Accessed 08 September 1999
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Indonesia's Death Squads: Getting Away With Murder
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1 February 

Lieutenant Colonel Supadi (second military commander of East Timor) in answer to questions about civilian deaths near Suai, denied that TNI had any involvement. He admitted, however, that TNI had been recruiting and arming militias to support the pro-integration stand and had handed out weapons to the Mahidi militia, who number about 1,200, saying that they had been given guns and rifles captured from Fretilin as well as SP1 and SP2 rifles which were, until recently, used by the Indonesian military. Col. Supadi admitted that the two-week training that had been given to the locally hired militia members might have been inadequate. "They are quick to be emotional", Supadi said.

2 February

The Indonesian Armed Forces Commander and Minister for Defence, General Wiranto, denied TNI recently gave guns to civilian militias. 

In Maubara about 15 members of Besi Merah Putih gang stopped a car in which a Liquiça public servant was riding and threw stones at the passengers. They managed to save themselves but their car was confiscated and is now being used by members of BMP gang for their operations.

5 February 

Cancio Lopes, the commander of Mahidi told the BBC that he led last month's attack near Suai using automatic weapons supplied less than four weeks previously by the army. He said that he received 20 Chinese-made SKS rifles from the local military headquarters on 30 December. ‘We used the SKS rifles together with three M-16s we had for the attack’. He said the military had already allowed him to use M-16 rifles captured earlier from anti-Indonesian rebels. Mr Lopes then described how he led an attack on 26 January near the town of Suai, killing six people, including a pregnant woman and a 15-year-old schoolboy. Two days earlier his group killed another four people suspected of working with the rebels. 

7 February 

Major General Adam Damiri, chief of the Eastern Indonesia regional military command said the armed forces have begun handing out limited supplies of weapons to civilian recruits in East Timor because it was necessary to help maintain peace and order in areas that have been frequently attacked by the rebels. He denied allegations the weapons were handed out to enforce integration.

Colonel Tono Suratman, military commander of East Timor, said the army would recruit 1,000 East Timorese and train them as a new civil militia (Wanra) but insisted they would not be armed. He said "this is part of the policy by the central government to maintain security. The recruits are to be stationed with police in isolated villages considered security risks". Suratman said recruits would be given a one-year contract and a monthly salary of 200,000 rupiah (US$24) Another officer said "they will only be given clubs and handcuffs."

The Bishop of East Timor, Nobel Peace Laureate, Bishop Carlos Belo and Xanana Gusmao, the jailed leader of CNRT, call for the disbanding of armed civilian groups in East Timor.

The political spokesman for the CNRT in Dili, Francisco Cepeda, said that many people do not want to join militias but they were just picked up on military trucks and taken to Dili without being told what was happening.

10 February 

Besi Merah Putih (BMP) has been behind many of the attacks on the villages around Maubara which have resulted in the flight of the majority of the residents (especially the male youths) to Dili. The victims of their attacks have tended to be those people suspected of being pro-referendum, but many of their victims have been ordinary villagers who don't understand why they are attacked, including the head of the village of Fatuboro. Apart from attacking and raiding villages, this group loots the property owned by the victims. 

A Western diplomat in Jakarta worries that "they're little more than thugs." 

14 February

Colonel Mudjiono admits 100 rifles were distributed to integrationists in January to even the odds between them and Fretilin guerrillas. Bishop Belo doesn't buy the self-defence line, pointing out that the larger, better-equipped Indonesian military is more than a match for Fretilin. Belo complains "what are the professional soldiers doing? What are they getting paid for? In 15 years here, I've never heard of Fretilin raiding a village and causing 6,000 people to flee". 

Benendito de Jesus, vegetable vendor, 25 years old was shot in Dili. He died immediately from a gunshot wound in his head. Mahidi members were driving around in a Toyota Kijang and when they passed Bairro-Pite area, they started shooting at random. This caused the people in the area to panic, become angry and run after the Toyota. When the residents reached the Brimob (mobile police brigade) barracks, the Brimob officers and other police officers, fully armed, blocked their way. Not long after someone from inside the barracks shot into the crowd. One of the bullets struck Benendito in the head. 

