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Indonesia News Digest No 19 - May 6-12, 2001

East Timor

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East Timor

Australia, East Timor treaty talks likely to resume in Dili

Reuters - May 7, 2001

Melbourne -- Tough negotiations over a Timor Sea oil and gas production treaty are likely to resume between Australia and East Timor later this month in Dili as commercial deadlines loom for a key gas development in the region.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said it was expected the talks would resume toward the end of May after the latest round of negotiations ended last week without resolution.

"There are still some fairly complex issues that need to be resolved, but certainly the atmosphere of the talks was constructive and productive," the spokesman said.

Australia has balked at East Timor's claim for a midway Timor Sea boundary to replace a zone of co-operation between Australia and Indonesia which allowed an equal split of petroleum revenues from a disputed area known as the Timor Gap. The disputed boundary issue has to be renegotiated due to East Timor's move to independence.

Under East Timor's claim the major Bayu-Undan liquids and gas project would be in its waters, while the territory's interim administration says it also has a "compelling claim" to the Laminaria and Buffalo oil fields to the west of the Timor Gap.

Australia has indicated it is willing to shift ground on the revenue split, with some reports suggesting around an 80:20 shift in favor of East Timor, but not on its boundaries.

"We are not advocating changes to the boundaries. We consider we have made a very generous offer to East Timor in terms of the sharing of the revenues from the Timor Gap," Downer's spokesman said.

If Australia concedes upstream revenue to East Timor it would still gain most of the benefit from likely downstream projects, due to a deep underwater trough that would hinder construction of a gas pipeline from the offshore fields to East Timor.

Political affairs ambassador in the East Timor Transitional Government, Peter Galbraith declined on Monday to comment on the talks, but has warned that the July 15 start to the election campaign for East Timor's new government looms as a deadline.

"Clearly there has to be an agreement in place by the date of East Timor's independence or else there will be no applicable legal regime to govern oil and gas exploration in the Timor Sea," Galbraith told Reuters.

East Timor considers the 1989 treaty between Australia and Indonesia covering the maritime area near East Timor as illegal and Galbraith said continuing the terms of the 1989 treaty after independence was not an option. "There is no reason to suppose that something that does not exist legally should then be the basis for an agreement," he said.

Phillips Petroleum Co, which is pursuing a major Timor Sea oil and gas development, wants a new treaty agreed to allow it to commit to a A$1 billion pipeline to bring gas to Darwin, which would trigger further downstream projects. "We need some decision some point early in June, so we can make some decisions sometime in July," Phillips Darwin area manager Jim Godlove said.

Australias East Timor secret

SBS Dateline (Australia) - May 9, 2001

[In an extraordinary investigation, reporter Mark Davis returns to East Timor to disclose disturbing new revelations about Australia's secret intelligence information prior to the country's independence referendum. Davis's report in 2000 on militias in East Timor won him both the Walkley for Investigative Reporting and the Gold Walkley. A senior officer has now revealed for the first time that Canberra knew the Indonesian Army had plans to destroy East Timor and murder independence supporters, and failed to alert those most at risk.]

Timor intelligence

Jana Wendt: Hello, and welcome to Dateline. I'm Jana Wendt. Indonesia has always tested Australia's diplomatic skills, never more so than two years ago during East Timor's independence referendum. Tonight, a special report on how Australia played that diplomatic game and the consequences of its strategies. We lay bare what Australia knew about the impending catastrophe surrounding the vote which gave East Timor its freedom. It's a devastating insight into the workings of Australian intelligence, and the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence. This special report from Mark Davis.

Mark Davis: It's almost two years since the Indonesian army and their militias fled across this border, leaving nothing but ruins and rubble and they are still no closer to being called to account than they were then. The people here know how the Indonesian Army did it's best to hide it's involvement here -- the bodies of their relatives still haven't been found, dumped at sea or dragged across the border. The chances of legal justice are now increasingly remote, but one man in this room may hold the key to revealing the full magnitude of their involvement here, and he's held it secret for nearly two years. A military intelligence officer with the Australian Army, risking not just his career, but possible imprisonment for what he is now prepared to reveal.

Captain Andrew Plunkett is returning to Maliana. He last made this journey in 1999 with an Australian INTERFET battalion liberating the border regions after the independence referendum. Then, the Indonesian Army and the militias were still fleeing, the evidence still fresh, and Captain Plunkett was the senior intelligence officer in charge of gathering it. The investigation he began here at the Maliana POLRI or police station, led him to question his service, his career and his government.

Captain Andrew Plunkett: Unfortunately, the open ceiling is weathered, the writing on the walls. But it was full of graffiti and basically it translated as, "We`re about to die, why have people forsaken us." And little crucifixes and pictures of Mary and Jesus.

At least 47 people who`d been sheltering here were massacred by militiamen and Indonesian forces. Another 12 were hunted down in surrounding fields. There may be more. For Captain Plunkett, the most disturbing aspect of his investigation was the killings here not only implicated Indonesian police and TNI soldiers in atrocious acts of murder but they implicated his country, the United Nations and the intelligence agencies that he worked with.

Captain Andrew Plunkett: It was discussed that it would be too embarrassing for the UN to talk at that time about the link between the UN and handing the pro- independence supporters to the police here. So I guess you can say we`re pretty silent on it. Captain Plunkett is now on stress leave. The untold story of what occurred here is that UN personal from the UNAMET electoral mission unwittingly led key independence figures literally into the arms of their killers. To Plunkett, that act was more than an unfortunate misunderstanding. It was an act in which his country was culpable. The intelligence group that he worked with had information that would have prevented the massacre, critical information about Indonesian TNI soldiers and police, information that never reached UN staff, including Australian police who are stationed here during the referendum.

Captain Andrew Plunkett: If they had accurate information, they would not have trusted TNI and POLRI full stop. Least of all, recommending they could seek refuge in a POLRI station, you know.

How did you feel when the full extent of what happened here sort of dawned on you?

I was pretty devastated, and to be honest, I felt guilty myself, being associated with the intelligence area. I felt for the UN monitors here. I could understand from what they were being fed, you know, they probably would have taken that course of action and I was pretty upset to put it mildly. Yeah, and then when the decision was to not talk about that aspect of it, sort of compounded it, made it a bit worse.

