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ASIET Net News 42 – October 18-24, 1999, 1999

 East Timor

 Presidential succession  Aceh/West Papua  Labour struggle  Human rights/Law  News & issues  Arms/Armed forces
East Timor

Peacekeepers storm into last enclave

South China Morning Post - October 23, 1999

Agencies in Dili -- Multinational forces stormed into the Oecussi enclave by sea yesterday securing the last slice of East Timor just days before an expected assault by militia groups.

"This morning Interfet established a lodgement in the enclave," Interfet commander Major-General Peter Cosgrove said, adding that Jakarta had not been informed of the planned action.

"I have no need to warn Jakarta on access into mandated areas, so I didn't," he said. "Interfet has now exerted its security presence throughout the entire mandate area."

General Cosgrove said the Interfet troops disarmed 40 militiamen wielding pipe guns, swords and knives.

Pro-independence guerillas say up to 70 people have been killed in recent days in the enclave, which is cut off in West Timorese territory and was the last part of East Timor the UN-backed force entered.

"With this move, Interfet has now exerted its security presence over the whole of East Timor," General Cosgrove said. He declined to say how many troops were there, but said the international force was taking reports of atrocities there seriously.

"There was no report of TNI [Indonesian troops] in the area," he said. "Any of these reports of wanton mass destruction don't just concern me, they concern the whole world community. That's why we are in there." General Cosgrove said troops had begun to move in around 5am. No shots were fired.

Falintil vice-commander Taur Matan Ruak said earlier this week that about 70 people had been killed in the enclave since early October, about 50 of them at the weekend. Humanitarian operations in the enclave will at first be handled by Interfet troops until it is judged safe for aid agencies to move in.

Portuguese currency, language for Timor

Agence France Presse - October 22, 1999

Darwin -- East Timor resistance leaders plan to use the Portuguese escudo as their currency for at least the territory's transitional period under UN administration.

Roque Rodrigues, independence leader Xanana Gusmao's chief of staff, said here Friday the former Portuguese colony annexed by Indonesia 25 years ago would also use a two-language system with Portuguese the official language and Tetum the "national language."

The National Council for East Timorese Resistance (CNRT) announced Friday it had set up a seven-member transitional council, presided over by Gusmao, to work with the UN administration.

The council would include Nobel peace laureate and resistance leader Jose Ramos Horta and Falintil vice commander Taur Matan Ruak.

Rodrigues said the council would maintain daily contact with the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) expected to be headed by Brazilian diplomat Sergio Veiera de Mello, the UN's under secretary general for coordinating humanitarian affairs.

"But for the time being we will act only as an advisory body," he said. "It is our understanding that the reconstruction of East Timor and our state must have the full participation of the East Timorese and particularly the CNRT."

Mario Carrascalao, a former governor of the territory under Indonesian rule, would lead the East Timorese contingent accompanying a World Bank assessment mission expected to begin the process of evaluating the devastation in East Timor at the end of next week. Carrascalao served as governor under the Suharto regime from 1982 to 1992.

Rodrigues said Gusmao, who slipped into East Timor Thursday night for the first time in seven years, would co-ordinate and lead the reconstruction of East Timor from Dili. "Gusmao will now live in East Timor and the CNRT would establish its headquarters there even though many CNRT professionals would remain in Darwin for the time being," he said.

Rodrigues said Gusmao would deal with the Interfet request that Falintil guerrillas disarm. "He will deal with this issue directly," he said.

11 bodies unearthed from well in Liquisa

Agence France Presse - October 23, 1999 (abridged)

Dili -- International investigators excavating a well near Liquisa in East Timor have abandoned the site after unearthing 11 bodies, an Interfet spokesman said Saturday.

Other badly decomposed remains could be seen but the investigation was called off when the site became too dangerous, Interfet officers said.

"The investigation team at the well site have uncovered a total of 11 bodies," said Colonel Mark Kelly. "The danger to the team in terms of a cave in was quite serious. It was a difficult decision, but they made the decision to seal it. Also, the other remains that were evident in there were in a severe state of decomposition."

A senior army chaplain conducted a formal burial service and the well will become a permanent memorial in Liquisa, a coastal town some 35 kilometers west of Dili. Kelly also said the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) had forwarded a request for additional human rights investigators.

Earlier in the week Kelly had said at least 20 bodies had been found in the Liquisa area. Journalists at the scene said there were three separate sites, one of them a creek bed. "There is a suggestion of a number of other bodies in the river bed, but that detail has yet to be confirmed," Kelly said.

In Geneva Friday a UN spokesman said a five-member team tasked with investigating human rights abuses in East Timor hopes to begin its inquiries on the ground during the first couple of weeks of November.

Jose Luis Diaz, a spokesman for the UN Human Rights Commission, said the team, led by Costa Rican jurist and MP Sonia Picado was due to first come to Geneva at the beginning of November for a briefing at the UN agency.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, announced the composition of the commission last week. Apart from Picado, its members are the former chief of justice of India, A.M. Ahmadi, the deputy chief justice of Papua New Guinea, Mari Kapa, Nigeria's former minister of women's affairs, Judith Sefi Attah, and the former German justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.

The delegation, which will investigate human rights violations in East Timor since January this year, is due to present its report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan before December 31.

A killing ground without corpses

Washington Post - October 21, 1999

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Suai -- Scores of 7.62mm shell casings litter Father Francisco's bedroom floor. At least 60 bullet holes pockmark the bamboo-scaffolded facade of Ave Maria Cathedral. A thick coating of dried blood stretches across the entrance to a church schoolroom. A pile of underwear sits at the foot of a staircase.

It was here on September 6, at a Roman Catholic compound comprising the cathedral, Our Lady of Fatima Church and several other buildings, that survivors say a throng of pro-Indonesia militiamen engaged in one of the bloodiest acts of retribution against the people of East Timor, who days earlier had voted to secede from Indonesia.

Armed with assault rifles, machetes and hand grenades, the militia members set upon independence supporters inside the compound, raping dozens of women and slaughtering more than 100 people, including three priests, according to the survivors.

Their account of what happened, the first provided by witnesses, is similar to that of a nun, Sister Mary Barudero, who described the incident to a reporter at a refugee camp in the western Timor city of Kupang last month. Her description -- relayed from another nun who was in the compound at the time -- and a report by the Vatican missionary news service Fides served as the basis of a story in The Washington Post on September 11.

But despite all the indications of a mass killing here, Australian army investigators with an international peacekeeping force have run into an unusual hurdle in trying to determine exactly what happened -- a lack of bodies.

Thus far, the investigators have found only two sets of human remains in the torched and looted compound. They believe, based on reports from survivors of the attack and other witnesses, that the militiamen disposed of the bodies by burning them near the church, loading the charred corpses on a truck and then dumping them in one of several crocodile-filled lakes on the outskirts of Suai, a coastal town about 60 miles southwest of Dili, the East Timor capital.

Human rights officials contend that militia groups took similar care to conceal other large-scale killings in East Timor, which they fear could hinder efforts to apprehend and prosecute those responsible.

In the central town of Maliana, for instance, the bodies of 47 people allegedly hacked to death with machetes were carted to the coast, placed on a boat, weighted down with sandbags and tossed into the sea, the officials said. As of Wednesday, only three bodies had washed ashore.

"The great lengths the militias have gone to to hide and destroy the bodies makes it very difficult for us to figure out what happened," said Capt. Jens Streit, an Australian army lawyer who is investigating human rights violations as part of the Australian-led multinational peacekeeping mission. "We have eyewitness accounts, but other than things like shell casings and blood stains, we don't have a lot of physical evidence."

Peacekeeping and human rights officials do not have an estimate of the number of people killed in the rampage, but they believe that large-scale killings, such as the one alleged in Suai, were rare. More common, they say, were attacks that killed fewer than 10 victims. Around Dili, for example, investigators have found 20 sites at which they believe people were killed in militia violence, but no more than nine bodies were found at each location.

But even in those cases, officials said, the killers took steps to cover their tracks, particularly by burning corpses. "In Kosovo, they didn't care about what the world saw," Streit said. "The Indonesians are extremely concerned about saving face. They want to be able to deny any of this happened."

UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson has appointed a five- member commission to look into the East Timor violence, but as of today no UN investigators have entered the country. A UN spokesman said they are waiting for security conditions here to improve.

In the interim, the task of gathering evidence has fallen to Australian army lawyers and military police, who have been scouring the Suai church for clues before they are pocketed by local residents or washed away by rain. Military police also have been talking to witnesses.

One, Eliziu Gusmao, recalled the afternoon of September 6 as a barrage of almost indescribable violence and hours of sheer terror. Gusmao, a nurse who had lived in a town near Suai and who is no relation to the East Timorese independence leader with the same surname, said he moved into the church compound with his family in May after being threatened by a local militia group. He said he was singled out because he was involved with the National Council for Timorese Resistance, a pro-independence group.

Because they offered such refuge and because Roman Catholic clergy often were identified with the independence movement -- mounted against largely Muslim Indonesian authorities -- Catholic institutions and churchmen were frequent targets of attacks by the pro-Indonesian militiamen.

For months, Gusmao, his wife and their 3-year-old son lived in a tent pitched on the spacious compound, between the cathedral, which is still under construction, and the church. In the weeks leading up to the August 30 independence referendum, he said, hundreds of other pro-independence families fearful of the militia groups also took refuge on church property. On the morning of September 6, Gusmao said, several hundred militia members gathered on the street outside the compound, so he and his family decided to hide near the convent, which was far from the street and directly across from the church. Their peace of mind did not last long. By 2pm, the militiamen had scaled the fence and surrounded the church.

At 2.30, Father Dewanto walked out the front door of the church to try to talk to the militiamen, Gusmao said. Within seconds, a machete-wielding man charged at him, chopping at the priest's arm and neck. Moments later, Father Francisco came out the door. This time, the militiamen responded with gunfire, cutting him down on the church steps.

"Then one of the militiamen shouted, 'Father Hilario is in there. Let's go in there and shoot him,'" Gusmao said. When Father Hilario, the senior parish priest, did not heed the militiamen's shouts to come outside, a small group ran up the left side of the church and entered his study. A burst of automatic-weapons fire followed. A few seconds later, Father Hilario walked into the courtyard and collapsed, his white robe turning red, Gusmao said.

He said the order to kill Father Hilario was given by Izidio Manek, a local militia leader. Gusmao also said he saw several uniformed Indonesian soldiers at the church. The 7.62mm rounds found in the church are used in several types of military weapons.

Gusmao then ran to his family, which was waiting at the convent, and told them to flee. They ran out toward the street, where he believes they were put on a truck by militiamen and taken to a camp in Indonesian-controlled western Timor. He has not heard from them since.

Gusmao, however, decided to stay behind, climbing into a drainage ditch next to the convent, where he covered himself with leaves. For hours, he said, "it sounded like a war."

"I heard people screaming, people crying, people shouting," Gusmao said in a lengthy interview at the church compound. Pointing at the convent, he said, "They were even pulling women away from there." At 11pm, after the noise subsided, Gusmao said he crawled out of the ditch and walked around the convent toward a row of school rooms. As he walked by one, he saw "a huge pool of blood inside." Then, as he proceeded toward the church, he saw the carnage. "There were more than 20 bodies piled in front of the church," he said. "Some had been shot. Some had their arms chopped off. Some had their heads chopped off. It was awful. I was not sure if they were dead or not, so I nudged them with my foot. But they were dead. All of them."

Gusmao said he quickly knelt and prayed, asking God to "receive their souls in heaven." Then he ran into the hills that surround Suai, where he remained in hiding for more than a month, he said, subsisting on river water, bananas and cassava plants, returning only when he received word that the peacekeepers had arrived.

The chronology related by Gusmao matched that of 13-year-old Atanacio de Costa Martinez, Father Hilario's nephew, who said he was in the church -- hiding under Father Francisco's bed -- during the shooting rampage. After Father Hilario was killed, Atanacio said the militia members entered the church and sprayed people inside -- mostly women and children -- with gunfire.

