Wed, 15 Mar 2000

TNI out to uphold border security: Kiki

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): Chief of the Udayana Military Command Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri said on Tuesday the Indonesian Military (TNI) was doing its best to maintain security along the East Timor border, including a sweep which confiscated hundreds of weapons.

"Such sweeps have been conducted on former prointegration militia members since the ballot in East Timor," he said, adding that 291 firearms were confiscated.

Although he said most of the weapons were homemade devices and old rifles from the Portuguese colonial era, he acknowledged some were standard TNI weapons which were lost during the postballot mayhem.

Kiki is scheduled to meet United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) chief Jaime de los Santos on Wednesday. The latter visited Jakarta last week to complain about repeated militia incursions into East Timor from East Nusa Tenggara, the Indonesian half of Timor island.

UNTAET claimed there were 16 incidents in the last four weeks near the border, which it alleged were perpetrated by prointegration militias.

President Abdurrahman Wahid also reportedly said he was "concerned and unhappy" with the reports of militia attacks.

But Kiki and TNI spokesman Graito Usodo expressed regret on Tuesday that TNI was being made a scapegoat for the incidents.

"It's ironic that all the incidents were said to be the work of the Indonesian side," Kiki said. He contended the military had no interest in backing the incursions.

"Why would we incite people to conduct criminal acts when we gain nothing from them?"

Graito lamented that much of TNI's good work was often ignored by foreign journalists.

"In the eyes of the (foreign) media, it seems that Indonesia is the cause of everything."

Kiki said border security was also equally the responsibility of UNTAET.

He said many of the reported incidents occurred in Atsabe, Maliana and Ermera, which were considerable distances from the border.

"They're located far from the border ... Atsabe is 80 kilometers from the border."

He said the incidents could have been perpetrated by people who returned to East Timor.

"Many of those who returned are still prointegrationists. So the incident in Atsabe could be caused by those already there."

He said the area was a prointegration stronghold dating back to 1974, before the territory's integration into Indonesia.

Customary ruler of Atsabe Guillermo Dos Santos was the second governor of East Timor province.

Kiki questioned the inability of UNTAET, with its sophisticated equipment, to maintain security while Indonesia was doing its best with 689 soldiers covering a 155-kilometer border area.

"They have the Black Hawk helicopters, night-vision goggles, the sophisticated radars. So why can't they catch these infiltrators?"

In Dili, East Timor, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Gelbard said elements of the Indonesian Military were providing direct support for the incursions into East Timor's territory.

Gelbard said he did not agree with UN peacekeepers who said that while TNI was turning a blind eye to militia activity, there was no evidence of active logistical or other support.

"There is TNI involvement. We were told all the militias had been disarmed, (yet) suddenly and magically they seem to have come up with arms," Gelbard said as quoted by AP.

"But I do believe this is not TNI policy. These are probably individuals who have maintained their long-standing ties to the militias and maybe some remnants of some specialized units."

Separately, East Timor leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao accused the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) and former TNI chief Gen. Wiranto of being behind the incursions.

In an interview published in Tuesday's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, Gusmao said the incursions were aimed at destroying the reputation of UNTAET.

"Maybe they would like to prove that (the UN peacekeeping force) is weak and will not go on the offense," he said.

"Based on what has been happening, I think UNTAET and the UN peacekeeping force must reevaluate their strategies in facing the border problem." (zen/mds)