As intelligence officer for Australia's highest readiness combat unit, 3RAR, Captain Plunkett was part of the country's most sophisticated intelligence network. He had up to 30 intelligence field staff and electronic satellite and thermal imagery specialists attached to his unit and under his command. In Timor and in Australia, he carried a top-secret security clearance, giving him rare access to internal working of Australian national security.

Captain Plunkett has not passed classified documents or signals in making this story. But what he does unambiguously state is that Australia knew in great detail exactly what Indonesia's plans were in East Timor and decided to remain silent. Although numerous leaks have circulated over the past 18 months, he is the first intelligence insider to speak publicly on these matters. And he's doing it primarily to prompt the prosecution of the killers he investigated. And if they're to escape justice, then to at least give the Timorese the full truth about what happened here.

In the ruins of the main street, a small freshly painted building stands out.

The locals call it the widow's co-op. Dozens of women in this group saw their husbands hacked to death at the police station. Some of them had worked for the UN. The UN helped construct this building for them. But it hasn't told them the full depth of its role in the death of their husbands and it hasn't told them how little it's done to avenge that atrocity.

This is your husband? What was your husband's name?

Filomena Da Silva: Lorenco dos Santos Gomes.

Lorenco dos Santos Gomes was killed in front of his wife and eight children.

Filomena and her husband both worked for UNAMET. With at least 500 others she and her family were sheltering at the police station when the UN unexpectedly left Maliana. The police were protecting them, she was told.

Filomena Da Silva: They surrounded us with thousands of militia and Indonesian troops together. Then they called out, "Call for Xanana now! Go on, call for Xanana to come and rule over the dirt." After that, they were looking for the local staff from UNAMET. They pinned me against the wall, shaking five knives in my face and saying, "You've hated Indonesia since 1975, you take Indonesia's money, you eat its rice, and then you turn against it." They yelled out "Laurenco, Laurenco!" and I thought "That's it, he's going to die" because there were many people being killed, so many were already dead.

After 24 years of being brutalised by the Indonesian Army and police and indistinguishable joint force, the last place the Timorese would go for protection was a police station. It needed the advice and presentation of a powerful and authoritative body to get them there.

Filomena Da Silva: This photograph was taken at the 27th August dinner together with the UNAMET people. This photograph is from the registration time.

Unlike others in Maliana who fled to the hills, Filomena stayed with UNAMET until the bitter end, helping to bring in the precious referendum votes gathered in the villages.

Filomena Da Silva: On the 31st, I came back with UNAMET and things were hotting up ... They told us that if anything happened at our house we must go to the police. UNAMET security was the ones who went to talk to the police commander about taking care of us. We had some hope while UNAMET was still there. When UNAMET left, we lost our trust.

Filomena bares no animosity to the UNAMET staff that she worked with. They couldn't have known that police were going to kill them, or could they? It seems hard to believe that the UN hierarchy at least, didn't know how deeply the Indonesian Army and police were involved with the militias. According to Captain Plunkett, at the time of the deaths, Australian intelligence knew even more than that. They knew that Indonesia was about to embark on the destruction of East Timor, and the execution of independent supporters. He alleges the four diplomatic reasons officials within the Australian Government withheld that critical information from staff on the ground, including Australian police and military observers.

Captain Andrew Plunkett: It was done at a pretty senior governmental level and as I said, the military handed over what we'd collected and, from there, you know, because there was a foreign affairs basically mission here, you know, they directed the policy as to how much information and where it would go. What was that information indicating?

Captain Andrew Plunkett: That the militia were proxies of TNI and TNI were going to basically destroy East Timor after the autonomy vote, if it went against Indonesia. It was quite clear.

So you knew that before?

Alexander Downer, Foreigh Affairs Minister: Yeah. I think we behaved most honourably throughout 1999. In fact, it's one of the most honourable periods in Australian foreign policy, where we did everything we possibly could to ensure the ballot took place. We weren't playing a political game. We weren't trying to engage in some childlike debate. We were trying to get the ballot to take place.

At the end of the day, we handled it just right and the proof of that is in the result.

The massacre at Maliana happened on 8 September 1999. But the story of how the people came to shelter at the police station begins in Canberra at the beginning of that year. On the stores of Lake Burley Griffin, at the headquarters of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, the DIO. The DIO was receiving information about the then emerging pro-Indonesian militia groups in East Timor. They received details that the militias were solidly under the control of the Indonesian military. It made a mockery of the Indonesian Government's claims that they were trying to reign in the militias. Despite its own military intelligence, Australia publicly maintained that Indonesia was not behind the violence, but perhaps just some rogue elements of its army were.

When did you become aware that they weren't rogue elements but it was systemic?

Alexander Downer: I'm not sure ... they were always rogue elements in the sense that it was not the policy of President Habibe to see the ballot disrupted and violence perpetrated in East Timor. That there were elements of the army who were doing that, or were assisting with militias was not their policy. That was certainly a behave which was not.

A rogue army perhaps, not rogue elements of that army.

Alexander Downer: I don't think that's right.

Professor Des Ball, Strategic & Defence Study Centre, ANU: This is three days before and it says there is no evidence of any Indonesian involvement other than perhaps rogue elements. Professor Des Ball from the strategic and defence study centre at the ANU is one of Australia's foremost intelligence experts.

Professor Des Ball: This is giving the Government plenty of notice as to who's doing it and what is going to happen.

Ball is about to publish an extraordinary paper, "silent Witness", which documents the extent of the intelligence that the Australian military had gathered regarding Indonesia's involvement in the bloodshed in East Timor. Based partly on leaks from defence intelligence, it solidly underscores Captain Plunkett's allegations. Clearly, Plunkett is not the only disillusioned military figure.

Professor Des Ball: So, in other words they're angry about the fact that they were advising the Government as early as the very first months of 1999 about what was likely to happen and pretty much predicted it pretty much right. Yet the Government was ignoring this and that made many of them angry.

