie, who replaced Suharto last year, granted him a passport to make this trip, his first to the U.S. He admires the way New Yorkers of different ethnic groups seem to live together harmoniously. But, as he lights a clove cigarette, he jokes that the restrictions on smokers in America leave something to be desired. "I feel like a member of the oppressed class once again," he quips.
Mr. Pramoedya was imprisoned for his opinions twice before 1965: first by the Dutch for his anticolonial views, and later under Sukarno for a text deemed too sympathetic to Indonesia's ethnic Chinese. "In Indonesia's case, writers are needed as leaders of the nation-building process," he says. "If politics and science can't give answers to society's needs, then literature must."
His best-known work is the "Buru Quartet" of novels, so named because he composed them -- in his head, because he was not allowed paper -- while incarcerated on the penal island. They were written down and published upon his release. The story of a young man named Minke who comes of age during Indonesia's struggle for independence, the series has been translated into several languages and is considered a classic of modern Asian literature.
Mr. Pramoedya describes fiction writing as "almost a biochemical process. You open up a subliminal valve, out come stories and memories, and then you add a drop of experience, and you have a story," he explains. "The writer just keeps a record of the process." A moment later, though, he smiles at his improvised theory. "Of course, it doesn't work exactly like that."
His favorite writers are Western, including John Steinbeck and William Saroyan. But not Hemingway: "I see a negative sense of humanitarianism in that man." As for Asian writers, "I have not gained enough from them," he says dismissively.
Mr. Pramoedya is "hopeful but under no illusions" about Indonesia's elections to be held in June. "Suharto is gone, but the power structure has not changed. All of the same people are still in control," he asserts.
Critics say Mr. Pramoedya tried to control public debate in the 1960s, when he worked for a Communist Party newspaper. Some of the writers he named in an essay titled "Those Who Should Be Encouraged, And Those Who Should Be Cut Down," which criticized authors who were not "revolutionary" enough, saw their works censored by officials. Mr. Pramoedya claims it was a "matter of polemics"; he never had the power or desire to silence anyone. He points out that one of his own books was banned during this period.
"The Mute's Soliloquy" ends with a list of 276 people who perished at Buru, a small fraction of the total. How did Mr. Pramoedya stay alive and keep writing? He thinks international attention to Buru was crucial to his survival. But he also credits himself. "I swore I would not die before I saw this period end. I also wanted to provide symbolic opposition to the authorities," he recalls. "So many of my friends died. They didn't know how to stand up to the authorities; instead they got trampled by them. From that I surmised that opposition to injustice must be an integral part of a person's life. Without opposition, the spirit will die, as will the body."
After a pause, he cheerfully, sheepishly asks, "Do I sound bombastic?"
Seth Mydans, Jakarta -- Of course there was corruption under former President Suharto, said his half-brother recently, acknowledging a fact of life well known to all Indonesians.
"Suharto has always protected his corrupt subordinates," said the half-brother, Probosutedjo, who often acted as the former president's spokesman. "He got upset when anyone criticized his officers."
Now, almost a year after he was forced from office last May, prosecutors are nibbling around the edges of the huge financial enterprises of Suharto and his family. But many Indonesians question the government's commitment to serious investigations and prosecutions.
Suharto's youngest son, Hutomo Mandala Putra, 37, known as Tommy, was in court this week, accused of wrongdoing in a shady land deal. He is the first member of the family to face prosecution for graft.
Others of Suharto's six children have been questioned in recent months about their business dealings and Suharto himself was questioned in December for three hours, primarily about major tax-free charitable foundations he controlled.
"Isn't this what you want?" Hutomo said bitterly to reporters as he left a courtroom Monday where a judge refused to drop the charges. Hutomo has pleaded not guilty. A small group of supporters shouted from the sidewalk, "Long live Tommy!"
In fact, the case against Hutomo falls far short of the kind of prosecution that has been demanded by student demonstrators and other Indonesians. Estimates of the family's wealth have run into the tens of billions, and although they have lost control of a number of ventures in the last year, their interests still reach into many corners of the economy.
