Tue, 18 Apr 2000

UN force commander offers apology over spy incident

LAKTUTUS, East Nusa Tenggara (JP): United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) Peacekeeping Force (PKF) Commander Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos apologized Monday to Indonesian Military (TNI) over a recent spying incident involving an Australian member of the PKF.

"I apologize for the incident. Under the UN charter, intelligence activities are not allowed," de los Santos said in a media briefing.

He made the announcement shortly after a closed door meeting with TNI chief Adm. Widodo AS at the border post here, some 40 kilometers south of the regency capital of Atambua.

He also said that there had been improvements in border security.

"There have been no reports of border incidents in the past two weeks," said de los Santos, adding that cooperation with TNI was at its highest level.

Widodo meanwhile renewed his denial of accusations that TNI provided training for the so-called militias.

"I have repeatedly stated that there is no such training and Gen. De los Santos himself has met with the refugees and learned from them that there is no militia training by TNI," said Widodo.

He also said there would be more talks on the placement of Indonesian military observers in East Timor. UNTAET has placed its military observers on the Indonesian side of the border but so far there are no Indonesian military observers in East Timor.

"It is a technical issue and the Udayana chief will discuss the matter with PKF," said Widodo, referring to the military commander overseeing Bali and East Nusa Tenggara Maj. Gen. Kiki Syahnakri.

TNI has proposed that PKF and TNI exchange liaison officers, hold joint border patrols and maintain joint border posts to improve border security and to alleviate suspicions of TNI support for militia activities. The UN has turned down the proposal, but agreed to send liaison officers to Kupang and Atambua.

"We have problems on the border, not in Kupang or Atambua," Kiki argued.

Widodo repeated calls for TNI troops to maintain good cooperation with PKF based on understanding and mutual trust.

He also reminded the troops of the political implications of their actions.

The meeting in Laktutus was part of Widodo's itinerary in East Nusa Tenggara to visit troops in the Boilalu and Laktutus border posts. TNI has 40 posts along the 130-kilometer long border from Motaain to Metamau, divided into two sectors. The northern sector's 19 border posts are manned by the 432nd Kostrad Battalion, and the southern sector's 21 posts by the 502nd Kostrad Battalion.

The TNI chief arrived in Kupang on Sunday evening, accompanied by Air Force Chief Marshal Hanafie Asnan, Navy Chief Achmad Sutjipto, Deputy Army Chief Lt. Gen. Endriartono Sutarto and a number of high-ranking TNI officers.

"This visit is aimed at boosting the morale of the troops and to show that TNI is committed to providing border security, helping return the East Timorese refugees and maintaining law and order in refugee camps," he said.

Widodo challenged the troops to show to the world that all the accusations against TNI were baseless.

"Despite all our efforts, we have been continually accused of training the so-called militias or allowing them to use the Indonesian side of the East-West Timor border as their base," said Widodo. "We must show to the world that there is no such training of the so-called militias."

He also ordered the troops to continue efforts to speed the return of East Timorese refugees, prevent illegal border crossings, smuggling, illegal possession of weapons and maintain law and order at refugee camps. (lem)