Fri, 14 Feb 2003

Wiranto defends TNI on E. Timor

JAKARTA: Former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto defended on Thursday the armed forces' account of the 1999 mayhem in East Timor, saying anticipatory measures by the military had prevented more casualties in the former Indonesian province.

"We anticipated that if the proindependence East Timorese won the referendum, the prointegration militias would run amok, which could have led to a civil war. Had we failed to anticipated this, East Timor might not exist today," Wiranto said during his testimony before the ad hoc human rights tribunal.

He was appearing as a witness for his former subordinate Brig. Gen. Tono Suratman, the East Timor military commander before violence swept the territory following the referendum in August 1999.

Tono, now a TNI spokesman, is charged with failing to prevent a massacre that claimed 12 lives in a Liquica church on April 6, 1999, and an attack on the house of proindependence figure Manuel Carrascalao on April 17, 1999, that left 20 people dead. Prosecutors have charged that Tono had prior knowledge of both incidents.

Wiranto had twice failed to appear at the trial to provide his testimony. Human rights activists have demanded that he appear before the tribunal as a suspect. -- JP