Indonesia's Military Ran Timorese Militia

By Timberlake, Ian | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 10, 2001 | Go to article overview

Indonesia's Military Ran Timorese Militia


Timberlake, Ian, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Ian Timberlake

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The Indonesian military directed a militia campaign of killings, terror and forced deportation against East Timorese civilians, according to a new book on the 1999 atrocities.

In "A Dirty Little War," author John Martinkus says the military campaign coincided with a slick public relations effort to portray the violence as clashes between pro- and anti-independence East Timorese while the United Nations and later, international peacekeepers, refused to publicly condemn Indonesia. The book's publication in Australia comes as the United Nations-administered territory takes another step toward full independence with elections set for Aug. 30.

At the same time, trial has begun in East Timor for the first militia accused of crimes against humanity including murder, torture and deportation.

Indonesia, however, has failed to prosecute anybody for the violence in East Timor. Instead, senior military and police officers who served during the violence have been promoted. One of the most notorious militia leaders, Eurico Guterres, became an official in the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle headed by the new president, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Mr. Martinkus, an Australian journalist, first went to Indonesian-occupied East Timor in 1994 and returned in 1995 and 1997. In late 1998, he became the only foreign reporter resident in the territory. Before long, he saw some of the first militia being trained on a military barracks in the town of Viqueque. By late January 1999, militia commanded by Mr. Guterres had emerged in the capital, Dili. When Mr. Martinkus met Mr. Guterres, he claimed he was defending people against atrocities by the pro-independence side.

"He didn't talk about his real background," writes Mr. Martinkus, who says Mr. Guterres had been recruited in the early 1990s as a leader of Gadapaksi, a black-clad ninja squad known for nighttime kidnappings of Timorese. "The militia that he now claimed to head was just the reactivated Gadapaksi network - Kopassus-trained, formed and paid for."

Kopassus are the Indonesian Special Forces.

By February 1999, militia had begun holding rallies in support of integration with Indonesia. Mr. Martinkus writes that military and local government officials sat at the front of the rallies while other participants privately admitted they had been told to attend. He and Mr. Guterres flew on an Indonesian military helicopter to one of the earliest rallies, even though the East Timor military commander, Tono Suratman, claimed the militia and military had no ties.

"Yet there we all were in the helicopter together, on our way to another `spontaneous' expression of the people's desire to remain a part of Indonesia. …

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