When the militiamen set fire to the church, Atanacio said, he jumped through the window of Father Francisco's room and sprinted out the rear of the compound. As he was leaving, he said he saw two large piles of corpses behind the church.

"There were dozens of bodies," Atanacio said. "They had been shot. They had been stabbed."

While he was in the ditch, Gusmao said he heard a militia member ride up on a motorcycle and shout at his colleagues, 'Where are the trucks? We want to bury the bodies.'"

Gusmao, a shy man who repeatedly appeared on the verge of sobbing as he recounted the incident, said one of his instincts as a nurse prodded him when he reached his hiding place in the hills at 4am. He took out a small red notebook and jotted down his memories of the killings. Later, he complied a list of 36 local militia members and soldiers, many of whom he believes were involved in the attack.

"There is much pain in my heart," Gusmao said as he walked away from the compound, toward his new job at a emergency medical clinic set up by French volunteers. "I am sad not just for the victims, but for those who were from East Timor who conducted this against their own people."

Gusmao returns to East Timor in triumph

Agence France Presse - October 22, 1999

Dili -- East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao returned to a tumultuous and emotional welcome in his devastated homeland Friday, and told his people: "We are independent now and forever."

Dressed in Falintil battle fatigues, Gusmao, struggling to keep hold of his emotions, told a cheering, sobbing crowd from a podium in front of the old governor's residence that East Timor no longer needed Indonesia.

"We don't need Indonesia. East Timorese are very brave people," he said, to volleys of "Viva East Timor, Viva Falintil" from the young, the elderly, and the sick.

In the emotional speech Gusmao said East Timor would recover from the devastation and violence that followed its August 30 vote for independence.

"They tried to kill us, but we are still here, crying and suffering but still alive," said the man tipped to be the first president of an independent East Timor.

"They won't destroy us. There will be sorrow, but today we are more confident because tomorrow is ours. We East Timorese people have fought for 25 years. Today we finally find our liberation."

The 53-year-old Gusmao, who had been expected to return this weekend, was slipped into East Timor Thursday night by the UN- mandated forces (Interfet).

Crowds flocked from all corners of Dili to the whitewashed governor's residence, standing like a beacon in a sea of charred shells of buildings, to hear him.

"Our homeland is ours. We will develop our new country. We know what we want and we will recover from the damage," Gusmao told them. We meet again in very sorrowful circumstance but from today nothing can stop us. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, be happy."

"For our families who have died, we must respect them and remember them in our hearts. We have to continue our new life without suffering, without crying."

Interfet commander Major General Peter Cosgrove said Gusmao, who had been in Darwin, was flown to East Timor's second city of Baucau Thursday night and then taken by helicopter to Dili.

The first East Timorese knew of Gusmao's return was Friday morning when Interfet troops handed out leaflets telling them: "Mr Xanana Gusmao asks all the people of East Timor to come and listen to his speech in Dili."

Cosgrove said Interfet had assigned Brazilian soldiers to guard Gusmao. "It is a joyous day for the East Timorese," the commander said, adding that the two had already held brief talks focusing on his personal security and immediate plans.

"He is overjoyed to be back, and said he was seeking to achieve high cooperation between the CNRT, the Falintil and Interfet ... I was delighted by that," he said, praising Gusmao as "a statesman."

Gusmao has continued to head the National Council for Timorese resistance (CNRT) and its armed wing, the Falintil from his jail cell.

Asked if Gusmao, who is staying in an undisclosed safehouse, had returned for good, Cosgrove said: "Anything away from here would be a visit."

Gusmao spent almost seven years in Indonesian jails before his release last month. The resistance leader, who fought Indonesian troops for 25 years, was initially sentenced to life imprisonment. Earlier this year he was moved to house arrest as part of a UN-sponsored deal to settle the conflict in East Timor.

On his release after the independence referendum, Gusmao made the rounds of Western capitals appealing for international intervention in the territory.

Fellow independence campaigner, Jose Ramos Horta was in France Friday to meet French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Winner said he hoped for a normalisation of relations between East Timor and Indonesia following the Jakarta parliament's ratification of the territory's independence vote this week.

Angry pro-Indonesia militias went on a rampage after the vote, burning and killing, leading the UN to authorise an international peacekeeping force that landed on September 20 to restore order.

In Geneva a spokesman for the United Nations Human Rights Commission said a five-member team tasked with investigating human rights abuses in East Timor hoped to begin its inquiries on the ground during the first two weeks of November.

Indonesia recognizes independence vote

Agence France Presse - October 20, 1999

Jakarta -- Indonesia's national assembly early on Wednesday ratified the results of East Timor's independence vote, clearing the way for the territory's freedom from the country that invaded it in 1975.

Assembly chairman Amien Rais said the historic decree recognizing the August 30 vote was cleared by representatives of all factions of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) and were approved by the floor. No vote was taken.

Passage of the decree, which will pave way for the takeover by an interim United Nations administration in the former Portuguese colony, had been delayed from Tuesday because of a vote on President B.J. Habibie's performance in office.

Habibie had earlier urged the assembly not to delay ratification of the vote, warning that Indonesia faced further international isolation if it did.

Under the terms of an agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, the territory's old colonial masters, reached at the UN in New York on May 5, the MPR was due to nullify a decree enacted in 1978 formalizing the integration of East Timor as Indonesia's 27th province.

The new decree passed Wednesday will recognize the results of the August 30 referendum. A transitional UN administration will run East Timor prior to full independence, preparations for which are already under way.

In Dili, the capital of East Timor, an AFP reporter said the remaining Indonesian troops has been loading their belongings on landing craft at the port in apparent anticipation of the formal recognition of the territory's independence.

Discussions were also underway in Dili betwween the UN and a 31- man Indonesian task force, which arrived at the weekend, on details of the handover of Indonesian state property to the UN adminstration.

A UN Mission in East Timor spokesman told AFP in Dili: "There's some suggestion that the final element of the TNI [Indonesian armed forces] may be withdrawn soon after the vote.

"We'll remain in close contact with the TNI commander in Dili. He will advise us to the time of the withdrawal." Some 1,500 Indonesian troops remain in the territory.

One of the seven chapters of the new East Timor draft decree said it would "not invalidate the actions or all forms of state honor to fighters and officials given during the period that the East Timor territory was united with the Republic of Indonesia according to national laws".

It also stated that recognition of the poll results would not diminish the rights of East Timorese who opted to remain loyal to Indonesia. The draft also tasked the new president with providing protection, in cooperation with international agencies, for East Timorese following the ballot, and assigned him or her to take the necessary legal steps regarding the citizenship of pro- Indonesia East Timorese.

It also asked the president to work with the lower house to take further constitutional steps to settle the East Timor question.

Signs of a massacre

Straits Times - October 19, 1999

David Boey -- International relief teams sent to help displaced East Timor residents in the town of Suai have learned of alleged atrocities committed by roving gangs of militiamen working with Indonesian Army troops.

One incident was said to have involved the slaughter of about 200 Suai residents, who had sought refuge in the Church of Fatimah on Sept 6.

According to eyewitness reports, the pastor of the Roman Catholic parish, Padre Hilario Madeira, was shot in cold blood on the steps of the church, following a confrontation with an Indonesian Army officer assigned to Koramil, the local army sub-district.

Militia and Indonesian Army forces then allegedly entered the church and started to slaughter residents who had sought refuge there.

Eyewitnesses claimed that Suai residents were killed by machetes, home-made weapons and rifle fire. Several hand grenades were said to have been lobbed into the church after militiamen had desecrated the building.

Mr Jose Manuel de Silva, a Suai resident who witnessed the incident, said the pastor was killed after he had ignored numerous death threats from militiamen to leave the area. Mr de Silva said he survived the slaughter by hiding in a 200-litre oil drum.

The Straits Times visited Suai, under armed escort from Interfet forces, on Saturday, and noted that the church and all buildings had been destroyed by the militia's rampage.

A creepy silence hung over the town centre as small groups of residents wandered around aimlessly, stopping only to pick through the wreckage to scavenge for useful items.

Suai is located some 30 km from the border with West Timor and is now watched over by troops and upgraded M-113A1 armoured personnel carriers from a New Zealander battalion. They were joined recently by Australian army soldiers.

A new cathedral under construction some 50 m from the Church of Fatimah was also sacked amid the rampage. Though The Straits Times team did not see any bodies in the old church, the building showed obvious signs that some nasty business had taken place there.

One room at the rear of the church was carpeted with numerous spent 5.56mm assault-rifle cartridges. The cartridges had the word "PIN" and "5.56" stamped on their bases, which could indicate that they were made by the Indonesian weapons maker, PT Pindad. Bullet holes were also found at various parts of the church along with what appeared to be blood stains.

The roof of the cathedral under construction also had what looked like blood stains near several windows and under the roof rafters. Eyewitnesses said residents who had tried hiding in the rafters, some four storeys above ground level, were shot in the roof after their hiding place was discovered.

Their bodies were then dragged to the windows and thrown to the ground. Residents said the bodies were cleared on the evening of September 6 and taken aboard three trucks. The rest were burnt and the ashes cleared away. The Straits Times was shown several spots where the burnings were said to have taken place.

Though cynics have claimed that stories of atrocities, murder and mayhem have been exaggerated by East Timor residents, aid workers said burnt-out towns in the shattered province were indications that the slash-and-burn strategy of the militia forces was more well-planned and coordinated than originally thought. They added that such acts were committed despite the imposition of martial law by Indonesian forces there.

United Nations relief workers said they expected to learn about more alleged atrocities as they pushed into more border towns recently secured by Interfet forces.
Presidential succession

What went on behind the scenes

Business Times - October 22, 1999

Yang Razali Kassim, Jakarta -- It was clearly not something which Indonesians have seen before. The tension and high drama began last Thursday when then President BJ Habibie presented his account of his leadership -- the so-called "accountability speech".

The general expectation was for him to face a whipping. But Dr Habibie was quietly confident that he would pull through. His supporters in the Golkar party had done their sums and were expecting support for the incumbent, though with a thin margin.

The confidence was based on commitment made several days earlier within Golkar that the party would stick to backing Dr Habibie and nominating him for the presidency despite earlier threats of a review by the anti-Habibie wing. But Golkar chairman Akbar Tanjung secured a condition that the party could turn to alternative candidates at the eleventh hour if Dr Habibie's accountability speech was rejected.

Dr Habibie's men were suspicious of the Akbar camp, which included deputy chairman Marzuki Darusman. But they put the onus on him to stick to the commitment and work the ground to secure Dr Habibie's return to power.

While this was going on, Amien Rais' Central Axis of reformist and Islamic parties was crafting a plan of their own. The bloc's goal was to prevent Megawati Sukarnoputri, leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), from becoming president. But this would not necessarily mean supporting Dr Habibie. The strategy was to first secure the speakerships of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) and the lower house (DPR), or parliament. A deal had to be done not only with Golkar but also with Abdurrahman Wahid, the leader of the influential Nahdatul Ulama (NU), to get the backing of his Nation Awakening Party (PKB).

Given the past rivalry, Dr Amien made the key move of patching up with Mr Abdurrahman or Gus Dur. Citing among other things the need to heal the wounds caused by the old rivalry between NU and Dr Amien's Muhammadiyah movement, Gus Dur was offered leadership of the Central Axis and promised support if he fought for the post of MPR Speaker. After some hesitation, Gus Dur agreed, but at a price of splitting the PKB's legislators and widening an incipient rift with Gus Dur's old ally, Ms Megawati. But an understanding was nevertheless sealed, pulling together the Central Axis, major elements of Golkar and PKB around Gus Dur. It was a pact that, with hindsight, was to later dramatically lead to Gus Dur taking the prized position of the country's presidency.