Xanana Gusmao demanded immediate and total disarmament of the militias saying they are simply death squadrons which intimidate, scare and kill the population.

15 February 

East Timor police chief Timbul Silaen announced that Benendito de Jesus was allegedly shot dead by an Indonesian policeman who is now under investigation. Other sources say that the perpetrator of the shooting was not a member of Brimob, but a Mahidi member hiding inside the barracks. 

Members of Besi Merah Putih gang along with TNI (Koramil 03 Maubara and BTT 143) troops attacked Guiso village in the Maubara district and arrested a number of people including women and children. Those who were arrested were brought to the BTT 143 post and tortured. 

17 February 

All the sub-district heads and village heads in the Bobonaro district received an order from the commander of Halilintar militia, Joao Tavares, to attend a meeting. At the meeting, Tavares said that he would fire them all if they did not mobilize the masses to attend a conference on February 19 in Balibo. The Bobonaro district TNI commander also spoke at the meeting. He said that if the military wing of the CNRT was Falintil, then the military wing of the (recently formed pro-integration group) FPDK was Halilintar, Mahidi, Naga Merah, and Besi Merah Putih. 

A spokesman for the armed forces in Jakarta, General Sudjarat confirms that guns were provided to pro-Indonesian groups in East Timor. He says "we only give the weapons to those we trust. These people are supposed not to kill civilians, they are supposed to protect the civilians against Fretilin guerrillas".

18 February 

David Dias Ximenes, deputy of CNRT in Dili meets the Deputy District Police Chief, Colonel Muafi Sahudji, to make an appeal to end the two-month-old clashes in the Maubara district. Ximenes told the press afterwards that TNI seem to be giving a free hand to pro-integration groups to terrorize and intimidate pro-independence groups. "The police is constantly patrolling in Maubara. Why are the "red white iron" groups (allowed to) carry sharp weapons, intimidate the public, destroy homes and possessions, cut hair of young men and injure people with spears. They are not arrested or called up by the court". 

The Indonesian government and TNI was urged by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to disarm the TNI-trained civilian militia in East Timor who are allegedly armed with loaded weapons. "The situation could broaden the conflict with further bloodshed and could jeopardize negotiation efforts," said ICRC President Cornelio Sommaruga, in Jakarta. "From the report which was sent to us, we know many sad stories because of the existence of this paramilitary group. The paramilitary are hard to control because they don’t have such a neat command chain," Sommaruga said. 

wiranto brushes hair.jpg (20593 bytes)
General Wiranto (centre) is head of the Indonesian armed forces, seated between Bishop Basilio do Nascimento and Bishop Belo.

"The Indonesian military not only turned a blind eye to Saturday's militia attacks in Dili but had prior knowledge of the planned targets at the most senior level, diplomatic sources claimed. The sources said the militia attack was discussed at a senior security co-ordination meeting held at the Cilangkap armed forces headquarters in Jakarta, and was attended by General Wiranto, Udayana military commander Major General Adam Damiri and East Timor military commander Colonel Tono Suratman."

The threats two days ago by Halilintar leader, Joao Tavares, to the jobs of officials in Bobonaro pays off. About 5,000 people attend the Balibo meeting designed to mark the start of a campaign by the pro-autonomy forces.

20 February

Militia groups, angry about Australia's policy shift on East Timor, (which now supports independence for East Timor if that is what the Timorese choose) faxed a signed letter from their Jakarta hotel to all foreign embassies in Jakarta, in which they threatened to kill Australian diplomats and journalists, whom they accused of having published distorted information. Eurico Guterres, leader of Aitarak militia is one of the signatories. 

The spokesman of the East Timor police, Captain Widodo announces registration for a second batch of 250 civilian militiamen to assist its operations. Registration for "Keamanan Rakyat (People's Security or Kamra)" for East Timor will open on March 1. "They are not equipped with firearms but are only using equipment such as handcuffs, batons, whistles and shields," Widodo said.

