Fri, 22 Sep 2000

Military elements implicated in Atambua killings

JAKARTA (JP): Attorney General Marzuki Darusman revealed here on Thursday that elements of the Indonesian Military (TNI) have been implicated in two recent incidents in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara, earlier this month, which resulted in the death of three UN relief workers and a militia leader.

Marzuki said "elements of the military" were among 13 suspects who have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the two incidents.

However, he stopped short of identifying these "elements" and which incident they were allegedly involved in.

"We have been given a report that seven suspects have been identified and apprehended in connection with the Olivio case and six have also been apprehended in connection with the UNHCR case".

"Among the suspects we understand that elements of the military were either implicated or directly involved," Marzuki told The Jakarta Post.

"Although these reports have come from the area (West Timor), we are still clarifying the report," he added.

Local authorities have said that the brutal killings of the three UN workers on Sept. 6 was triggered by the death of Olivio a day earlier.

The attack on the UNHCR office in Atambua took place just hours before the opening of the UN-organized Millennium Summit in New York, which was attended by some 150 world leaders including President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Abdurrahman at that time said the attack, which provoked international condemnation of Indonesia, was a well-organized scheme to humiliate him while attending an international summit.

The UN Security Council responded to the incident by issuing a resolution that called on Jakarta to disarm and disband the militias in West Timor and to bring those responsible for the attack to justice.

The attack on the UN office has prompted strong warnings, particularly from the United States, that an embargo could be imposed if Indonesia does not deal with the militia situation.

Marzuki said, however, that if the international community imposes an embargo on Indonesia "that step could easily be conceived as an overreaction".

"So, it is necessary that both sides do not overreact on this issue," he said.

Earlier in the day, TNI spokesman Rear Marshal Graito Usodo told journalists he had heard that some local military unit members may be among those arrested as suspects in the Atambua killings, but declined to give further details.

"The main issue is that the rule of law has to be upheld because we are under the scrutiny of the international community," Graito said, adding that the military "will always support efforts to solve the Atambua case and will not hinder the legal process."

Graito also said that the government will launch a four-day operation on Friday as the first phase of its disarming of the pro-Jakarta militias in West Timor.

"Yes, it is true that there will be a disarmament between Sept. 22-26 so that the international community can see that we are serious," Graito said.

The pledge to disarm the militias was made in New York on Tuesday by Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a closed-door meeting with members of the UN Security Council.

"The first phase (of the disarmament) will be next week. After that there will be a kind of law enforcement to make sure that there are no more weapons concealed by the militias," Susilo said in New York.

Meanwhile in Yogyakarta, political observer Arbi Sanit also reiterated the need for the government to take stern action against East Timor militias by dissolving and disarming them as soon as possible.

"How can you let (Militia Commander Eurico) Guiterres hold a pistol while others are forbidden from doing the same? It's unfair, isn't it?" Arbi told journalists on the sidelines of a discussion held at the Indonesian Islamic University.

He added that there was absolutely no benefit for the government to maintain the militias.

"We have nothing to lose by dissolving them. They have become a disease for the country," he asserted.

Nevertheless, he noted, the government should also prepare a "place" for ex-militia members by, for example, recruiting those who are qualified and willing to do so to become police or military members.

"Those who refuse to join the military or the police could be trained to become traders or businessmen".

"If the government can show its seriousness in handling the case, I'm sure an embargo will not be imposed," Arbi said. (swa/byg/rms)