The big irony of it all is that the rise of Gus Dur to the presidency probably might not have happened had he succeeded in getting the MPR Speaker's post. As it was, he could not even get nominated for the contest. When that happened, Dr Amien had to step forward in his place. With the full backing of the Central Axis, PKB and Golkar, Dr Amien won the fight, albeit by a margin of just 26 votes. The person he beat was Gus Dur's proxy leader for the PKB, Matori Abdul Jalil, who refused to go along with Gus Dur's new alliance with Dr Amien, for which he was supported by Ms Megawati. With Dr Amien in that crucial seat, the next step was to back Mr Akbar for the post of DPR Speaker, which the Golkar chief also won quite easily.

With Gus Dur getting neither of the key posts, he was subsequently positioned as an alternative candidate for president, originally projected to be filled by the winner of a two-horse race between Dr Habibie and Ms Megawati.

On Tuesday night, a vote was taken on Dr Habibie's accountability speech. The results announced at around 1.30 am Wednesday (Singapore time) pointed to a rejection of his leadership by 33 votes.

That shocked the pro-Habibie supporters who had calculated a win by a slim margin. Anger built up against Mr Akbar and his deputy, Marzuki Darusman, who were accused of betrayal and failing to honour their commitment.

The votes that went against Dr Habibie, they charged, were swelled by defections. As the anti-Akbar sentiment welled up, resulting in protests in various parts in eastern Indonesia -- a bastion of the pro-Habibie camp -- Dr Habibie himself decided to withdraw his candidacy.

Within hours after the vote to reject his speech, Dr Habibie called for a meeting of Golkar leaders and ministers at his private residence. At about 1 am, Mr Akbar arrived, accompanied by Ginandjar Kartasasmita, now a deputy speaker of the MPR.

Dr Habibie announced his decision to withdraw, despite pressure from his supporters to go ahead. Dr Habibie then told Mr Akbar to offer himself as an alternative candidate and to take armed forces chief Gen Wiranto as his running mate. Mr Akbar agreed to put up his nomination but merely took note of Dr Habibie's mention of Gen Wiranto, who had two days earlier declared himself neutral to any nomination for the vice-presidency. At 9 am that morning, Dr Habibie called a press conference to announce his withdrawal. But Mr Akbar's own nomination for the presidential election failed to get through after pro-Habibie supporters kept going for his throat and threatened to sack him and Mr Marzuki.

The withdrawal of Dr Habibie and Mr Akbar left only two possible candidates -- Ms Megawati and Gus Dur. But even on the night that Dr Habibie's speech was rejected, it was not clear yet if Gus Dur wanted to go ahead as a third candidate.

The prospect of Ms Megawati emerging as an uncontested president led to the Central Axis putting up a rank outsider, the leader of the Crescent and Star Party (PBB), Yusril Ihza Mahendra, as a new addition to the race. But he dramatically withdrew his candidacy just before the presidential election was declared open in the late Wednesday morning. The reason: Gus Dur had finally agreed to stand as president; it was a clever move to ensure a solid vote against Ms Megawati.

Gus Dur's candidacy stunned Ms Megawati, who knew he would be tough to beat. Indeed, it became tougher with the race now being a straight fight between her and Gus Dur following the withdrawal of Dr Yuzril.

As it turned out, the election became the high point in a long- drawn process of political change which began with the fall of President Suharto in May last year. Ms Megawati led in the first half of the race, sending many of Gus Dur supporters expecting a surprise defeat. But by the last stretch, it was Gus Dur all the way as the votes were counted till the end. Gus Dur was finally declared the winner -- 373 votes to Ms Megawati's 313.

The outcome made Gus Dur only the fourth president Indonesia has in nearly half a century. The defeat of Ms Megawati, though quite expected by her supporters in the MPR, stunned them nonetheless.

The millions of pro-Mega sympathisers outside immediately went into a rioting frenzy, but they were not alone as pro-Habibie supporters in eastern Indonesia were also out in the streets, demanding a break-away from the country.

Gus Dur, now President Abdurrahman, knew his work was only beginning, and quickly made moves to accommodate all the competing power blocs, a priority which he made clear in his maiden speech on the night of Wednesday.

But his first strike was to appease the pro-Megawati groups. He quickly made it known to Ms Megawati, through a courier, that he would want her to run for vice-president. Ms Megawati, defeated again for the third time, was shattered, uncertain and unsure.

At 5am yesterday morning, she still couldn't be convinced. As BT understands it, when she finally turned around, she told the courier at 9am that she was pulling out. She was fearful of another defeat because Mr Akbar was going to be in the race, and that could be tough.

But in that very short time, President Abdurrahman passed yet another message which finally swung her again. According to a source close to both the President and Ms Megawati, the new Indonesian leader quickly informed three other contenders of his wish to have Ms Megawati as his vice-president, which they quickly obliged.

The first to agree to pull out was Hartarto, the coordinating minister for supervision. Then came the withdrawal of Mr Akbar. This was quickly followed by Gen Wiranto, who was put up by two factions.

The only one who refused to pull out, citing the need for democratic contest, was Hamzah Haz, a deputy speaker put up by the Central Axis.

In the morning, just before the vice-presidential contest was opened, Mr Akbar withdrew his candidacy. Just after that, a pro- Habibie legislator, Marwah Daud Ibrahim, called for a decision to have two vice-presidents to accommodate all parties. This was quickly countered by Mr Marzuki as not representing Golkar's official stand.

Dr Amien, the MPR Speaker, then read a statement by Gen Wiranto that he too was pulling out. That paved the way for a direct contest between Mr Hamzah and Ms Megawati, a fight that was expected to easily go the way of the PDIP leader. But before the election could proceed, Dr Amien called for a break to allow for the possibility of a last-minute consensus. There was none. In the end, when the election resumed four hours later, Ms Megawati romped home to a comfortable win that was clearly aimed at giving her a place in the new political constellation. By a vote of 396 to 284, she was declared the new vice-president of Indonesia. Mr Hamzah quickly congratulated her, as did many of her supporters. That same night, she was sworn in, completing the picture of a new leadership that hopefully will take Indonesia onto a long road of national reconciliation. There is much hope for a new beginning. But where it will lead to remains unclear.

Flaws surface in day of political scheming

South China Morning Post - October 22, 1999

Vaudine England, Jakarta -- Megawati Sukarnoputri's victory in yesterday's vice-presidential race illustrated both the risks of upsetting her supporters any further and the continuing strength of an Islamic alliance inside the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

The result was seen to be the only way to avert further street violence across the country. Yet the fact that it took almost all day to make the deal shows not only her own weakness in alliance-building but the potential weaknesses of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Gus Dur, as Mr Wahid is called, had wanted to avert the vote entirely and to give the job to his old friend Ms Megawati through the Indonesian way of consensus. He had offered the job to General Wiranto on Monday, to Akbar Tanjung on Tuesday, and to Ms Megawati on Wednesday.

"He's already failed his first political test," said one Western diplomat. "Because he couldn't avoid the vote". Mr Wahid managed, however, to bring together enough of the factions that had voted against Ms Megawati on Wednesday to support his candidate when it counted.

MPR chairman Amien Rais' political skills were also on the line. He was with Mr Wahid in wanting a Mega win, but he too could not persuade National Development Party leader Hamzah Haz to withdraw from the race.

Political moves throughout the day did persuade both Mr Tanjung, the Golkar chairman, and armed forces chief General Wiranto to withdraw "in the national interest".

General Wiranto was still keen on the job until at least midday, but a letter from regional military commanders arrived urging him to pull out, presumably because they feared for their ability to contain unrest if a military man supplanted the beloved Ms Megawati.

Both Mr Tanjung and General Wiranto must have instructed their factions to vote for Ms Megawati, again in the interests of national unity.

"If the TNI [Indonesian armed forces] wanted to create chaos on the streets to lead into a putsch, they could just support Hamzah Haz," said an analyst. "But with Mega and Gus Dur they've got two leaders who they know will not hurt them".

The closeness of the vote shows that the Muslim alliance in parliament remains very strong and that each subsequent vote in the assembly could be played out along nominally religious lines.

Analysts, presuming violence has been avoided, expect the currency to strengthen. What no one is yet concerned about is the fact that this new government will be led by two people with few administrative skills between them.

Mr Wahid is in poor health, while Ms Megawati's parliamentary career suggests she has a lot to learn about realpolitik.

"The position of Megawati as vice-president is important as a symbol," said one of her party members. "This now shows the value of winning in a general election. It shows you can still get something from that."

Tensions ease as Megawati is sworn in

Agence France Presse - October 22, 1999

Jakarta -- Violence across Indonesia subsided Friday after popular opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri was sworn in as vice president and the world's newest and third largest democracy took shape.

As supporters celebrated in the streets, the daughter of the country's late founding father Sukarno took her oath in solemn ceremonies at the national assembly late Thursday, one day after her failed bid for the presidency set off riots in several cities.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, a Muslim scholar who beat Megawati for the top post, witnessed the swearing-in, along with his predecessor B.J. Habibie, foreign diplomats and the political elite in the world's fourth largest nation of more than 210 million people.

Only the day before, Jakarta was rocked by riots as Megawati loyalists and rioters clashed with police and troops and set fire to highway toll booths, cars and buildings, leaving at least two dead in the capital.

With Megawati's win, Indonesia underwent its first democratic elections for its top state posts 17 months after the downfall of strongman Suharto, who had brought down Megawati's father in the mid-1960s. Suharto is now said to be in poor health.

But despite dizzying reforms in the past year, the president and vice president are, as in the Suharto years, still elected by the 700-member People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), prompting calls for direct elections.

The vice presidency has gained added importance amid worries for the health of President Wahid, 59, a nearly blind stroke victim who needs help walking and had to take dictation from an aide to recite his oath of office Wednesday.

The 1945 Indonesian constitution says: "Should the President die, cease from executing or be unable to execute his duties during his term of office, his office shall be taken by the Vice-President until the expiry of that term." The ruling pair have a week to select their cabinet.

Jakarta's main share index closed 5.5 percent higher Thursday in heavy trade even before the results were out, on expectations Megawati would win. The rupiah currency firmed to 6,950-7,050 to the dollar, from 7,500-7,600 the day before.

In Washington, the deputy head of the International Monetary FundStanley Fischer said he hoped to see a resumption in IMF credits to Indonesia "in a matter of weeks".

IMF disbursements to Indonesia were suspended over events in East Timor, which has voted to severe ties with Indonesia, and a banking scandal.

In an acceptance speech liberally sprinkled with thanks and praise for former rivals, Megawati said: "Our nation and people are now in a situation which they had longed for, where ethics and morals will prevail in the life of the nation and state."

Megawati paid homage to the armed forces and personally thanked its leader General Wiranto, who she said "paved the way for me to become vice president" after stepping out of the race for the post.

Megawati's chances suddenly brightened after her toughest rivals -- Wiranto and the former ruling Golkar party chairman Akbar Tanjung -- withdrew in quick succession before voting began.

Megawati then defeated the other remaining candidate, Hamzah Haz, chairman of the Islam-based United Development Party (PPP). The tally was 396 votes for Megawati, 284 for Haz and five abstentions out of 685 votes cast.

There were fears of more unrest if Megawati, whose party won the most votes in the June polls for the lower house, was denied the vice presidency by the bigger MPR, which includes government appointees. She lost the presidential election by 60 votes.

Wearing a lilac traditional two-piece batik gown called a kebaya, with a matching shawl draped over her left shoulder and her hair tied back in a bun, the bespectacled mother of three read her oath in the native Bahasa Indonesia in 63 seconds.

Outside the somber hall and across the capital Jakarta, Megawati supporters cheered as her victory became evident in television and radio broadcasts.

Dozens of supporters of Megawati's Indonesian Democracy Party -- Struggle (PDIP) drove in cars and motorcycles around the famous Hotel Indonesia roundabout, a favorite spot for demonstrators, waving party banners and flags.