21 February

Halilintar arrested and brutalized at least 6 residents of the town of Atabae. The victims are taken to the local army headquarters (Koramil) after being beaten. Halilintar, armed with automatic weapons, begin patrolling at night in Atabae and its environs. 

Members of the Besi Merah Putih begin checking travellers on the roads in the Liquiça district. They are searching for anyone appearing to be a pro-independence activist. 

22 February 

The local district civilian head opened fire on about 200 pro-independence villagers after calling them to a meeting at Guiso village in Maubara. He was backed by members of the armed paramilitary groups Besi Merah Putih and Halilintar. The residents defended themselves and three members of BMP were killed and five others seriously injured. Soldiers of the 143rd Battalion intervened in the conflict to defend the BMP squad, injured 4 villagers and then burnt down 39 houses.

In an attack on the village of Fatuvou, near Maubara in the Liquiça district, not only did the Besi Merah Putih and Rajawali militias take part, but also Indonesian soldiers from the Maubara Koramil (military command) and from Battalion 143. Four civilians were shot and wounded and 18 were arrested. Soldiers prevented a Caritas ambulance from Dili from reaching Fatuvou to help. The ambulance was only allowed through after some days.

23 February

A militia squad killed a liurai (traditional chief) named Mendes in Balibo. He had reportedly refused to attend a meeting organized by the group.

Four civilians in Loes are wounded by Mahidi.

24 February 

Militiamen fire on dozens of pro-independence supporters in Dili, killing three people and injuring several others, One of the dead is Francisco da Conceicao Hornai, 23. Their bodies are taken to the ICRC office. The confrontation broke out during a funeral near an army barracks at Becora on the outskirts of Dili. A witness said the gunmen belonged to a local para-military group that has received weapons from the Indonesian military. The group was led by Domingos Berek who is a member of the army. Two Portuguese journalists, Jose Maria and Jose Alberto Carvalho of SIC, a private television news station, were beaten by assailants during the shooting incident. 

UN envoy Tamrat Samuel met pro-independence supporters in Dili in an effort to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

25 February

Armed civilians supporting integration within Indonesia will be welcome to stay in East Timor once the territory becomes independent, a delegation of East Timor traditional chiefs guaranteed during a reception at the Portuguese parliament in Lisbon.

27 February 

Basilio Araujo of the FPDK tells journalists while in Jakarta that the militias have 10,000 weapons. "They are paramilitaries and we are a non-government organisation. But we are all pro-integration and they will protect us," he said.

1 March

At a gathering, the chief commander of East Timor's pro-integration paramilitary groups, Joao Tavares, repeated his threat that the life of at least one Australian diplomat would have to be sacrificed to prevent the deaths of East Timorese in a civil war being caused by Australia. Mr Tavares, claims to speak only for his 2,400 men in Atabae, an area with a population of 87,000. Also present is Eurico Guterres. Atabae has recently been the scene of roadblocks and harassment of pro-independence supporters, some of whom have been attacked with knives and beaten.

In Dili independence supporter, Jose Luis Varaderas, said "these paramilitaries have no popular support. The Indonesians bribe people and give them guns. Life here is hard. If you have a starving family you do it, but the people here just want peace."

It has been reported that Indonesian government had already invested 26 billion rupiahs (US$3 million) in arming the paramilitaries to contrive "civil war" in East Timor. Also that for months the Indonesian military had been landing large numbers of troops in West Timor and trucking them East with weapons. When they return, they no longer had weapons.

The UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, called the recent flow of arms into East Timor "very disquieting", but said he felt a war could be avoided.

2 March 

Xanana Gusmao condemned a group of pro-Indonesian East Timorese currently staying in Jakarta and accused them of being paid by "an unknown party" to wage war against pro-independence East Timorese. "They have been staying in a five-star hotel for one month" Gusmao said of the group. Gusmao blamed clashes between pro- and anti-Indonesian East Timorese, which have claimed several lives in the past month, on a "third party", the SGI. He called for the SGI to be withdrawn from East Timor. 

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 07/09/99
©S D Stein
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