Alexander Downer: I don't want to go down the path of where they came from, but it has to be understood that they were ... the leaks that there have been were very selective and they were party political in their motivation. There is no doubt about that. I know that only too well.

Professor Des Ball: These are senior intelligence figures. Many of the ones who I believe, or not believe, who I know for a fact are behind some of the leaks, are senior people in the intelligence community who have been there for a long time, who simply became very unhappy about the way things were happening in 1999. They're not political hacks.

Whatever intelligence he was receiving in 1999, Downer was facing difficult choices. Unquestionably, he was doing more to confront Indonesian atrocities in East Timor than any of his predecessors in 25 years. But, given Australia's history on the issue, that's not saying a lot. Decades of Australian appeasement had won it a special relationship with key figures in the most murderous regime in the region. Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, constantly assured Downer that the few mysterious figures behind the carnage in East Timor would be brought under control before the referendum. Presumably, he didn't mention at this dinner in February that his own department was feverishly funding the militias with millions of dollars as has since been revealed. And other Cabinet ministries were to follow. From Ali Alatas down, Australian foreign affairs had developed extensive personal relationships with Ministers, Generals and intelligence figures within the Indonesian hierarchy. A long policy of engagement that was now hoped to be put to good use in East Timor. Professor Des Ball: They had put a lot of investment in building up their own political and indeed intelligence links with their Indonesian counterparts. Not only did they want to exploit those links, I think many of them saw this as an opportunity where Australian diplomacy could really fly high. We could use that special relationship to bring about good outcomes that could have been very high minded, but they were really ... they were fooling themselves.

It would be a remarkable situation if foreign affairs advisers believed the assurances of their Indonesian counterparts over the advice of their own military. What sets Australian military intelligence apart from other forms of analysis is that military advice is based not so much on opinion as on electronic surveillance. It's the military's surveillance assets that give Australia its reputation as the leader source of information on the Indonesian Army. And it's why Australian opinions on East Timor were relied upon so heavily internationally and by the UN.

Shoal Bay in the remote far north of Australia, controlled by the Australian military Defence Signals Directorate, the DSD, it's the most sophisticated listening station in the region. It was from here that military intelligence had a ringside view over events in East Timor in 1999.

Professor Des Ball: There's absolutely no question. These are based on raw intelligence and most particularly signals intercepts by the Defence Signals Directorate.

It's Shoal Bay that gives particular weight to information coming from military intelligence officers. Captain Plunkett has not passed any documents from Shoal Bay. But a search warrant issued against another military intelligence figure reveals an extensive list of defence signals recordings relating to East Timor that the Government is seeking.

Professor Des Ball: We know from the titles of the DSD ones which were included in the warrant, that they included situation reports on a regular basis -- more frequently than a daily basis -- about particular conversations or communications which had been intercepted involving Indonesian military and militia leaders, as well as communications from which a more general picture of events in East Timor was being built up.

If you were to launch prosecutions against TNI figures, or police figures within Indonesia, would that information be useful in a criminal prosecution or a war crimes tribunal?

Professor Des Ball: It would be extremely useful. It's invaluable. You would have on tape particular Kopassus commanders ordering or discussing at least with militia leaders the killing of particular individuals, particular movements to set particular houses on fire, to relocate particular families. Evidence right down to the individual level is all there on tape, yes.

If the Australian military were monitoring anywhere in East Timor in 1999, it would have been monitoring in Maliana. Maliana was the cradle of the militia movement. The leader of all the militia groups in East Timor lived in a mansion overlooking the town. Joao Tavares, the wealthiest man in the district, with long and intimate links to Indonesian police and intelligence. Under his patronly command, the Maliana militias had been openly murdering and raping since the beginning of the year. If Indonesia was trying to put an end to the militias, Tavares apparently wasn't aware of it. In April, Indonesia's denials that it was fostering and controlling the militias reached the level of black comedy with the massacre of suspected independence supporters at the Liquica church. The army and police surrounded the church, preventing any escape while the militias were sent in to murder up to 50 people. It was a dress rehearsal for Maliana, but this time the soldiers and police didn't directly kill anyone.

They stood there and watched for half an hour. They were neutral, they claim. Just enough distance to maintain a level of plausible deniability to an uncertain international community.

Alexander Downer: I know almost better than anybody in Australia and perhaps well beyond that, that the information that was coming from the ground was very mixed, conflicting and uncertain.

This worked to Indonesia's advantage and the accusation is that Australia added to that uncertainty.

Alexander Downer: What worked to Indonesia's advantage?

The plausible deniability that Indonesia was not funding or supporting the militia?

Alexander Downer: I don't think that's, if I may say so, with the greatest of respect, a completely bizarre view.

This leaked defence intelligence report left no doubt about the culpability of the police and army in the deaths at Liquica. It also left no doubt about the credibility of Indonesia's defence or the role its forces were playing in East Timor. Just four weeks later, Indonesia signed the 5th May agreement, finalising the arrangements for the upcoming referendum in East Timor. No armed international force would be allowed in. Security would be provided by Indonesian police. The same men who so ably assisted in the murders at Liquica church. A force which just one month before remained within the official command structure of the Indonesian Army, but was now apparently fully independent. With the referendum now set for August, Australia committed to send unarmed Federal Police and military officers to East Timor to monitor the poll. By May the dissenting figures in military intelligence had been largely silenced. Indonesia was not officially backing the militias. Reasonable words to say in public perhaps, but hopefully someone would tell the representatives heading for East Timor all the details that were known.

At the Sundown Motel on the outskirts of Canberra, 50 volunteers from the Australian Federal Police began training for their mission in East Timor. They were to be working directly with the Indonesian police, supporting their efforts to reign-in any rogue elements wishing to disrupt the pole. An AFP intelligence officer, Wayne Sievers, was amongst them.

That was unambiguously the message "rogue elements"?

Wayne Sievers: Absolutely unambitious and that the Indonesian Government and that there was goodwill in the Indonesian Government, certainly goodwill in the Indonesian military and police to work with us to conduct a successful ballot and that, with ... and that it was expected had the rogue elements would be brought under control, and that part of our duties would be to bring the two sides together in a bridge building exercise as well to develop trust.