Police applauded passing demonstrators who yelled "Long live Mega". When a female demonstrator gave them PDIP mini flags, police took and waved them as well.

Megawati's position may snarl Wahid's work

Wall Street Journal - October 21, 1999

Raphael Pura, Jakarta -- Megawati Sukarnoputri's election as Indonesian vice president is likely to defuse an angry backlash against her defeat in Wednesday's presidential vote. But it could also make President Abdurrahman Wahid's new government more unwieldy.

After an intensive lobbying effort by Mr. Wahid to persuade Ms. Megawati to run for the No. 2 job, Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly on Thursday elected her vice president by a vote of 396 to 284 over Hamzah Haz, the head of the Muslim-backed United Development Party, or PPP.

Ms. Megawati's victory significantly broadened the base of Mr. Wahid fledgling government, balancing its core support from Islamic parties with Ms. Megawati's more secular Indonesian Democratic Party, or PDI-P, which commands the allegiance of nationalists, liberal Muslims and religious minorities. Mr. Wahid's new coalition will likely feature cabinet representatives from all of Indonesia's major political parties as well as the armed forces.

"It's a very good composition between Gus Dur [Mr. Wahid's widely used nickname] and Megawati," said Ekki Syahrudin, a Golongan Karya, or Golkar, party official. "Gus Dur is representing the majority of the Muslims, while Megawati is representing the nationalists and the non-Muslims."

Forging that grand alliance was a bold gamble for Mr. Wahid on his very first day in office. The independent-minded Islamic leader quickly opted to mend fences with Ms. Megawati after unexpectedly trouncing her in Wednesday's presidential poll with the help of a seven-party Muslim coalition, outgoing President B.J. Habibie's Golkar party and the armed forces delegation to the assembly. Mr. Wahid's move risked alienating the voters that put him in power. Indeed, a substantial number of Mr. Wahid's Islamic and Golkar allies voted for Mr. Hamzah and against Ms. Megawati, defying the new president's wishes.

Calculated Maneuver

But Mr. Wahid's gambit was calculated to pre-empt wider political unrest in Indonesia prompted by the popular Ms. Megawati's loss in the presidential ballot. And it appeared to work, at least in Jakarta.

"With Megawati's election, the situation should be calmer and healthier," said assembly speaker Amien Rais, who supported Mr. Wahid for the presidency.

Even before the 52-year-old Ms. Megawati was officially elected, news of that likely outcome sent the Jakarta Stock Exchange's composite index rocketing 5.5%. The Indonesian currency also responded, strengthening to 7000 rupiah to the US dollar from 7400 rupiah on Wednesday.

The financial markets reflected a distinct easing in tension in Jakarta after a wild day of violent demonstrations by more than 50,000 pro-Megawati protesters following her defeat in the presidential poll Wednesday. More than 20 people were injured in clashes with riot police and army troops. On Thursday, the protests abruptly ended, with thousands of visiting PDI-P cadres leaving Jakarta for their homes in outlying provinces.

Elsewhere, however, Megawati supporters were involved in violent protests in Bali and in the city of Medan, in northern Sumatra.

Ms. Megawati -- who appeared distraught and tearful following her presidential defeat Wednesday -- accepted her new post in a poised and conciliatory address to the People's Consultative Assembly on Thursday night. In the speech, Ms. Megawati pointedly paid respect to her erstwhile political rivals, including former president Mr.

Habibie, as well as to Mr. Wahid, whom she called "my close friend." She called for ethnic and religious tolerance among Indonesia's diverse population of 210 million and said she would work "to end a crisis of confidence, which is the key to overcoming Indonesia's economic and political problems."

Ms. Megawati also appealed to her PDI-P followers not to "go to the street" or "do anything emotional" to protest her loss in the presidential vote. Assembly members responded to the nationally televised address with a standing ovation.

While the Wahid-Megawati leadership combination may soften Indonesia's immediate political strains, it is likely to complicate Mr.

Managing the country's daily affairs

When Mr. Wahid forms his cabinet within the next few days, he will face demands for posts from an array of political parties that supported his presidential bid, plus Ms. Megawati's PDI-P.

PDI-P's chairman, Dimyati Hartono, said that "by having the position as vice president, we have the opportunity to participate in the formation of the cabinet later."

That makes it likely that the cabinet will comprise a mix of politicians from various parties, civil servants and apolitical administrative technocrats. Formulating and carrying out policy with such a disparate group could be a daunting task without forceful direction.

Fragile health

But neither Mr. Wahid nor Ms. Megawati is known for management skills or detailed long-term vision. The 59-year-old Mr. Wahid carries the extra burden of ill health. He has suffered at least two strokes in recent years and is nearly blind. Unable to walk any distance unaided or to read from a prepared text, Mr. Wahid is in constant need of physical assistance. Although he heads Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, the 35-million-member Nahdlathul Ulama, he isn't a hands-on administrator. Rather, Mr. Wahid has made his name as an articulate advocate of religious and ethnic tolerance and as a spiritual leader to his Muslim followers.

The taciturn Ms. Megawati, who often appears uncomfortable at large public events, has been similarly uninvolved in the day-to-day running of the PDI-P. Instead, she derives her political power from her charismatic, populist father, former President Sukarno. That hereditary link has allowed the aristocratic Ms. Megawati to become the symbolic champion of Indonesia's small farmers and blue-collar urban workers. Ms. Megawati's relative political passivity and her apparent distaste for detailed strategic planning have been cited by critics as major reasons Ms. Megawati lost her presidential bid.

Whatever his other shortcomings, however, Mr. Wahid can be a savvy political tactician, as he illustrated in orchestrating his reconciliation with Ms. Megawati prior to the vice presidential vote. While pro-Megawati demonstrators roamed Jakarta's streets Wednesday night, newly elected Mr. Wahid began an effort to co- opt Ms. Megawati into his new government by persuading her to run for vice president. Ms. Megawati, unwilling to face the possible humiliation of another defeat after her presidential loss, initially refused to consider the No.2 post. On Thursday morning, she relented and agreed to try for the post on one condition: that she face no competitors for the vice presidency. According several PDI-P assembly members, Mr. Wahid eventually convinced Ms. Megawati to run by "guaranteeing" that she would be victorious.

Dropping out of contest

To ensure Ms. Megawati's victory, two of the political groups that elected Mr. Wahid arranged for their own vice presidential nominees to drop out of the contest at the last minute. One was Golkar's Akbar Tandjung; the other, Armed Forces Commander Gen. Wiranto, who had been nominated by the military's delegation to the assembly. But Mr. Wahid and his allies failed to persuade the conservative Muslim PPP to drop Mr. Hamzah's candidacy despite intensive efforts to do so.

The result was a two-person vice presidential contest, which Ms. Megawati won despite opposition from PPP and other conservative Muslim assembly members who mistrust Ms. Megawati's close links to non-Muslims and who worried that Ms. Megawati might unexpectedly succeed to the presidency should the frail Mr. Wahid die in office or be incapacitated.

"What happens if in a month or so something happens to [Mr. Wahid's] health?" asked Yusril Ihza Mahendra, leader of the staunchly Islamic Crescent and Star Party.

Violence as Wahid becomes new president

Agence France Presse - October 21, 1999 (slightly abridged)

Jakarta -- Indonesian cities were hit by riots and protests Wednesday after the national assembly elected Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid as president, enraging followers of his popular rival Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Thousands of Megawati diehards in Jakarta clashed with troops and police, torching property and cars after the frail, half-blind Wahid, 59, became the country's fourth president and the first freely elected in the 54-year history of the nation.

Clashes were also reported in Solo in central Java as well as the world famous resort island of Bali, a Megawati stronghold.

Wahid replaced President B.J. Habibie, 63, the embattled successor of ousted strongman Suharto, 78, whose resignation in May 1998 ushered in a new era of democratic reform.

Wahid's solemn swearing-in late Wednesday capped a day of high political drama starting with Habibie's withdrawal from the race at the last minute and culminating in riots.

Habibie was humiliated by the assembly's rejection of his performance record in a narrow no-confidence vote on the eve of the election. His term in office was marred by crisis, including East Timor's move towards independence, a banking scandal and the government's dropping of a corruption probe into Suharto.

In a nail-biting two-way race, Wahid eventually won by 373-313 over Megawati, 53, a daughter of Indonesia's revered first president Sukarno.

"I am here to celebrate our victory and our democracy," said Wahid, who is known as a political moderate and leads the Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Islamic non-political organization which claims more than 30 million members nationwide. Megawati also appealed to her supporters to accept Wahid's victory "for the sake of of national unity".

But her loyalists were not to be restrained, reaching an estimated 20,000 in central Jakarta streets at one point. Anti- riot forces used teargas and water cannons to disperse rioters. Hospital staff said at least 50 people were injured in the capital, five of them from a car explosion near the assembly.

Jakarta share prices shed most of a 7.9-percent midday gain in disappointment at market darling Megawati's loss. The rupiah also lost early gains -- made right after Habibie stepped aside -- to end trading flat at 7,500-7,600 per dollar.

Rampaging Megawati supporters burned the district office, the house of the district head and several other buildings in Singaraja on the tourist island of Bali, the top Jakarta daily newspaper Kompas said in its online news service.

The mob also burned tyres and vandalized postal boxes, public telephones and traffic signs. Megawati is part Balinese and Bali has long been known as "Mega-country".

In the city of Medan on Sumatra island mobs proclaiming support for Megawati burned tyres on major streets.

Discontent over the presidential elections also erupted in the South Sulawesi city of Makassar -- this time involving backers of Habibie, who is from the area.

The reaction constrasted with optimism around the world. US President Bill Clinton said the vote "should give us all hope that a very great country that the world needs very much is on the way back".

European Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten said it brought Indonesia "a little closer towards democracy". Australian Prime Minister John Howard described Wahid as a reformer and welcomed the chance to "open a new chapter" in relations with Jakarta.

There was still speculation late Wednesday about who would be elected as Wahid's vice president -- an all-important post given the concerns over his health, after a stroke last year left him blind in one eye. He is unable to move around without assistance and had to be helped to cast his vote on Wednesday. The vice president is to be elected Thursday.

In a further twist, powerful army chief General Wiranto was said to be willing to accept the vice presidency. Wiranto earlier rejected an offer to be Habibie's running mate in the elections, dealing a sharp blow to Habibie's hopes of serving another term. The army holds 38 seats in the assembly and is seen as key to the country's stability.

Boos, jeers and cheers as votes cast

South China Morning Post - October 21, 1999

Joanna Jolly, Jakarta -- The mood was excited and boisterous inside the assembly hall as legislators were called forward to cast their votes.

Close allies of Bacharuddin Habibie were booed, with former president Suharto's half-brother Probosutedjo receiving the most catcalls. The loudest jeers were for the few who abstained. People called "Pulang, Pulang", meaning "Go home" from the back of the balcony.

When Megawati Sukarnoputri and Abdurrahman Wahid walked in, there was cheering from the 300 or so students, observers and journalists on the balcony.

Mr Wahid was supported by his daughter, Yenni, as he walked the few metres towards a polling booth.

When Ms Megawati returned from voting, she stopped at Mr Wahid's seat, put her hand on his shoulder and spoke to him. She remained smiling throughout as she took her place nine rows from the front.

As the counting began, those on the balcony yelled a resounding "Yes!" each time her name was called. But, as more votes came in for Mr Wahid, the same voices shifted, so that by the time his lead was clear, it was as if the crowd had become fervent Muslim activists.

The man marking up votes on a white board had to wipe the sweat from his brow continuously as the tension in the hall increased. MPR chairman Amien Rais had to bang his gavel for order several times.

For much of the count, Ms Megawati maintained a lead of about 20 votes. But as she was overtaken, supporters and cameramen surged toward Mr Wahid, who was protected by a line of batik-shirted security men.