Hutomo is accused of graft in an $11 million land deal involving a retail company that is one of the smaller holdings in his wide-ranging roster of businesses.
The most flamboyant of the former president's six children, Hutomo controlled the country's huge clove industry, was the recipient from his father of lucrative tax breaks on a failed "national car" program, and splurged in 1994 with the $40 million purchase of the Lamborghini sports car company.
The direction the investigations take may be influenced by the outcome of a parliamentary election, set for June 7, and the naming of a new President, expected by the end of the year.
Public mistrust has been fostered by the fact that much of the current government -- from President B.J. Habibie through Justice Minister Muladi -- is made up of people who owe their careers to Suharto and grew wealthy alongside him.
"If Suharto does go to court, it could drag down the government, bringing senior incumbents and former officials -- as well as all the cronies suspected of accruing ill-gotten wealth -- into messy litigation," Suharto's legal adviser, Yohanes Yacob, said when the former president was questioned in December.
In this context, Probosutedjo's words acknowledging corruption within Suharto's circle could be taken as a veiled threat.
Habibie, for one, manages a state-financed industrial zone on Batam Island, near Singapore, that by some estimates was worth $60 million before the crash of the currency, the rupiah, in late 1997.
Suharto, for his part, is by his own account no more than a humble pensioner, living quietly in the same tree-shaded villa he occupied as president.
His true holdings, he told a local magazine, Dharmais, amount to just $3 million deposited in three Indonesian banks as well as two houses in Jakarta and a small plot of 12 acres of land.
All of this, Suharto said, was the product of nothing more than investments from his $75,000 annual salary.
Jakarta -- The last batch of the 3,000-member People's Security (Kamra) civilian force have just completed their 12-day military training course, Jakarta Military Command spokesman Lt. Col. DJ Nachrowi said.
After the completion of this course last week, the city now has 12,000 Kamra members, which have been deployed to manage traffic in heavy flow areas in and around the capital.
According to Nachrowi, Jakarta security authorities so far have no plans to train more Kamra personnel, which were originally assigned to help maintain security in the city ahead of the June 7 general election and the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) General Session in August. "The current number of Kamra personnel is satisfactory. It is my superior who decides whether or not the city needs more Kamra," Nachrowi said on Monday.
After completing their training, Kamra members are deployed and supervised by Jakarta Police. Police spokesman Lt. Col. Zainuri Lubis said on Monday the 12,000 Kamra members "are adequate to assist city police in maintaining security here".
"Moreover, it's not easy to manage a huge number of people like them," Lubis said. The Kamra force is expected to be disbanded by the end of the year, after the MPR General Session, he said.
Last week police came under fire for failing to distribute meal and transportation allowances to Kamra members, who are paid Rp 200,000 each per month.
The Media Indonesia daily reported on Friday that some Kamra members in Jakarta, Tangerang and Bekasi expressed resentment after no payments were made for their meal and transportation expenses. The amount was not mentioned, but officer Lubis admitted the problem and said it was mainly due to "a bureaucratic error". He said the problem had been solved and said he hoped so further such delays would occur in the future.
The funding for Kamra comes from the central government budget, and the police are responsible for distributing the funds. The training of the 12,000 Kamra for the capital was divided into four batches with 3,000 recruits each.
Jakarta -- President B.J. Habibie warned Thursday against any revival of communism in Indonesia, urging people to remember the mistakes of the past.
"It is still fresh in our minds how communists ruined the country's life and caused a tragedy in which our heroes were killed," Habibie was quoted by the state Antara news agency as saying.
He was referring to an abortive coup in 1965 blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), in which six army generals were killed.
"We should learn from the past so that we will not make the same mistakes again," Habibie said. "Don't turn history upside down by justifying the mistakes of the old order in the name of reform," he warned.
The PKI, then the world's second largest communist party after China's, was outlawed by Suharto immmediately after he took power in the wake of the coup.
The abortive coup was followed by a bloody purge in which some 500,000 suspected communists lost their lives, and some 700,000 more were jailed, according to the official count.