Before departing, the police gathered with UN staff from around the world for more briefings conducted by Australian officials. Reputedly, the greatest source of intelligence on Indonesia and East Timor. Parallel training was given for Australian military liaison officers who were to work with the Indonesian Army.

Although he didn't deploy, Captain Plunkett undertook all of the training and briefings.

Captain Andrew Plunkerr: This is low-level, low-grade information. As I said, you could read better in Reuters or News Limited.

As they entered East Timor, the military and police observers were walking into an environment far deadlier than they could have imagined, armed with neither guns nor the life-saving intelligence their nation could have given them. The militias in Maliana weren't too fussed about the arrival of UN monitors. They already had the run of the town with the full complicity of the police and army.

As international observers arrived, they were just limbering up. Through July and August, as UN civilian electoral teams spread throughout Timor, Australian and international police and military officers deployed with them, watching over the Indonesian police and army, assuring the Timorese that they were here to stay. Wayne Sievers: It was the central message that we wanted to convey out in the field, and that was the message I went around saying every day we will stay and help you into the transition of a new society.

Do you feel guilty or compromised now by those statements?

Wayne Sievers: Absolutely. I feel as if ... I do. I actually feel that if I had my time over again, I would have been more critical of both the UN and my own Government and perhaps I would have done things differently. "You may need to consider going to the hills," that's what I should have been saying. But I trusted my own Government and I trusted the UN.

For international staff on the ground, the duplicity of the police and army soon became blatantly apparent. When a militia operation was to be mounted, the police would seal off an area and then the militias would come in. The police would either stand idly by, or if the militia had no chance of being outnumbered, would simply leave. In the weeks leading up to the referendum, the Indonesian military appeared confident that their charade of neutrality was convincing, that the militias were a spontaneous local movement and the police an independent force. In keeping with UN policy, the international military observers who were working with them weren't about to tell them otherwise.

Having got away with so much so far, the Generals began devising an even more audacious plan and according to Captain Plunkett, defence intelligence in Australia became aware of it. The Generals were planning to decimate East Timor of the referendum, together with all known independent supporters. Captain Plunkett was at a military base in Sydney watching events unfold in East Timor.

He claims that the information then received by UNAMET officers in the field was sanitised beyond recognition.

Captain Andrew Plunkett: The analysis was that the TNI would basically destroy East Timor and they'd use militia as proxies. It was quite clear the link between the militia and TNI and the militia being bit players, small pawns, and it was quite clear that they would kill a lot of people and destroy their infrastructure straight after the autonomy ballot, if it won independence. It was quite clear from the analysis and the reporting and the information that was coming out of East Timor. But unfortunately by the time it left the military, and went up the chain of command, in effect to foreign affairs, it wasn't pushed down to the UN or the Australian UN observers on the ground.

But it wasn't just agencies in Australia gathering this information.

Intelligence staff on the ground such as Wayne Sievers were gathering their own.

He and others were collecting leaked Indonesian documents and feeding them into the UNAMET structure.

What were these documents and reports indicating?

Wayne Sievers: They were indicating that indeed it was the Indonesian military at the highest levels that were organising, arming, training and funding the militias at a time when they were supposed to be disarming them and protecting us. I started to get increasingly worried because there seemed to be a culture of denial in the UN and their reaction was to this kind of information, to these reports was, "Oh, it's alarmist talking, it's misinformation from the independent side. We have to accept the assurances that the Indonesian authorities have given us." And I got really worried about that.

In Maliana, despite intimidation, the registration for the referendum continued.

But the situation for the UNAMET staff there became increasingly dangerous. They started to come under direct attack from the militias, and the police, as always, stood idly by or simply disappeared.

The head of UNAMET, Ian Martin, visits Maliana to seek assurances from the police regarding the safety of his staff and ominously a small group of independence leaders had been moved together with their families into the police station under UN supervision.

Ian Martin, head of UNAMET: There have been pro-independence leaders who are still here in the police station because of their concerns about the security situation, and we've been talking about how they can go back to their homes with adequate guarantees of security from the place. It is the responsibility of the police and the police alone to be backed up by the military where necessary to maintain security and not of any other groups.

In the final weeks of the campaign, the charade of the May 5 agreement with Indonesia reached its climax. The Peace and Stability Commission, a joint venture between the Indonesian police and the UN, had apparently bought the militias to the negotiating table. The Peace and Stability Commission organised meetings, introducing independence leaders to the police, army and the militias.

A reasonable act in Dili, but when replicated, as it was in remote towns and hamlets, it had rather more sinister implications.

Wayne Sievers: Things like that were participated in for appearance sake only, not for any meaningful reconciliation. You saw in the end where you saw, like you're referring I take it to the massacre at the Maliana police station during the violence. All of that bridge building work that we did in the three months of the mission, all came to nothing and in some cases were used against those who were fairly naively trusted if UN and thought that there was some substance in this reconciliation. All of that was used against them in the end. As the people that lost their lives in Maliana found, it was a misplaced trust.

Ian Martin: It commits participants to avoid and condemn political violence or intimidation ...

As the charade about Indonesia's neutrality continued, the rules of the game were further spelt out.

Ian Martin: It commits participants in the campaigns to avoid inflammatory or defamatory language.

The good news was echoed throughout East Timor, including Maliana and surrounding villages.

Australian Woman: All participants should avoid using language that is inflammatory, defamatory or incites violence.

Although now safe from defamatory comments, the reconciliation arrangements took the independence leaders in Maliana a step closer to their graves.

Australian Woman: Intimidation in any form is prohibited.

The leadership of the independence group in Maliana, the CNRT, many of whom had been operating anonymously, were now encouraged to participate in the peace and stability meetings with the police and militia groups, the FPDK and BRTT.

Adriano Joao: Yes, UNAMET was the facilitator of the meetings between FPDK, BRTT and CNRT.

Adriano Joao was the vice-secretary of the CNRT in Maliana. And Maliana was probably the deadliest place in East Timor to openly declare yourself pro- independence.

Adriano Joao: UANMET also promised us and the people that we would not be harmed. If we were, then within 24 hours a peacekeeping army would come. That's why the people didn't run into the mountains.

