Mon, 15 Aug 1994

Civil war may tear E. Timor if troops withdrawn: Military

DILI, East Timor (JP): The military gave a warning Saturday that East Timor would be riddled by a civil war if the government bowed to foreign pressure to withdraw its troops from the territory.

"You may not believe it but the Vatican ambassador to Indonesia is the one who has warned of such a possibility," East Timor's Wiradharma military commandant Col. Johny J. Lumintang told a visiting German member of parliament.

In his meeting with Lumintang, MP Gerhart Rudolf Baum posed questions about the military's presence in and development of the former Portuguese colony, which was integrated into the RI in 1976.

Baum asked Lumintang if Armed Forces (ABRI) personnel deployed in East Timor were given basic knowledge about human rights standards and if any East Timorese held senior positions in the military.

Lumintang said all ABRI members hold on to an eight point- doctrine which requires them to protect the people, protect women's dignity and respect the local community, which all represent the implementation of human rights concept.

ABRI currently deploys seven territorial battalions and one battle battalion in East Timor, he said. The territorial battalions focus on social services, such as helping local people build public facilities and introducing better farming systems.

"All ABRI personnel are provided with knowledge of the local culture so that they are able to mingle with the local community," Lumintang said, as quoted by Antara.

He added that six East Timor-born officers have completed their training at the military academy. The senior is a major currently posted at the Denpasar-based Udayana military command, which oversees security in Bali, Nusa Tenggara and East Timor.

Lumintang said the pressing problems facing East Timor are economic ones, like the mounting unemployment among the educated youngsters, rather than security, as foreign observers thought.

The social problems resulting from unemployment may threaten the development of the 27th province unless the government handles it properly, he added.

ABRI's presence in East Timor was also raised by the visiting Japanese members of parliament led by Tomiko Okazaki.

In an interview with The Jakarta Post, Okazaki reiterated his view that Indonesia should withdraw its troops from East Timor to help improve respect of human rights there.


He said the withdrawal of troops was also demanded in 1976 by the United Nations, which has not recognized East Timor's integration into Indonesia.

"We are concerned about widespread violence and intimidation which lead to the violation of human rights," he said.

The Japanese had raised their concerns about the military presence in the territory when they met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas in Jakarta last week.

Alatas told his guests that ABRI had withdrawn almost all of its combat troops from East Timor and only the territorial units remained. He said the Japanese lacked the knowledge about the difference between territorial and combat forces.

The government began pulling out its combat troops from East Timor in April of last year and has since transferred all military functions from the special command to the Udayana regional command.

Okazaki said, despite his concern over the conditions in East Timor, he would not recommend that the Japanese government provide special assistance for the province.

"Japan provides assistance to the Indonesian government and it is up to Jakarta how it will use the aid," he said.

The five-member Japanese parliamentary delegation, accompanied by a group of journalists and translators, had the chance to meet with local officials.

When meeting governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares, the Japanese expressed their regret over the Japanese troops' brutality in East Timor during World War II, similar to the other Asia-Pacific countries they occupied.

About 50 civilians in East Timor were murdered in the Japanese occupation from 1942-1945, according to local historians. (yac/pan)