Unofficial counts have said at least one million people died in the slaughter that continued into 1966. A request for an investigation into the killings was made at the National Commission on Human Rights Wednesday by a group of ageing communist survivors, who are trying to compile a history of the 1965 killings.
But the commission rejected their request, saying it had no authority to delve into the past, commission member B.N. Marbun told AFP Thursday.
The Foundation Research for Victims of 1965-1966 Massacre "asked us to be involved in a joint commission they formed," Marbun said. "We rejected their proposal because [the commission] is an independent commission. Besides, we don't have the authority to investigate the case which took place before we were established in 1993. I told them that they have the right to probe and I wish them success," he added.
The foundation was formed by survivors of the massacre, including celebrated writer Pramudya Ananta Toer, after the fall of Suharto in May last year. Suharto banned all communist teachings. The possession of books on communism was enough to land people in jail.
Habibie's government has released several ageing PKI prisoners on humanitarian grounds, allowed Tur to travel abroad for the first time, and slightly eased the ban on studying communism. But the bar on teaching, espousing or preaching communism remains in effect.
Jakarta -- The Indonesian government will be unable to introduce meaningful legal or political reform if the army remains involved in politics, a US academic expert on Indonesia said here Thursday.
"Anybody who believes there's going to be any legislative or political reform unless the army withdraws from politics is dreaming," University of Washington Indonesia expert Professor Daniel Lev told a seminar on bankruptcy.
Lev was also quoted by AFX-Asia, an AFP financial affiliate, as saying that Indonesia's legal paralysis dated from the late 1950s, prior to which it had a parliamentary democracy and the law was functional.
But with the increasing influence of the military during the later years of the rule of former president Sukarno, particularly during his so-called Guided Democracy, the law was "systematically and sometimes brutally" undermined, he said.
"By 1965, by the end of Guided Democracy, all of the major institutions of the legal system were destroyed," Lev told the seminar.
He said when president Suharto, a military man, took over and centralized power around himself and the army, all pretense at a rule of law was virtually abandoned.
"The president and judges became corrupt in ways that were beyond imagination," Lev said. "The legal system that existed in the New Order (Suharto era) was not a legal system at all, it was part of a bureaucracy."
Until the institutions that underpinned the old legal system were resurrected and the judiciary overhauled, legal reforms such as the revised bankruptcy law will face difficulty, he said.
"Let me say bluntly again that whatever is happening now -- there are various efforts at new legislation and there are very good people working on this legislation -- it's a little bit silly to talk about reform so long as there is no way of implementing the legal base of the reform," Lev said.
"There is no institutional base for the legal system right now. None. And before there will be one, there has to be fundamental political (reform)," he said.
"That is, in effect, there has to be something like the parliamentary system of the '50s before anyone can expect a real legal system; that is, an autonomous legal system, to begin to emerge."
Lev said he believes Indonesia's new commercial court system was "doomed from the outset" unless the government was prepared to undertake a proper overhaul of the judicial system.
In addition, the ministry of finance needed to do a more thorough check over of the country's banks before the commercial courts got underway.
He also warned of a possible nationalistic backlash to the country's current bankruptcy laws.
"If you look at the history of bankruptcy laws around the world ... you notice that it's always made with totally internal economic considerations in mind," Lev said.
"That is not the case here, and there is a perfectly good reason for people to suspect that those whose interests are most represented here are foreign creditors and that some of the assets ... will disappear into foreign hands."
Lev criticized the decision to chose judges from existing courts. Commercial courts, he said, would have been better served if they had used private sector consulting lawyers, who are more familiar with laws affecting commercial transactions, property, debt and bankruptcy.
"Not only do they (consulting lawyers) know commercial law, but they are relatively independent themselves," Lev said.
"It's not that they are clean -- consulting lawyers (can be) wonderfully corrupt ... we shouldn't kid ourselves about that -- but they are more likely to do a good job."
Indonesia's bankruptcy court was only set up in August last year under the wide-ranging economic reform pledged to the International Monetary Fund in return for multibillion dollar aid package to help the country overcome its current crisis.