As it became clear Mr Wahid was close to victory, supporters sang Sholawat Badar, a Muslim anthem, while Ms Megawati's supporters lit kretek (clove) cigarettes and left quietly through the back door.

As soon as her defeat was clear, troops moved towards the parliament building, forming ranks along the main highways and closing the road to the airport. The mood was initially good- humoured, but by 4pm, thousands of Megawati supporters were on the streets.

"Megawati should be president, she won the election. If Mega is not president, PDI-P [Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle] supporters are ready to risk their lives," said one of her security men, Christ W. Tomasoa, from the eastern island of Ambon. "We are ready to die for Mega." Minutes later a car bomb exploded outside parliament.

Teargas fired at Megawati supporters

Agence France Presse - October 20, 1999

Jakarta -- Anti-riot troops fired tear gas Wednesday at thousands of angry supporters of Megawati Sukarnoputri who were marching on parliament after she lost the presidential election,

An AFP reporter said the teargas was fired as the mob tried to break through a cordon blocking off the People's Consultative Assembly complex which only hours elected Megawati's rival, moderate Muslim intellectual Abdurrahman Wahid.

An AFP photographer earlier reported the crowds were burning tyres and tree branches and anything they could find along the route, and throwing stones at security forces. At around 4pm a loud explosion was heard but the origin of the blast was not clear.

Only hours earlier the Megawato supporters had paraded gleefully through the center of the city thinking that Megawati had won the presidency from her lone rival Muslim moderate academic Abdurraman Wahid.

But she lost the vote in the People's Consultative Assembly 373 to 313. After Wahid's victory had been announced Megwati issued an appeal to her followers not to vent their anger. "For the sake of national unity, I call on all Indonesians to accept this condition [result]," Megawati said in a brief televised speech.

Megawati loses presidential election

Sydney Morning Herald - October 20, 1999

Megawati Sukarnoputri has lost the Indonesian presidential ballot to Abdurrahman Wahid, a revered and moderate Islam leader. The Indonesian Assembly backed Wahid over Sukarnoputri, the popular daughter of Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno.

Her party was the biggest winner in the June 7 parliamentary elections, but it failed to gain a majority and Megawati was unable to shepherd enough support in the Assembly, comprised of new parliamentarians and government and military appointees.

Almost blind and wracked with health problems, Abdurrahman Wahid is a revered and moderate Islamic leader who has proven to be one of Indonesia's greatest political survivors.

Through shrewd political manoeuvring today, he was voted in as Indonesia's fourth president, heralding a new era of democracy and increasing religion's influence after years of secular, military-backed authoritarianism.

Commonly known by his nickname, Gus Dur, he heads the 30-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama, which claims to be the world's largest Islamic organisation.

Islam is a potent force in Indonesia. About 90 percent of its 210 million people are Muslim, making it the world's largest Islamic nation.

Wahid, 59, has used his influence as an intellectual and a religious leader to promote sectarian and social tolerance across the sprawling archipelago.

"He presents the sweet face of Islam," said Salim said, a Jakarta political analyst. He is the founder of the National Awakening Party, which ran third in historic parliamentary elections last year. As such, he has been one of the few leaders whose support has been sought by most other political players in the presidential race. Described by supporters as a bridge-builder and kingmaker, some critics accuse him of flip-flopping on policy and allegiances. "He is very unpredictable," said Salim Said, a Jakarta political analyst.

Under the former regime of authoritarian President Suharto, Wahid pushed progressive ideas that won him international respect, including his strong advocacy for cooperation among religious faiths.

He triggered controversy when he visited Israel several years ago and called for greater dialogue among Islamic countries and the Jewish state.

Wahid also has consistently defended Indonesia's Chinese minority -- who predominantly are Christians -- against attacks by some hardline Muslim groups during times of civil unrest.

Since Suharto's resignation in 1998, Wahid has played a major role in the movement for democratic reform. At first he threw his support behind opposition frontrunner Megawati Sukarnoputri.

However, relations between the two soured a few weeks ago, apparently after she failed to promise concessions to his Muslim interests if she became president.

Throughout, he maintained dialogue with President BJ Habibie and the politically powerful military. He then announced his candidacy and quickly emerged as a strong contender, saying he needed to run to help foster democracy.

When Habibie withdrew from the presidential race early today, Wahid cobbled a formidable alliance among several parties and beat out Megawati, who failed to make deals among rival legislators.

Opponents have questioned his suitability. Some say he should remain outside of politics and would be more useful to the nation as a moral adviser.

Others point to the fact that he has suffered two strokes in recent years and, despite extensive eye surgery in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States this year, remains almost blind.

Megawati supporters lead rallies on Java

Jakarta Post - October 18, 1999

Jakarta -- Thousands of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) supporters staged simultaneous protests in major cities on Java on Sunday, encouraging Megawati Soekarnoputri to continue her struggle for presidency.

About 25,000 party supporters thronged the main streets in the Central Java town of Surakarta on Sunday, expressing support for Megawati's presidential bid.

"We want her [Megawati] to know that we are behind Ibu Megawati every step of the way," Willy Tandio, coordinator of the protesters, said.

A counterprotest was staged by some 1,000 activists from 17 Muslim groups in Jakarta, urging the city police to take stern measures against "certain groups" mobilizing people to forward their political interests by staging street justice and violent action.

"Security personnel must take stern measures in accordance with the law," Habib Hussein Umar, an executive of the Collective Forum of Islamic Mass Organizations, told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a rally at the city police headquarters on Sunday.

The Peaceful Action for Megawati demonstration started at 9am when the demonstrators marched down the city's main street of Jl. Slamet Riyadi, waving red and black banners and posters. They also staged orations.

The peak of action occurred at 11am when the demonstrators blew their vehicle horns and let go of 11,000 red helium-filled balloons, marking their wish for Megawati to become the country's fourth president.

PDI Perjuangan won first place in the June 7 election with 33.74 percent of the vote and secured 154 legislative seats in the House of Representatives (DPR).

Some people have expressed doubt that Megawati could secure the country's number-one position as she has to compete with two strong contenders, namely her long-time ally Abdurrahman Wahid, also known as Gus Dur, the chairman of the country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, and incumbent President B.J. Habibie. "But we believe that she can make it. And she has to," Willy said.

Continuing support for Megawati was displayed by some 1,500 supporters in a rally at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta on Sunday. The supporters, mostly from the People's Front of Devoted Supporters of Megawati (BRPSM), said their street rally was meant to pressure the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) legislators to elect a president which represents the people's aspirations. "We go down the streets to press MPR legislators to choose the people's most wanted president, namely Megawati," Irwan Setiawan, the rally coordinator, said.

Members of the 700-strong MPR will assemble in a plenary meeting next Wednesday to elect the country's new president and to endorse the State Policy Guidelines (GBHN).

The supporters, who arrived at the traffic circle at about 3pm in some 50 minibuses, were mostly from Kemayoran in Central Jakarta. Red dominated the crowd as most protesters wore red clothing decorated with Megawati photos and party symbols.

They walked around the traffic circle, unfurling banners and posters, while supporting Megawati as the next president. "Revolution until we die!" they shouted. "Long live Mega!" they repeatedly yelled.

Similarly, some 2,000 supporters of PDI Perjuangan and the National Awakening Party (PKB) held a joint prayer to support Megawati's presidential bid at Kridosono stadium in Yogyakarta on Sunday.

Support for Megawati also came from the alumni of the Indonesian Nationalist Students Movement (GMNI) in Semarang, Central Java.

Also in Semarang, activists of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Muslim Organization's youth wing, Ansor, expressed their support for NU chairman Abdurrahman Wahid's presidential bid. The group pledged to deploy 750,000 Banser (task force members), to secure the presidential election.

"We need Gus Dur to lead and unite this country. He is acceptable by almost all the elements of society in this nation," Niam Salim, chairman of Ansor's Central Java chapter, said.

Hussein Umar of the Collective Forum of Islamic Mass Organizations called on all political groups to exercise constitutional measures in pursuing political interests, including the upcoming presidential election.

"Let our representatives in the MPR elect the president," he said, adding that the bid would be an example of law enforcement.

The forum is an umbrella for 17 Islamic's Mass Organizations, including the Cooperation Board of Islamic Schools of Indonesia, National Forum for Islamic Preachers, Betawi Community, Forum for Islamic Community Unity and Islamic Youth Movement.

The activists arrived at the city police headquarters on Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta after staging a mass gathering at Al Azhar Mosque in South Jakarta.

The activists, mostly wearing Islamic clothing, chanted "Allah the Great!" and sang Shalawat (prayers adoring God the Almighty) on the way to the headquarters. Dozens of mothers and children also joined the rally.

City police chief Maj. Gen. Noegroho Djajoesman welcomed the Muslim activists' measure. "We cannot guarantee the safety of Jakartans, except ... there are no bad intentions among us ... there are no certain parties forcing their interests ...," he told the protesters.

Noegroho said the police would issue a decree that will ban mass protests at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle. "The traffic circle is the capital's main thoroughfare. We are also worried of possible clashes between different groups of protesters," he said, adding that the decree would be effective from Monday.

A plea for a peaceful situation was also aired by some 2,000 supporters of the Justice Party (PK) in Yogyakarta, who called for all people to restrain themselves and avoid conflict.

Separately, city police spokesman Lt.Col. Zainuri Lubis said on Sunday that noted soothsayer Ki Gendeng Pamungkas, was declared a suspect in last week's street protest.

"He was arrested on charges of distributing leaflets to provoke people during the two-day clash last week," he said on the sidelines of the Collective Forum rally.

Ki Gendeng was arrested on Friday together with Wisnu Sakti Buana, the son of PDI Perjuangan East Java chapter chairman Sutjipto. Seventy-nine people were arrested during the two-day clash, including Gendeng and 33 PDI Perjuangan members from East Java.
Aceh/West Papua

Protest calls for referendum in Aceh

Reuters - October 23, 1999

Lhokseumawe -- Several thousand people in Indonesia's restive province of Aceh on Saturday staged a protest demanding President Abdurrahman Wahid allow a referendum on its future status, police said.

The protest took place in East Aceh district, one of the areas where support for the separatist Free Aceh rebels is strongest. Police said the protest was generally peaceful.

Prior to his election Wahid visited Aceh and appeared with another top politician, Amien Rais, at a meeting in the provincial capital Banda Aceh at which calls for a referendum were made.

Both men have said a speedy resolution of the crisis in Aceh, the northern tip of Sumatra, should be a top government priority. Around 2,000 are estimated to have died in Aceh in a nine-year operation to crush the rebels.

Although that operation officially ended last year, clashes have continued, claiming well over 200 lives in the province this year.

East Timor's vote for independence on August 30 and impending UN-supervised independence have prompted increasing calls for a similar referendum in Aceh, one of Indonesia's most mineral-rich

Riots erupt in Irian Jaya over ship sinking

Agence France Presse - October 22, 1999

Jakarta -- Some 3,000 residents in the remote Indonesian province of Irian Jaya went on the rampage Friday, demanding the recovery of the bodies of some 300 victims of a boat tragedy, police said.

The protestors looted shops and attacked government offices, including the local parliament building, in the town of Merauke after marching through the streets, an officer at the Merauke district police said.

The demonstration became politically charged when the crowd shouted demands for an independent West Papuan state, and rejected Jakarta's plans to divide the region into three provinces, the officer told AFP.

"They have to find a reason to riot, and the boat accident is the one," the policeman told AFP. He said the windows of the parliament building were smashed, but there were no reports of casualties.

Previous protests over the ship tragedy in the past two days had been relatively peaceful, he said, but added that shops and businesses had closed because of the unrest since Wednesday.

Nearly 300 passengers on the boat were believed drowned after a 72-hour search failed to find survivors of the sinking Monday off the coast near the mouth of the Meraukje River.