Wayne Sievers: And on the basis of what my own Government had said to me, I went around busily putting the minds of East Timorese at rest that the security situation would be in hand for the ballot and that no matter we would stay and that this transition they were about to undergo, everything would be fine. They didn't need to worry, they could trust us.

Australian Woman: If, over this period of campaigning that you experience any form of intimidation or violence, it's very, very important that you report it to the POLRI, and the civilian police will talk to POLRI to find out that they were actually following up on your complaint. So the most important thing is you must speak up.

Adriano Joao: UNAMET were holding on to the May 5 agreement. They thought that the Indonesians were like people from other parts of the world, that they would abide by what they signed in an agreement.

In their final weeks, the situation for the UNAMET staff in Maliana was becoming perilous. Random killings were occurring in their area, and attacks were being made upon them. Their reporting to headquarters expressed a growing desperation and a deepening suspicion of the police. But the UN script still had to be followed. 11 days before the referendum, Wayne Sievers, who was in Dili, filed the first of two devastating reports concerning the situation in Maliana. The reports advised with chilling accuracy what was about to occur there. They were filed to both the UN and an officer from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs.

Wayne Sievers: Because I thought it was my moral duty. The last bit of trust, if you like, I had in our Government, I had to exercise by sending it back, at least if they hear my side of it, and I wouldn't be the only one doing this, there would be other people on the ground, perhaps they might see that it's not the rogue elements. In fact that our hosts had been engaged in a tremendous doublecross.

Sievers reported from an informant inside the pro-Indonesian forces in Maliana, a plan to execute all independence supporters in the town immediately after the vote. A plan that was then to spread across East Timor, igniting the whole country. The informant was at a meeting in Maliana of Indonesian government officials, military intelligence officers and militia leaders. He specified that certain UNAMET officers were to be killed, but more particularly the document detailed how and when the mass killings would begin. It was the blueprint for the massacre. The UN dismissed the report. And the foreign affairs officer showed no interest in even receiving the follow-up documentation.

Wayne Sievers: He refused to come to my house to take it. It was at that stage that the warning light went on and I thought, "These guys already know and they don't want any more information that would be unwelcome news because there's a line here that the Government has taken or a position that the Government has got itself into, that it can't extract itself from." So it doesn't want to hear the bad news or the contrary news, so it can claim ignorance at the end of the day, if indeed the whole thing turns bad. That's what I believe what happened.

Increasingly desperate, Sievers leaked the contents of the documents to the Defence Intelligence Organisation in Canberra. It would seem that they took the Sievers information seriously. Perhaps it accorded with other information they had. The day he filed his report, the Australian military liaison officer in Maliana was suddenly withdrawn. Concern for his life was cited, but nothing else was said to UNAMET staff. Just days after the Sievers reports were filed, the UN peace and stability juggernaut rolled up into the hills behind Maliana, where many of the men had taken refuge. A peace agreement with the militias was heralded to induce these people back into the town.

Lucio Marques: They organised a campaign because much of the population was scattered. Some to the mountains, some hid in the bush.

Lucio Marques was a key figure in the clandestine movement. He and his group were in the mountains planning on coming down to vote and returning immediately to the hideouts. But on 27 August, a joint team of militias and independence leaders formed under the peace and reconciliation group, implored them to come down, to remain in Maliana, to create a sense of peace and calm in the town for the safety of all.

Lucio Marques: On the 28th, they went from village to village, and those still in the mountains could come down and listen, calling people back saying "Don't leave your houses, when the vote is over, whoever wins, nothing is going to happen."

Lucio was convinced to return by his best friend and clandestine comrade, CNRT leader, Manuel Magalhaes, who had joined the reconciliation effort.

Lucio Marques: I and my family will always pray for those who died. Especially my brother, Manuel Magalhaes. Whenever I think about him it tears me apart.

In his house on the hill in the final days of referendum, Joao Tavares was completing the details of a dark plan, a plan to keep the people of Maliana inside the town after the vote. A reconciliation feast was to be held. And then the army would seal off the town.

Adriano Joao: In Maliana on September 3, they were going to kill 10 cows and invite all the youth and the people for reconciliation. So that nothing would happen.

In a crude but effective device to overcome the secrecy of the ballot, it was announced that any independence supporters who had concerns for their safety could camp at the police station. The UN had been keeping people there for months, and they had been safe.

We knew this would just be a tactic to get us. So we didn't come down, we went up again. Those who believed it went back to the police station and that's why they died.

In the days following the election, the noose tightened around Maliana. The men who didn't take the chance to vote and run were trapped within two days as the army began to encircle the town. The UN officers came under attack and 100 people who had been sheltering there were taken to the police station. Others in the town had filed in as well. A grim choice, but the presence of UN police and military monitors gave some sense of security. By 3 September, unarmed, under attack, the city in flames, the UN monitors had to leave, taking as many civilians as they could cram into their vehicles. It was now too late to give the advice the UN should have been giving -- vote and run. The trap was set.

Lucio Marques: They had red and white flags draped around them. The swords were on their backs, they came running, pulling out their swords. The ones in their way were killed on the spot.

The first victim of the militiamen soldiers and police who attacked with knives and bayonet was as 12-year-old child. Lucio was saved by his sister who buried him under bedding with three other men. Manuel Magalhaes, the CNRT leader who heralded the peace agreement was hacked to death. The murderers then began working to a list, a list prepared during the reconciliation meetings. A list prepared from police records of people who had lodged security complaints against the militias when the UN was there.

Filomena Da Silva: The night they killed my husband and his friends, they were playing guitar, laughing, singing, making fun of people. The police commander kept saying "Keep going, keep going." The police kept playing guitar and making fun of us women and children. We were like this ... we couldn't cry. Dead here, dead there. We couldn't cry.

Alexander Downer: I have no idea, I wasn't in Maliana. As the Foreign Minister, as you can imagine, I wasn't, you know, entirely familiar with the details of what was happening in every single village, and every town and village in East Timor or hamlet or behind every tree in East Timor and nor would of course our intelligence have provided that information. You would hope that your staff or Australians that are going to East Timor in that situation would be fully and frankly briefed.

