Thu, 11 Aug 1994

RI defends military in E. Timor

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas yesterday explained the presence of Indonesian troops in East Timor to a group of Japanese legislators who have been critical of Indonesia's policy in the former Portuguese colony.

Alatas said that the Armed Forces has withdrawn all its combat units from East Timor and that only territorial battalions remain.

He added that the question of the presence of the Indonesian military was raised constantly during the meeting.

"The problem is their lack of knowledge about the distinction between territorial and combat forces," Alatas said. "What is left of the military are the territorial battalions."

Five legislators -- Liberal Democrat Kouki Chuma, Social Democrats Tomiko Okazaki, Seiichi Kaneta and Yasuko Takemura and Banri Kaieda of the Japan New Party -- arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday with an entourage that included Japanese journalists and translators.

They left for Denpasar, Bali, yesterday to meet with Chief of the Udayana Military Command Maj. Gen. Adang Ruchiatna Puradiredja whose jurisdiction includes East Timor. They will later proceed to Dili, East Timor.

The Japanese legislators said after meeting with Alatas that they had expressed concern over the presence of the Indonesian military in East Timor.

"We think the military should be removed from East Timor as soon as possible," Okazaki said, adding that the presence of the military is "not good for the local population."

In Dili, Chief of East Timor's Wira Dharma 164 Regiment Command Col. Johny Lumintang was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying that the province is open to all visitors, including foreigners.

"Everyone is welcome in East Timor as long as they come with good intentions. We are not afraid of them and we have never rejected them," he said.

Besides the Japanese delegation, the province will also receive a group of parliamentary members from Germany.

Alatas said there was a clear policy to gradually pull combat troops out of East Timor as stability within the province increases.

Indonesian combat troops started withdrawing from East Timor in April last year. Since then, all the military functions previously handled by the special military command have been transferred to the Wira Dharma 164 Regiment Command, making the security administration in East Timor the same as it is in the 26 other Indonesian provinces.

Alatas chronicled the history and process of East Timor's decolonization in 1975-1976 for the visiting Japanese. "I stressed that it has been almost 20 years since the decolonization took place, so many people do not know exactly what happened, or may have forgotten, or may have intentionally forgotten the incidents then, in order to make their own version of it," he said.

Good opportunities

Alatas called such visits and discussions good opportunities to present Indonesia's side of the story especially since the Japanese legislators have been critical of Indonesia.

"I have given a description of the situation which will at least balance the information I know they have obtained from Indonesia's opponents," he said.

Alatas acknowledged that many cynical visitors to East Timor had second thoughts after visiting the province and talking with Indonesian officials.

The critics may not change their minds 100 percent overnight but at least they obtain a more balanced view of the situation, he said.

Aside from meeting with the Japanese legislators, Maj. Gen. Adang yesterday also met with U.S. ambassador Robert L. Barry in Denpasar, the Antara news agency reported.

The visit, which is scheduled until Monday, is part of Ambassador Barry's trip to eastern Indonesia, and will include stops in Ambon, Irian Jaya and East Timor. (pwn)