Only 26 people were rescued. Separatist calls have been on the rise in Irian Jaya since the iron-fisted rule of former Indonesian president Suharto ended in May last year after a series of bloody street protests.

The Free Papua Movement has been fighting for an independent Melanesian state, West Papua, since the former Dutch colony of West New Guinea became an Indonesian province in 1963. The United Nations recognized Jakarta's sovereignty over Irian Jaya in 1969.
Labour struggle

In hard times, women eat last - or not at all

Inter Press Service - October 22, 1999

Prangtip Daorueng, Seoul, Oct 22 (IPS) -- Unable to cope with soaring food costs, many women workers in Indonesia are giving up work to breast feed their babies, cutting back on their own meals -- or skipping altogether.

"The prices of milk powder are now higher than our wages," 30- year-old Tonilah, president of a regional trade union in Surabaya, in eastern Java, told a meeting of women labour leaders from Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea here last month.

"There are mothers who replace milk powder with boiled rice soup added with sugar. But many others have decided to leave their jobs in order to feed their babies properly," added Tonilah, who uses only one name.

Tasked with seeing that the family eats, many mothers would rather forego their own health and nutrition in order to see their children eating as well as possible, under the crisis that continues to take a toll on the Indonesian economy.

Though Indonesia's growth figures have improved -- the economy is expected to post zero growth this year, compared to a 13 percent contraction in 1998 -- the social effects of the slowdown have far from eased.

And if women workers were among the first casualties of lay-offs and cutbacks after the economic crisis in late 1997, they are also bearing the brunt of the food problems that have resulted from it.

According to Ayuni from Humanika Working Group, an NGO working on labour issues based in Surabaya, a recent survey among Indonesian women workers clearly indicates that the malnutrition rate has sharply increased among the group due to recent changes in their food consumption patterns.

"It comes from a combination of several problems that women workers in Indonesia are facing," Ayuni pointed out. "The crisis has raised consumer prices, while wages remain the same. Women are also the first target for mass lay-offs and wage discrimination."

Tonilah, a worker in a shoes factory confirms this. In an interview here, she says that in order to keep going most of her co-employees, mainly women, have decided to eat less.

"Many of them skip breakfast. As for lunch, there are choices between instant noodles and rice with vegetable or tofu, and the typical dinner is either noodles or plain rice," she explained.

In the last two years, Indonesia's gains in poverty reduction have been undermined. Poverty incidence is climbing in this country of 220 million, among them 80 million worlers.

According to the 1999 Economic and Social Survey for Asia and the Pacific done by United Nations Economic and social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the percentage of Indonesians in poverty has risen from 11 percent pre-crisis to 40 percent today. The unemployment rate in Indonesia has increased from 4.7 percent to 21 percent, it says.

In Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, almost 50 percent of the total 450 factories have had worker strikes as workers find incomes inadequate for daily living.

"Daily wage here is enough only for three kilogrammes of rice. It isn't enough for the cost of living," said 25-year-old former factory worker Erika Rosmawaty Situmorang, who now works with an NGO in Medan.

Surabaya's minimum monthly wage is 182,500 rupiah (22.28 US dollars) while workers in Jakarta receive 232,000 rupiah (29 dollars) and those in Medan get 210,000 (26.25 dollars). Tonilah says to try to make ends meet, each worker has to spend not more than 2,500 rupiah (31 cents) on one meal.

Likewise, some workers, unable to provide for their children, have sent them back to their grandparents or other elder relatives in the villages.

After the fall in the rupiah' value during the crisis, "it is like working without pay because the salary worth nothing," added Choirul Mahpuduah, another former factory worker now with Humanika. "Many women workers try to do additional jobs such as selling food in the factory in order to survive."

Factory lay-offs have also driven unemployed workers, majority of them women, back to their hometowns. "The first target for mass lay-offs both in Jakarta and elsewhere are women," said Tati, a young factory worker who is also working with Jabotabek Trade Union in Jakarta.

According to her, a number of unskilled women workers in garment, shoes or food processing factories found themselves dismissed, replaced by younger workers hired on short-term contract system.

This way, "companies can cut costs on welfare and salary raises. It is not difficult for them to do so because there are plenty of unskilled women workers here," Tati said.

Although both men and women workers suffer from the effects of the economic downturn, the discrimination that women often find themselves subjected to makes the situation worse for them.

Erika cites the case of a doll-making factory in Medan, 90 percent of whose 2,500 workers are women. The factory has a policy of not allowing women workers to marry before they have worked for two years at the plant.

"There also are cases of wage discrimination and sexual harassment against women workers in Medan," she said. "And another difficulty is that [our] culture says women shouldn't go out and protest."

Choirul, dismissed from a plastic factory in Surabaya in 1993 because of her role in demonstrations for workers' welfare and in protesting the factory's process of menstruation leave check, says Indonesia's unstable political situation has stopped the progress of a system that could help workers.

The government policy on social insurance for workers, for example, is not being practiced properly because there is no efficient check on it.

"When the crisis started many workers dared not to speak out against the ill treatment they received from employers because they were afraid to be out of jobs," recalled Choirul. "Things are getting worse because of political situation. If it is still like this, workers will face more difficulties."

Choirul has sued the owners of the factory where she worked, demanding reinstatement, and won. As the employers appealed again, her case is now in the Supreme Court. Meantime, she is studying to become a lawyer in a private university.

"There are a lot to be done to protect workers rights and prevent women workers from being exploited," she pointed out. "For example, we need a labour court system instead of civil court to deal with labour issue. But if the political situation is still like this, the situation will only be worse."

Reebok reports bad conditions at factories

Agence France Presse - October 18, 1999

New York -- US athletic apparel company Reebok on Monday released a report showing lax health and security conditions at two Indonesian factories producing its brand of athletic shoes.

The report, conducted between August 1998 and May 1999 at PT Done Joe Indonesia (DJI) and PT Tong Yang Indonesia (TYI) by a group of Indonesian consultants, showed that the factories emitted toxins and overexposed workers to noise, dust and ultra-violet radiation.

The factories took inadequate safety precautions and workers lacked sufficient knowledge about the risks of working with chemicals, according to the study.

Some 10,000 workers produce Reebok sneakers at the two factories. "Chemical mixing areas may not be safely ventilated, as workers reported rashes and headaches," the report said.

According to the report, other workers were "overexposed to solvent fumes, a matter requiring immediate ventilation improvements." Workers who complained about red tainted skin bought gloves for themselves to protect their arms, the report said.

Among 69 seated workers questioned for the report, a majority complained of muscle fatigue and back pain when questioned. The chairs they work from had no backs.

Since the findings were discovered, the two factories have installed more ergonomic chairs, including back-massaging chairs at one factory, and plan to order special gloves, masks and eye protection equipment as well. Reebok is also examining ways to improve the systems of ventilation in these two factories.

By releasing the report to the public, Reebok headed off the growing cacophony of human rights organizations which have criticized other US manufacturers for forcing low-wage workers in developing countries to work under uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous conditions.

"The knowledge we have gained from Peduli Hak (the report) will improve conditions for all the footwear factories we use," said Doug Cahn, vice president for Reebok's human rights programs. Peduli Hak means "caring for rights" in Indonesian. "By sharing the report broadly, we hope it can have a positive impact for the entire athletic footwear manufacturing industry."
Human rights/law

Frustrated troops storm Jakarta hospital

Jakarta Post - October 22, 1999

Jakarta -- The quiet surroundings of Jakarta Hospital on Jl. Sudirman suddenly turned into a war zone on Wednesday midnight when some 50 frustrated military officers ran amok searching for suspected militant students hiding on the premises.

The armed security personnel broke into the hospital's four-story administration building, broke the windows and doors and fired several gas canisters at the basement, leaving stunned patients, night-shift nursers, doctors and other staff of the hospital in terror.

The eight-story patients' building at the back which is also connected to the administration office was left untouched. The troops were finally able to drag away some 20 students from the hospital compound.

After their departure, the four rooms -- respectively used for the kitchen, administration, central sterilization for surgical equipment and a laundry -- were heavily damaged.

Part of the partition and ceiling in the administration room were torn down. Broken glass, doors and tables were strewn across the floor.

Computers were ripped apart and thrown to the floor. Blood stains were seen on parts of the floor. A number of machines for sterilizing surgical equipment were damaged along with an ambulance.

The hospital management on Thursday estimated the total loss caused by the brutal security personnel at Rp 3 billion (US$ 422,500).

Three witnesses, a nurse, a staffer and a street boy revealed the nightmare which happened in front of their eyes to reporters on Thursday.

"I saw the soldiers circling the hospital ... I was so scared that they might shoot at the main entrance and endanger lives," senior nurse Dora who was in charge that night recalled.

Knowing that the troops had ruined the basement area of the hospital's administration office, Dora then ordered the other nurses to stay still on their respective wards and floors. "I then ordered the security guards to seal off every emergency exit stairs by placing tables and sofas in front of them to prevent the troops from moving further," she added.

With a flashlight in her hands, Dora also ordered students who were as usual seeking refuge at the hospital to stay down on the floor and remain quiet.

Another witness Apip Ridwan, head of the secretarial division, said that he stayed in the basement to prevent the troops, the students and several other people who were hiding in the area from further wrecking hospital assets, especially a roomful of gas containers.

"When the hospital security guards and I were trying to push the people out of the hospital, the troops suddenly broke into the basement and shot at least eight tear gas canisters," Apip said.

"I saw the troops beating some of the people and dragging them out of the basement," he added. The troops, he said, were wearing gas masks.

Arpan, a 14-year-old street child from Ciputat suffered a swollen face because the troops hit him with sticks. "I was sleeping in the basement when the troops came and caught me. They beat me up and left me on the floor," he claimed.

When asked to comment, Jakarta Police chief Maj. Gen. Noegroho Djajoesman told reporters separately that neither the police nor the military could be condemned for the attack.

"That hospital protects people who have been destructive, and it takes care of them. Why blame our police or the Army for what they did," Noegroho said.

"Anyway, for whatever damage was caused, I apologize. I still think that the hospital should not shelter people who are destructive," the officer said. According to chairman of the Jakarta Hospital Foundation, Royono Murad, the hospital -- due to damage caused during the brutal attack -- might not be able to carry out any medical surgery for two and a half months at least. "... and we cannot except inpatients", Rayono said. However, he decided not to file a law suit against the military. In response to Noegroho's remarks, Royono said: "We were not hiding anyone here. They were people asking for help and hospitals do have a social function. We cannot send people away,"

The raid at the hospital, which has been giving first aid to injured protesters during clashes with troops during the past few months, immediately sparked anger from different parties.

"The move was against international humanitarian law," cried chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) Bambang Widjoyanto.

"Even in the circumstance of war, the law rules some areas must be protected by both warring parties among others hospitals," he told a press conference.

Andi Panca, a radio journalist, was also attacked during the midnight raid by the military. "They fired tear gas shots at the room while hitting some journalists and those students with stick batons," he said.

Bambang said the Indonesia Military (TNI) Commander Gen. Wiranto and the National Police chief Gen Roesmanhadi, should be held responsible for the attack.
News & issues

Sectarian violence kills five in Maluku

Agence France Presse - October 22, 1999

Jakarta -- Five people have been killed and five injured in two days of fresh Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia's Maluku islands, a report said Friday.

Most victims in the clashes on Saparua island in the central Malukus on Wednesday and Thursday suffered gunshot wounds, the Republika daily quoted local residents as saying. It was not clear who fired the shots.

Maluku police chief Colonel Bugis Saman said security forces had moved to contain the violence, Republika said.

Maluku province, known as the spice islands, has been rocked by bloody sectarian clashes since the beginning of the year.

The violence first broke out in Ambon, the capital of the province, and later spread to other islands in Maluku. Tens of thousands of people have fled to other provinces.

More than 200 people have been killed and more than 600 injured since the violence resurfaced in late July after a few months' lull.