Alexander Downer: Well, of course they would be.

Well, were they fully and frankly briefed?

Alexander Downer: Of course they were fully and frankly briefed.

In the days after the evacuation from Maliana, the entire UN mission began to collapse. Contracting in to this small compound in Dili, together with a flood of refugees. The UN was now planning a complete withdrawal. It was here that UNAMET officers ill advised before they came, ill advised while they were here, risked their lives to save thousands. In an astounding act of bravery and rebellion, they signed a petition that whatever orders they were given, they would not leave. They would die here with the Timorese. It was their last stand that finally drove Australia and the UN to confront the rogue elements of East Timor.

Jana Wendt: That report from Mark Davis has already prompted reaction. The Australian member of the International Commission of Jurists, Justice John Dowd, says the report reinforces the need for an International War Crimes Tribunal to examine crimes committed by the Indonesian Army and the Indonesian-backed militia. Justice Dowd also says the Australian Government should explain why reports from the Defence Intelligence Organisation were not passed on to UN officers in East Timor.

UN tells Timorese: use US dollars or face big fines

Sydney Morning Herald - May 11, 2001

Mark Dodd, Dili -- United Nations economic planners have launched a campaign to ensure the US dollar is the sole legal tender in East Timor. To back it up, heavy fines will be imposed to deter the unlicensed importation of all other foreign currencies, including the Australian dollar.

It has been more than 12 months since the US dollar was decreed as the country's legal tender, and it has made only a small impression in a market place dominated by the Indonesian rupiah and Australian dollar. An executive order signed by the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, will change all that, imposing stiff fines for illegal money changers, scores of whom can be seen daily outside the UN headquarters waving wads of dollar bills and rupiah.

Under the new prohibition order, signed on April 26, unlicensed traders and their customers, most of them UN employees, will face fines of up to $US5,000 ($9,540) if caught. Diplomats and economic experts fear that without an effective public education campaign, "dollarisation" could be doomed and could trigger short-term economic hardship and public anger -- two conditions to be avoided with national elections scheduled for August.

The first test of the success of the campaign could come as early as next week.

For the first time, East Timor's coffee growers will be paid in US dollars instead of rupiah. A massive logistical exercise is under way to fund the purchase of this year's coffee crop, estimated to be in the order of $US10 to $US15 million.

Ironically, it was the drastic depreciation of the rupiah that prompted the coffee co-operatives to seek payment in US dollars. Coffee is East Timor's biggest export earner and provides employment for about 200,000 farmers representing about 25 per cent of the country's population. They are now doing a crash course to familiarise themselves with nickels, dimes and quarters.

After an earlier, failed attempt to introduce the Portuguese escudo for little more than nostalgic reasons, the dramatic depreciation of both the rupiah and Australian dollar have underlined the need for the adoption of a stable currency to bolster East Timor's economic recovery.

The IMF's resident representative, Mr Jan Van Houten, told the Herald the present currency confusion, in which traders quote prices in three currencies, had to be halted. Residents and visitors alike are faced with an absurd situation in which they are compelled to carry at least three currencies: US dollars for official transactions and Australian dollars or rupiah for shopping and entertainment. "This is a market economy, but there is great inefficiency if goods are marked in three prices. It's time to say this chaos must stop and we're trying to get some consensus to move forward," Mr Van Houten said.

Nationalistic motives are also playing a part.

Independence leaders are known to be dismayed at the continuing widespread popularity of the rupiah. By contrast, the US dollar has stability, strength, universal acceptability and is politically neutral, attributes not fully shared by other candidates, especially the rupiah. While the rupiah is the currency of choice in the countryside and local markets where stallholders can freely exchange small denomination notes, in Dili the Chinese-run supermarkets and expatriate-run bars and restaurants favour the Australian dollar.

Money changing has become a lucrative business. Young Timorese men armed with calculators and cheap travel bags stuffed with rupiah and Australian dollars compete to quote the best rates to buy US dollars. The UN wants to see these money changers off the streets and the exchange to be conducted by vendors licensed by the Central Payments Office.

ASDT will use Fretilin symbols and ideology: Xavier

Suara Timor Lorosae -- Wednesday 9 May 2001

Partai Asosiacao Social Democrat Timor (ASDT) will this week try to get itself registered with the Independent Election Commission. They intend to use Fretilin symbols and the party's political ideology.

This was stated yesterday by ASDT President Francisco Xavier do Amaral in an interview with STL at his residence in Lecidere. "As an old man, and all this time, I had been waiting for them [Fretilin central committee] to unite Fretilin. But sadly till now nothing has been achieved. Because of that, I have decided to form the ASDT Party which will take part in the 30 August elections," said Xavier Amaral.

Xavier Amaral said he had already made preparations to register the party with the Election Commission. "I am psychologically prepared for registering ASDT and we will defend the 28 November 1975 Unilateral Declaration of Independence," said Xavier Amaral.

Xavier Amaral also urged Fretilin leaders to unite, and then register the party with the Election Commission after a declaration of unity had been made. Xavier Amaral warned that if this was not done Fretilin would be split into two or three factions. "If Fretilin is united, I will surrender all my power to the party. A united Fretilin will be the bridge to this country's independence," he said.

CPD-RDTL dispute Xanana threat claims

Suara Timor Lorosae - May 9, 2001

The General Co-ordinator of CPD-RDTL Antonio Aitahan Matak yesterday rejected allegations that the group was behind the threats against CNRT President Xanana Gusmao.

In an official letter, which was obtained by STL, Aitahan Matak said CPD-RDTL cadres never had any intentions to harm Xanana because they were all Catholics.

He added CPD-RDTL was the victim of a vicious false propaganda campaign. "This is false propaganda intended to destablize the country," said Aitahan Matak.

But in the letter, CPD-RDTL accused several high-level political leaders, in the country, and FDTL Commander Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak as being opportunists. The politicians named in the letter are: Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, Minister for the Economy Mari Alkatari and PSD President Mario Carrascalao.

