Thu, 06 Jan 2000

Troops too late to stop E. Timor mayhem: General

JAKARTA (JP): Former chief of restoration command in East Timor Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri admitted on Wednesday that reinforcement troops arrived too late to stop the mayhem in the territory.

Speaking after two hours of questioning by the government- sanctioned Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations (KPP HAM) in East Timor, Kiki said that when he arrived in Dili on Sept. 7, the city "was already finished".

"Shops were looted and two regencies, Manatuto and Los Palos, were burned down completely," Kiki, who is now chief the Udayana Military Command overseeing security in Bali and Nusa Tenggara, said.

Kiki said the violence which raged after the announcement of the Aug. 30 self-determination ballot in East Timor had not been unexpected as the Army had prepared two brigades of reinforcement troops to be deployed in East Timor.

He said, however, the Indonesian Military (TNI) did not expect the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to announce the result of the ballot on Sept. 4, some three days sooner than the earlier schedule.

"Our calculation was that the result would be announced on schedule, so when it was announced on Sept. 4, the reinforcement troops were still on their way," Kiki said.

He added that local troops, who were under the command of his predecessor Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri, were also not ready as they were subject to a cantonment policy.

"Therefore it is logical and fair if we were considered to be slow at that time," Kiki said.

Kiki was the ninth and last member of the military's top brass to face questioning which began on Dec. 24 last year.

Contrary to Kiki's account, former foreign minister Ali Alatas, who had his turn later in the day, said the decision to advance the announcement of the result to Sept. 4 was not a sudden move and "had already been discussed," including with military representatives.

Alatas said the announcement of the result of the ballot could be made earlier because "all the ballot papers had already been collected in the (museum) building in Dili."

"There was a miscalculation by UNAMET ... they thought it would take them until Sept. 7 to finish the counting, whereas, in fact, the counting was completed much earlier," Alatas said.

"To prevent any leakage, UNAMET proposed to us the acceleration of the announcement to Sept. 4. The date was then discussed by Indonesia and Portugal and was agreed upon," he said.

"It was known by every party involved and I assumed that the decision made in Dili and in Jakarta was known to everyone," Alatas added.

Asked if he thought the late arrival of the military had been intentional, Alatas said the theory "doesn't make sense."

The commission has claimed, based on preliminary investigations and witness accounts, that TNI was involved in the rampaging violence in East Timor after the ballot went against Indonesia's autonomy offer.

TNI has denied the accusations, saying the violence was neither premeditated nor controllable.

The inquiry was established in September by then president B.J. Habibie after the government rejected calls for an international inquiry that would look into the possibility of setting up war crimes tribunals for Indonesian officers.(byg)