The first wave of Muslim-Christian violence in the islands between January and March left about 350 people dead.

Independence rally in Sulawesi

Agence France Presse - October 22, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta -- Thousands of students rallied in Makassar, the capital of Indonesia's South Sulawesi province, on Friday to demand an independent state of Sulawesi, police and television reports said.

The protest was the first outbreak of separatist unrest in the country since Indonesia's new President Abdurrahman Wahid took office two days ago and came less than two months after the territory of East Timor voted for independence.

The 15,000 protesters, many waving green flags bearing a map of Sulawesi island, gathered at the Mandala Monument square in Makassar, a correspondent for the private SCTV televison said in a telephone report aired in Jakarta.

"We are against anarchy because we're not Megawati supporters," read one of their banners, refering to Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who was sworn into office Thursday night. "God willing, soon the Eastern Indonesian State will be declared."

After saying Friday prayers, the protestors headed for the local station of the Radio Republic Indonesia to have their demand for independence broadcast, but were refused entry, a policeman reached by telephone told AFP.

But the state Antara news agency said they broke through the security cordon and took turns broadcasting their demands. Another group of students also tried to get inside the state television TVRI but were prevented by the security forces.

The protest was triggered in part by the failure of former president B.J. Habibie, a native of South Sulawesi, to win a second term after being forced to bow out of the race by an effective vote of no confidence from parliament.

"Apparently those people are angry because Mr. Habibie was not elected president," said Albar, a Makassar policeman. Security forces were present but made no effort to disperse the crowd.

The SCTV reporter said columns of smoke hung over the city from tires burned on Thursday when news of the elections reached the city. No footage of the incident was aired in Jakarta.

In the capital, a dealer at a local brokerage said the Sulewesi rally helped weaken market sentiment after an early surge in reaction to the formation of a new government.

He said the demand for independence for Sulawesi could become a first test for the new government on how to deal with similar demands from several restive provinces in the country such as Aceh.

Passport to secret trip of shame

The Australian - October 16, 1999

Did ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service) supply the bullets that killed the Balibo five? Brian Woodley investigates.

Leafing through the old man's passport with the Indonesian visas and clangingly pertinent dates, it dawned on Matthew Coffey that he was at last looking at evidence supporting his father's tales of clandestine involvement in Timor.

Particularly the yarn about taking 30,000 rounds of ammunition to Kupang six days before the October 16, 1975, raid on Balibo, where five Australian-based journalists were gunned down by Indonesian forces from West Timor.

So last month, Mr Coffey, 37, took his father's passport to a committee room in the Northern Territory Parliament, where a federal forum on East Timor policy was being overwhelmed by events outside.

The fiery destruction of East Timor left reporters no time to check what was going on in the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee. Mr Coffey waited two days to get himself squeezed in and then had just seven minutes to tell his story.

"My father, Lawrence Henry Coffey, was a sergeant in the Australian Army in the Engineers Corps," a Hansard proof records the Darwin building estimator saying.

"He retired and then worked in the marine industry here on the coast of the Northern Territory. From 1945, when he was released from the Defence Force, right up until his passing away two years ago, he had extensive knowledge of, and travel in, the whole Asian area.

"One of his voyages -- I have his passport here -- was on a vessel he built in Ballina in NSW, a landing barge called the MV Glenda Lee.

"On October 10, 1975, it arrived in Kupang. That vessel was loaded here in Darwin with 30,000 rounds of Australian ammunition by ASIS [Australian Secret Intelligence Service] officers."

Senators didn't have the time to question Mr Coffey. That is not to say they took no interest in his story. The chairman, Labor's John Hogg, told The Weekend Australian it was not in his terms of reference to pursue events of so long ago.

"But when we have the Department [of Defence] back we can seek a response. Obviously, if it's classified information they will not confirm or deny. That won't stop us seeking it."

Senator Hogg added that the Senate might be interested in making a fresh pursuit of the "Balibo Five" issue, including Mr Coffey's story, through a separate term of reference.

Mr Coffey's childhood adventures on the Darwin wharves seemed to fit his father's stories 20 years later of spies, shootings and voyages to Timor. Yet who, until now, could say that Lawrence -- soldier, boatbuilder, engineer, sailor -- was not merely exerting an overactive imagination on an impressionable son?

The 175ft green and white Glenda Lee and its sister barge, Alana Faye, were named after the daughters of John Grice, owner of a haulage company called Barge Express, who died last year.

Four years ago, Barge Express became part of Perkins, the Territory's biggest shipping company. Glenda Lee, whose later years were on the coastal run serving Aboriginal communities, was renamed Hyland Bay and repainted a bright red.

Last month, shortly after Mr Coffey appeared before the Senate committee, Hyland Bay was chartered by AusAID to ferry the first load of humanitarian supplies to Dili.

Grice's daughter, Glenda, said her father was "a very private man, certainly to do with the business". She said the family had "found a lot of surprises after his death -- we're still delving into a lot of things", but nothing that had been found so far in her father's effects was relevant to any allegations of his doing clandestine work for security agencies.

Lawrence Coffey worked for Grice as chief engineer on coastal and overseas runs, usually on the Glenda Lee. According to what he told his son years later, Lawrence also did odd jobs for certain other parties.

Late in 1975, Matthew Coffey, back in Darwin from boarding school in NSW, began hearing gossip from his dad's crew about voyages across the Timor Sea over the previous year.

One made it into the Darwin newspaper after the ship rescued a man swept out to sea while escaping from Timor. This may have been the same trip for aid agencies in November 1975 to deliver rice to a hungry Dili, with a return cargo of coffee.

Lawrence Coffey's passport is silent about that trip -- there are no Customs and Immigration stamps. In the previous month, however, the passport identifies him and the Glenda Lee arriving in Kupang on October 10 and leaving on October 13.

From the fragmented accounts picked up by Matthew Coffey in the course of several conversations with his father, triggered by news reports flowing out of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, this was the most intriguing trip of all.

"They were told this cargo was on there -- 30,000 bullets stacked in the base of a container with a rudimentary false bottom. The container was at the rear of the cargo hold, with the doorway facing the port side," Matthew Coffey said .

"When they got to Kupang the container was left there. That hardly ever happened -- those containers were worth about $2000."

Mr Coffey said loading in Darwin was arranged by an "Aussie" in his mid-30s. Two officers from the federal police protective services unit were stationed on the wharf as the barge was loaded. The crew for the voyage to Kupang consisted of a skipper, mate, two deckhands and Lawrence Coffey, then aged 54, as engineer. Except for a few nicknames, Matthew Coffey has not been able to precisely identify the crew.

On October 10, they arrived in Kupang. Lawrence Coffey didn't know to whom the ammunition was delivered. "But it was obvious what was going on," his son said. "When the barge docked there were Brimob [Indonesian police] and ABRI [Indonesian military] all over the place."

Glenda Lee put out from Kupang on October 13. Indonesian military units with pro-integration Timorese auxiliaries crossed the border and swept through Balibo on October 16, killing the five journalists. On December 7, Indonesia launched its full-scale invasion of East Timor.

Flores 'new front line of conflict'

South China Morning Post - October 19, 1999

Vaudine England, Jakarta -- The eastern island of Flores is the new front line in the battle over East Timor and between civilians and Indonesia's military, after the arrival there of thousands of troops withdrawn from East Timor, say residents and Jakarta-based analysts.

"The number of Korem 164 troops in Flores has reached 7,500. Yes, we are on a war footing," said a source long familiar with Flores. A korem is a regional military command and 164 was in charge of East Timor. It included two battalions of mainly East Timorese troops, numbers 744 and 745, which are now thought to be in West Timor, with the rest in Flores and elsewhere.

Flores, a long narrow, rugged island with about 1.4 million people, is half-way between Bali and West Timor and is part of the same Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) province as West Timor.

An independent military source said that on August 30, the day of East Timor's independence ballot, there were 23,000 troops under Korem 164 in East Timor.

Asked if reports about the dramatic militarisation of once- peaceful Flores were true, the source said: "Yes, that's exactly what I'm hearing, and they [the military] have changed its name from Korem 164 to Korem 165."

Four of Flores' five districts have made official protests against the military presence, to no avail. Official briefings by Indonesia's military have not mentioned the Flores deployment.

"In fact, we are a DOM [Daerah Operasi Militer - special military operations area] but they won't admit it because of possible international repercussions," said another source. "There are Hercules [transport planes] coming in every day, the headquarters is in Maumere.

It's a real mess. "They have brought all their booty -- motorcycles, cars, videos, anything they could move out of East Timor," the source added.

In Flores, the new troops promptly set up shop to sell the looted goods, employing local Chinese traders to help. Locals fear disruption to markets, and the likely behaviour of the soldiers with local women -- both issues with violent potential. "The whole area is being turned into an armed camp.

And what is all this about? It's about a deliberate destabilisation of NTT so that the armed forces can keep their Dual Function [involvement in both politics and defence]. They are doing it by ethnic and religious divide."

The source said residents feared the influx of troops would destabilise the island, which is at least 80% Catholic, through "rumours about Islamisation", in the same way communal conflict on the island of Ambon is said to have been prolonged by military provocateurs.

The new soldiers are "staying all over the place" and will "end up owning half the land, as usual", said the source, a statement supported by military experts.

"We are now the base for ongoing guerilla operations in East Timor," said one source, although military analysts suggest the maritime gap between Flores and Timor still makes West Timor the more likely base for any such campaign. Newspapers in Flores are running headlines such as "East Timor is hell, Flores is next".

A source said: "There have been all sorts of provocative incidents recently." Sources say residents fear Flores could become another Ambon.
Arms/Armed forces

Sidelined Wiranto prepares for fall

Sydney Morning Herald - October 20, 1999

David Jenkins -- Defence Minister General Wiranto, once portrayed as a possible kingmaker in Indonesian politics, appears to be an increasingly isolated figure, a man who may soon be out of a job and defending himself against charges that he oversaw his army's carefully laid plans to turn East Timor into a wasteland after the August 30 referendum.

General Wiranto won qualified praise yesterday for his decision not to stand as a vice-presidential candidate, a move that is expected to take some of the heat out of the anti-government and anti-army demonstrations that have paralysed parts of central Jakarta for the past week. But if the popular opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri becomes president when the People's Consultative Assembly votes in Jakarta today, many analysts believe Wiranto's days will be numbered. Megawati is believed to have drawn up a list of senior generals, most of them reform- minded, from which she will select a new defence minister and a new military chief (Pangab). Wiranto, who currently holds both posts, would then make a "graceful", but not necessarily immediate, exit from the army leadership, according to some Indonesian sources.

Senior members of the Indonesian high command, including the head of military intelligence, Lieutenant-General Tyasno Sudarto, urged Wiranto not to stand as vice-president, well-placed sources in Jakarta said yesterday. Although President B.J. Habibie indicated recently that he wanted Wiranto as his vice- presidential running mate, the idea always had an odd ring to it.

Wiranto was not only widely disliked by students. He was widely disliked in Muslim circles as a result of army atrocities in the staunchly Muslim province of Aceh.

Many Indonesians and many foreigners found it hard to believe that a man who might find himself called to give evidence before an international tribunal investigating crimes against humanity in East Timor could find himself representing his country abroad.

Another problem was that Wiranto would have been obliged to resign from the army before standing for political office. With tensions running high in the streets and more than 40,000 troops and police on duty in Jakarta, this is hardly the time for the nation to be replacing the most powerful figure in the military establishment. Some analysts are not at all sure that Wiranto will be dumped, even if Megawati becomes president. "I think he is still in control of the military," said Dr Salim Said, who has close links to a number of senior army officers. "I think his staff would like to keep him there because they do not want to see the intrusion of the civilians into the military.