Aithan Matak also wanted two CPD-RDTL activists, arrested in connection to an attempt against Xanana's life recently, to be released by Civpol. "The two activists, currently in jail, are innocent. The real culprits are roaming the streets spreading false propaganda and they are not arrested," added Aitahan Matak.

UN lets Indonesian military off the hook

Green Left Weeky - May 9, 2001

Vanya Tanaja, Dili -- News that Indonesia has formally agreed to set up an ad hoc tribunal to try those responsible for mass murder in East Timor around the period of the 1999 independence referendum was welcomed by Sergio de Mello, head of UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor) on April 27.

Indonesia's delay in setting up this tribunal has affected the credibility of UN statements such as those made by de Mello which have repeatedly expressed "full confidence in [Indonesian attorney general] Marzuki Darusman" in bringing the perpetrators of violence to trial.

UNTAET's public stance on this issue was that East Timor did not require an international crimes tribunal such as those on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. UNTAET argued that Indonesia should be "given the chance" to try the perpetrators of the killings and destruction in East Timor in 1999.

UNTAET has persisted with these claims of Indonesian "cooperation" despite being snubbed by Indonesian authorities when it has attempted to interview suspects in Indonesia, such as Aitarak militia leader Eurico Guterres and Indonesian military figures.

A presidential decree signed by Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid restricted the scope of the tribunal to crimes committed after the ballot on August 30, 1999, thus ensuring that some of the worst killings identified, such as the Liquica Church massacre and the murder of refugees at Manuel Carrascalao's house in April 1999, would go unpunished.

De Mello's April 27 statement did not take up this criticism of the decree, levelled even by UN representatives in New York.

Recent comments by National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) leader Xanana Gusmao have also been greeted with concern by NGOs and Timorese judges. Gusmao stated both in the US and at an Indonesian government-run conference in Jakarta, that an international crimes tribunal to try those responsible for the carnage in East Timor in 1999 was not a priority. Later he stated that these were his personal views. In the absence of any elected leaders, his comments were interpreted as reflecting the feelings of the East Timorese people.

Gusmao's statements tie in with an absence of will and action on the part of the UN administration to seriously pursue the perpetrators of these crimes. A walk through the streets of Dili today, 18 months after the destruction, will still reveal burned out shells of houses, lack of clean water pipes and electricity supply infrastructure. Schools do not have furniture, books or equipment. It would seem that neither the UN, nor the CNRT leaders are interested in seeing justice done.

The NGO Forum released a press statement on April 26 criticising Gusmao's stand, echoing earlier views of two judges from the Dili district court. One of these, Cancio Xavier, was quoted in the Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper as saying that justice was an important part of reconciliation and that the Timorese people still hankered for that justice. Significantly, Bishop Belo was the only East Timorese leader to continue calling for an international crimes tribunal.

Another prong of UNTAET's strategy and approach to the issue of the crimes against humanity committed here during the Indonesian military occupation is to argue that a national judiciary in East Timor needs to try these cases, before setting up an international tribunal. However, there are only two functioning district courts in East Timor, one in Dili and another in Baucau. The entire judiciary is staffed with young, recently graduated, Indonesian-trained East Timorese lawyers who have no experience at trying these kinds of crimes.

While a Serious Crimes Panel has been set up to examine crimes against humanity (rape, murder and other acts of violence), this panel so far has only sentenced two militia members, both for murder, one of whom sawed a hole through the ceiling of his cell after being sentenced, and escaped.

UNTAET's judicial affairs section, which presides over the judicial system in East Timor, does not even have an interpreting and translation budget, one factor leading to delays in hearings.

There were also criticisms that the court hearings had to fit in with the holiday plans of the foreign members of the panel. The militia members currently held in Dili are largely from the lower ranks, with the exception of Joni Marques, a commander of Tim Alfa of Los Palos. Meanwhile, militia leaders and other prominent opponents of East Timor's independence ensconced in Indonesian West Timor are feted and treated like state visitors on UN- sponsored "look see" visits to East Timor, supposedly designed to encourage the return of Timorese refugees held captive by the militias in West Timor.

For four days from April 23 reconciliation talks were held in Baucau between East Timorese leaders such as Jose Ramos Horta and their West Timor-based anti-independence counterparts. The visitors were flown in by a chartered Merpati Airlines plane, funded by the Reconciliation Commission.

UNTAET praised an initiative by Udayana Military Commander General Willem da Costa of a joint UNTAET-Indonesian government and military representatives' "walk" through the East Timorese refugee camps in West Timor to encourage the refugees to return. De Mello stated publicly that this was evidence of the Indonesian administration's commitment to resolving the refugee issue.

In the name of reconciliation, the UNTAET chief of staff spends much of his time courting militia leaders such as the de Carvalho brothers whose militias razed Ainaro town to the ground. Meanwhile, the daily conditions of the East Timorese in East Timor itself lie neglected by the UN.

UNTAET is attempting to push through the National Council a draft regulation for the creation of a "Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Commission". The commission would write a report charting human rights abuses between 1974 and 1999, based on testimonies. Its other role would be to provide an opportunity to those who did not commit serious crimes to confess and be given some form of community work. It is unlikely that the role of the Indonesian military will be examined and its members made accountable through this process.

The UN's response to a report written by James Dunn, a former Australian consul to East Timor and a prominent writer and analyst on East Timor, and leaked to the media two weeks ago, was also very telling. Dunn's report sheeted blame for the killings, destruction and mass deportation of East Timorese to the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI), particularly Kopassus officers who organised and led covert operations in East Timor some months before the independence ballot.

Dunn's 68-page report was kept secret, though it is now freely available on the internet. He was given minimal resources and time to complete his task. Prosecutor-General Mohammad Othman, who commissioned Dunn to write the report in the first place, attempted to disown the report, criticising it as lacking "hard facts" and for not being in a form suitable for court prosecution.

Dunn's report recommends speedy investigation of the role of the TNI, trials of presently held militia members, an international crimes tribunal should "no progress" be made by Indonesia, compensation to be paid by the Indonesian government for the loss of homes and material belongings of the East Timorese and resolution of the refugee issue.

The East Timorese people have been extremely patient over these last 18 months both in coping with the trauma and subsequent disruption of their lives caused by the TNI-directed destruction, as well as having to cope with the large, well-paid and arrogant foreign presence of the UN here. However, this patience is wearing thin.

