Mon, 03 Jan 2000

Generals tend to lay blame on others for East Timor mayhem

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) top brass tend to blame lower-ranking officers for the mayhem in the ravaged territory of East Timor after the Aug. 30 self-determination ballot, a member of the government-sanctioned inquiry team said on Sunday.

"During the questioning, there was a tendency to shift the responsibility (for the violence) to other officers," secretary of the Commission of Inquiry into Human Right Violations (KPP HAM) in East Timor Asmara Nababan, told The Jakarta Post.

"They suddenly said that they did not know anything about it. This is not helpful and it is clear that they are trying to save their own necks," Asmara added.

The commission, in its midterm report, claimed that, based on preliminary investigations and witness accounts, TNI was directly or indirectly involved in the East Timor violence perpetrated by prointegration militias.

A number of TNI top brass, including the forces' former chief Gen. Wiranto, were questioned last month and they all denied the allegations, saying that the violence was an emotional outburst which was neither premeditated nor controllable.

Wiranto, who is now the coordinating minister for political affairs and security, was at TNI's helm when the ballot was held and during the resulting violence which broke out in East Timor.

The generals also denied the alleged links between TNI and the prointegration militia groups.

Asmara said, however, that the inquiry "will look at the strongest evidence" before it drew a conclusion by the end of this month.

"We will analyze all of the information that we have and at that point we will be able to separate the false and misleading information from the accurate information in order to give the public a comprehensive picture of what really happened in East Timor," Asmara said.

The inquiry was established in September by then president B.J. Habibie after the government rejected calls for an international inquiry that might lead to war crime tribunals for Indonesian officers.

Asmara said that the next officers to be questioned this week would include former military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Zacky Anwar Makarim, former head of the Restoration Operation Command in East Timor Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri and former East Timor military commander Col. M. Noer Muis.

Asmara also said that former foreign affairs minister Ali Alatas was also scheduled to be questioned this week.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman had said earlier that if the inquiry found evidence of rights abuses an ad hoc committee would be established to prosecute the perpetrators in a national human rights tribunal. (byg)