"The military don't want to see the changing of the leadership of the military coinciding with the changing of the political leadership because that would mean a return to the situation under [former president] Soeharto, in which the military leader was only the assistant of Soeharto. Wiranto still has another three years as Pangab." According to one Indonesian analyst, Wiranto's decision not to stand as a vice-presidential candidate has "helped calm down the situation". The analyst added: "The students appreciate that very much. Tensions will still be high on the streets today but the situation will become a bit calmer."

Students, who have been involved in a series of violent demonstrations in the run-up to the presidential elections, have been outspoken critics of Wiranto, whom they blame for the death of more than a dozen students in the past 17 months. Wiranto, who has been widely seen as an important if often indecisive political player in the past 18 months, could be replaced as military chief by one of several senior officers if Megawati becomes president.

One of those mentioned as a possible Pangab is Lieutenant-General Bambang Yudhoyono, who is the head of the TNI's territorial structure, the body that supervises the army's political role. He is able and articulate but is seen by some as a man who became too close to Dr Habibie to have much chance of being promoted to the highest military office by Megawati.

"I think Bambang is more accepted by civilians than Wiranto," said Dr Chusnul Mar'iyah, lecturer in political science at the University of Indonesia. "Wiranto is not someone you can discuss things with. Bambang always goes to seminars. He can talk, he can argue, he can discuss." Another officer whose star could be expected to rise if Megawati becomes president is Lieutenant- General Agum Gumelar, a red beret officer who is head of the National Resilience Institute. He has been spoken of as a possible defence minister, although that job could go to a civilian.

Another with aspirations for high office under Megawati is Lieutenant-General Hendropriyono, who has served as Minister of Transmigration in the Habibie Cabinet. He would be a controversial choice for any position. Hendropriyono was the commander in South Sumatra in the 1980s when troops stormed a village, reportedly killing more than 100 innocent men, women and children. The names of two other reform-minded generals -- Lieutenant General Agus Widjojo and Major General Agus Wirahadikusuma -- have also been mentioned in connection with key army postings after a possible spring clean by Megawati. Meanwhile, there are indications that senior Indonesian army officers associated with the violence in East Timor are increasingly concerned about the possibility of war crimes investigations. According to several sources in Jakarta, some of those officers have closely followed the moves to extradite Augusto Pinochet to Spain and have begun to give serious thought to travel abroad.

"A deliberately planned covert operation"

Van Zorge Report on Indonesia - October 20, 1999

[Colonel Haseman retired from the US Army in 1995, after 16 years of experience in defense liaison work -- 13 in Indonesia and three in Burma. During this time, which included five years as US defense attachi to Indonesia, Colonel Haseman naturally became one of the premier US experts on the Indonesian military. He developed close contacts with a host of mid-level officers who have since risen to the military's top ranks. Now in retirement in Colorado, Col Haseman works as a part-time consultant, author and seminar speaker. On September 24th, the Van Zorge Report contacted Col Haseman for his personal views on the East Timor situation.]

TNI in East Timor

Van Zorge Report: First, when we speak of the Indonesian military (TNI) in East Timor, is it appropriate to regard it as a unified entity? Or are there different elements working for varied or even conflicting purposes? If so, what are the main elements?

Colonel Haseman: I believe there are three groups within, and influencing, the Indonesian military leadership these days. There is the "moderate" group, which is striving for genuine military reform-in parallel with political and economic reform. There is the "hard-line" group, which advocates a return to the Soeharto- era status quo with the perks and powers of a highly political military force. Finally, There are the "fence sitters", the largest group, waiting to see the results of the competition between the first two groups.

In my view, based on the information available and my own analysis, the operation to destabilize and brutalize East Timor was a deliberately planned covert operation carried out in accordance with orders issued by someone in authority over at least some elements of the armed forces. A decision was made to use the "security approach" to attain a pro-integration vote in East Timor or, failing that, to either negate that vote or so destabilize the territory that it would take years of time and a huge financial investment by the outside world to make East Timor a viable country.

This "security approach" was forced by hard-liners inside and outside TNI (i.e., retired military and civilians), as well as senior government officials. The intelligence apparatus and covert operations assets from Kopassus [Army Special Forces] and the police were utilized to implement most of the operation. They took a basic militia organization in East Timor-originally raised and supported by Kopassus and intelligence units-expanded it greatly by recruiting both East Timorese and non-East Timorese, and used it as a surrogate force to intimidate the populace into supporting integration.

I believe that a considerable number of TNI personnel were involved in this covert operation. Also involved were a number of ethnic East Timorese from two territorial battalions and the territorial structure, and the police, permanently assigned to East Timor, who either deserted from their units or were under orders from the covert operation agents. This combined militia/TNI/police force perpetrated most of the violence and physical damage in East Timor prior to the announcement of the ballot results in early September as well as afterwards.

The operation was doomed by a major intelligence failure, which must have predicted that the covert security operation would succeed in gaining a pro-integration vote or the other objectives previously mentioned, and which grossly underestimated the anti- integration feeling of the East Timorese. I saw the same thing happen in Burma in 1990, when the Burmese military intelligence apparatus openly predicted that the government party would win about two-thirds of the national vote, based on their "polling" of the population. Despite that prediction, the National League for Democracy of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi won more than 80 percent of the vote.

The East Timor operation also failed to achieve a key element of any covert operation: plausible denial. The operation was conducted in full view of the international press, foreign diplomats, UN observers and NGOs.

Repeated assertions of "progress" on the part of senior TNI officers and government officials was a blatant denial of the real situation that was clearly visible to the outside world. Those bizarre efforts to insist that TNI had met its promises to maintain security only added to the discredit heaped on TNI and the Indonesian government.

Some of the later destruction (burning of towns, barracks, etc.) was done by departing Kostrad [Army Strategic Reserve] and non- Timorese territorial units acting either on orders from their chain of command, or from a lack of discipline arising from extreme frustration and anger.

It is wrong, in my view, to ascribe what happened in East Timor to all of TNI. I hope that the majority of TNI personnel, while distressed at the "loss" of East Timor, are also dismayed and angered by the atrocities committed by TNI elements and their militia surrogates in East Timor. That atrocious behavior has brought humiliation to Indonesia, discredited its national and military leadership, ruined the reputation of TNI as a whole, and elicited international criticism and disgrace for TNI as a professional military organization. In effect, years of effort to build professionalism within TNI have been destroyed in the eyes of the outside world.

What do you believe to be the nature of the relationship between military units in East Timor and the military's commanders in Jakarta, particularly Wiranto?

I do not know. But there is one cardinal principle of military command: "The commander is responsible for all that his men do-or fail to do." Elements and personnel of TNI, acting under the orders of somebody in authority, conducted reprehensible acts in East Timor, failed to perform their mission to provide security and order in the province, and failed to fulfill the commitment of their nation given to the United Nations. By this universally accepted principle of command responsibility, the TNI commander- in-chief is responsible for what happened in East Timor, whether or not he actually gave the orders that resulted in this terrible tragedy.

From your experience, how would you characterize the army's discipline and the effectiveness of its command structure?

I have been greatly disappointed, dismayed, disillusioned, and angered by the lack of discipline and command effectiveness displayed by TNI over the past six to eight months. The vaunted discipline of TNI has been shown to be ineffective and subject to manipulation by elements outside the normal chain of command.

"Amok" is an Indonesian word frequently applied to out-of-control crowd behavior. Individuals, units, and elements of TNI ran amok in East Timor because of the inability of the national command structure to act effectively and because of the "hands off" approach ordered because of the on-going covert operation to destabilize East Timor.

TNI's Goals

What is your theory on why the military aided and abetted the integrationist militias during their rampage during the second week of September?

As I mentioned previously, I do not believe the entire TNI aided and abetted the militias in East Timor. Only certain members of the senior leadership and chain of command, covert operations elements, and territorial forces in East Timor committed the atrocities perpetrated in East Timor. As to the goals of that rampage I can only speculate. Perhaps the primary objective was to ensure a pro-integration vote, based on faulty intelligence that the operation could achieve that goal. It failed.

A secondary objective may have been to "set an example" to other potentially secessionist movements elsewhere in Indonesia and/or to leave East Timor so damaged that it would be an international basket case for years to come. Finally, those responsible may have felt that TNI had been so weakened by reformist movements and by criticism for human rights abuses revealed during the past 18 months, that this operation was essential to emphasize that the military is still the most powerful and influential element in Indonesian society. It is a sad commentary that those responsible for this operation sank to such a low level. There are many other, positive, courses of action that could have made the same point.

Indonesia, like all nations, needs a respected, and respectable, armed forces. Right now those two adjectives -- respectable and respected -- are totally lacking in my characterization of TNI. If a goal of the security approach was to send a signal of intimidation to secessionists elsewhere, could this signal prove effective, or will it backfire by further alienating the Acehnese, Irianese, etc.?

I believe there is a very good chance that the "lesson" will backfire badly. Aceh is an entirely different ball game to East Timor. Aceh resounds within the overall Indonesian community to an extent that East Timor never has. Irian Jaya perhaps a bit less so. But were I a secessionist in either grouping, I would certainly be looking at what happened in East Timor -- regardless of my degree of dedication or personal bravery.

Why did Wiranto stall for so long with regard to allowing UN peace-enforcers to enter East Timor, when that stance was so damaging to his and Indonesia's-standing with the international community?

I can only speculate. Perhaps he deliberately determined to ignore the bad news coming from East Timor, or thought it was exaggerated. Or, if he was complicit in the deliberate violence of the covert operation, it was important for him to attempt to stall outside evaluations of the situation in East Timor. Remember, it was only after he accompanied five United Nations ambassadors into Dili itself that he saw first-hand the terrible nature of damage, violence, and mayhem that had occurred. At that point, surely, he realized that matters were out of control and could not be restored by TNI without outside assistance.

What has been the role played by Maj Gen Zacky Anwar in East Timor, and to what extent does this reveal the stance of the military's high command?

I have read much of the speculation about Maj Gen Zacky's role in East Timor. But since I do not have personal knowledge of what Maj Gen Zacky's role might have been, I will not comment.

Have you noticed any signs of dissension within TNI's high command with regard to East Timor policy?

I am puzzled and disappointed that there has been no voice raised in public by moderate officers at the senior echelons of TNI. I know that there are many officers who must be terribly opposed to the policies of the hard-liners, anguished at what happened in East Timor, and very unhappy about what has happened to the reputation of TNI as a result of this tragedy. Where were their voices? I can only speculate that they have been deliberately silenced by hard-liner elements, perhaps by threats against their person, their families, or their character.

Interfet Mission How do you assess the Interfet mission, overall, thus far? From your experience as an army officer, will a force of 7,000 be adequate to secure the entirety of East Timor?

I have only the information available to the rest of the world. From that I believe that the Interfet mission has gone very well in its initial phase. However, I personally believe the force should be larger to meet the challenges discovered since the force entered East Timor. The damage to the entire infrastructure of East Timor, the great humanitarian assistance needed, and the threat posed most specifically in those districts that border on West Timor, require a larger force if all these challenges are to be met adequately.

Fortunately, a good part of East Timor in the center and east can be controlled with relative ease by a combination of Interfet and elements of the pro-independence forces that have, to their credit, refrained from being drawn into a civil war by the actions of the pro-Indonesian militia forces. The bulk of Interfet's attentions must go to the territory's western districts, where the militias have specifically threatened attacks.

Do you expect armed resistance from militia groups?

I do, unfortunately. Some of the non-East Timorese militia members will fade away. Others, forced to participate, may be able to disengage. Some hard-core militia forces will remain, regardless of the decision to continue funding a covert operation in East Timor. Much depends on a national-level decision in the Indonesian government: those who authorized the "security approach" covert operation must now decide whether to continue to support guerrilla warfare against the Interfet force-and, ultimately, against the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), against world opinion, and against the best interests of Indonesia.

It takes a lot of money to fund this type of operation. Where are the funds are coming from? As "Deep Throat" told Bob Bernstein during his Watergate investigation in the US, "Follow the money".

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