Without organised, consistent pressure from the East Timorese people and their international supporters, those who laid waste to East Timor will get away withe their crimes unpunished.

East Timor: Portuguese MPs criticize `costly' administration

Lusa - May 9, 2001

A report by members of the Portuguese parliament criticizes the UN Transition Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) as being "costly and not very efficient".

"UNTAET has been exemplary in fulfilling its mission of assuring security and socio-economic stabilization in the territory. But its administration is costly, not very efficient and has not resulted in a timely preparation of East Timorese personnel for future administration", states the report by the legislature`s East Timor affairs commission, which visited the territory last February and March.

The report, which is to be released Thursday in Lisbon, concludes that the process of "Timorization" of the territorial administration is "clearly insufficient at the highest levels", although it recognizes progress since the legislators last visited East Timor in April 2000.

The MPs note that the situation in the half-island is now one of "more security, a bit more construction and a more lively economy", but alert to the fact that "most of the population continues to be unemployed, with no goals or future prospects".

They also criticize the "tight deadlines" and vague definition of the political process leading up to the election, set for August 30, of a constituent assembly whose job will be to prepare and approve a constitution by the end of the year.

The report is the result of the factfinding trip to East Timor, Indonesia and Australia undertaken by a delegation of MPs headed by Anacoreta Correia and including Carlos Santos, Armenio Santos, Rodeia Machado and Luis Fazenda.

Australian government knew what was to come in Timor

Sydney Morning Herald - May 10, 2001

The Australian government knew about Indonesian military plans to massacre East Timor independence supporters in 1999 and thought clever diplomacy could prevent it, a former member of the INTERFET forces said.

Wayne Sievers, who served as a federal police officer in East Timor at the time of the massacre of 47 civilians outside a police station in Maliana, said the Howard government was made aware of the massacre plans through documents he provided to both the UN and the defence force.

"Our government did know, and I'm fairly sure of it because I obtained some internal Indonesian army and militia documents in the weeks beforehand predicting the violence in and around the Maliana area," he told the Sunrise program on Channel Seven.

"Those documents were forwarded not only on to the UN and Australian military personnel who were working in the UN in Dilli at the time, but I'd also sent those documents to Canberra to a friend of mine in the defence intelligence community via a secure means." He said the documents detailed "chilling" plans by the Indonesian military and pro-Indonesian militia to kill independence supporters. "It showed the deep involvement of the Indonesian civil administration, too," he said.

After he provided the documents, Mr Sievers said he had little reaction from either the Australians or the UN officials. "The UN was in a state of denial at the time and still pushing the line that, 'oh well, this is just disinformation from the independence side'," he said.

"I didn't hear anything after I sent the documents to Canberra, and in fact I got so worried about the coming violence in East Timor that I'd given the first of these documents to an Australian diplomat on the ground in East Timor and he agreed that this document was genuine, or probably genuine.

"But in the subsequent weeks he refused to accept any more and I could only conclude the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs knew what the Indonesians were planning and didn't want a documentary trail to show that they knew." He said he couldn't confirm whether Australian troops and police were instructed to underestimate the death toll at Maliana, because the incident occurred after his time in East Timor.

Mr Sievers said he agreed with Captain Andrew Plunkett -- who served in East Timor and yesterday alleged the Australian government failed to act on information and stop the massacre -- that reports of Maliana were pushed up the chain of command, hosed down and politically watered down by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"I have some contacts in the intelligence community here in Canberra in defence and they were telling me that as early as early '99 and late '98 they were being put under pressure not to put things in reports, such as the high level involvement of the Indonesian military of the recruitment, training, funding, organising of the militias," he said.

"I can only conclude that yes, they knew the Indonesian military were planning to do this but they imagined quite naively and quite mistakenly that they had some kind of special relationship with the Indonesians and they could persuade them through clever diplomacy not to do this.

"Well it seems that that was mistaken and it cost people's lives." Mr Sievers was not confident about the future army career of Captain Plunkett. "His [Captain Plunkett's] experience will mirror my own," he said.

"The Howard government will crush Captain Plunkett for this. The Howard government does not tolerate dissent on East Timor, they intend to use it as something they can hang their hat on going into the next election.

"I have already heard the disinformation campaign, or the rumours if you like, against him have already started in Canberra yesterday, and I know where they are coming from and they will not tolerate this. His time in the military is probably very short and what he has done yesterday was the act of an incredibly brave man who has served his country well."

Sweet-talking rebels look to ballots not bullets for victory

South China Morning Post - May 9, 2001

Chris McCall, Dili -- Once branded a gang of dangerous left- wingers, Fretilin is out in the open and may be set to win through the ballot what it lost in 1975 with bullets.

The Fretilin flag is finally flying above its makeshift offices in Dili. The building was ransacked by pro-Jakarta militias in 1999, like the rest of the town, and the facilities at this "central committee" office are sparse. Even the telephone cannot be relied upon. But it has just registered for the August 30 election and is quietly confident it will win.

Does this mean a return to the heady days of 1975, when Fretilin's military victory in a brief civil war sparked fears in the West of a "Southeast Asian Cuba"? No, says the party.

The Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor is talking sweetly these days. It says its 24 years in the wilderness has changed it. "Don't see Fretilin from its leaders. See it from its organisation. Its leaders have changed," said technical secretary Francisco Cepeda. "In the body of Fretilin, there are people who have left-wing ideologies and right-wing ideologies."

At an extraordinary congress in Sydney in 1998, Fretilin adopted a new party structure, looking ahead to the day when East Timor would finally be free of Indonesia's yoke. It consciously reflects the structure of government and includes local branches right down to village level.

No one in East Timor doubts that Fretilin will do well. Many expect it to gain an outright majority. Mr Cepeda says it is targeting more than that. It wants 80 to 90 per cent of the 88 seats on offer. It has planned a major party congress for early July, just before the start of campaigning. There, the party programme will be officially adopted and its leadership confirmed.

Should it get anything close to its target, it will be in a position not only to govern, but to dictate East Timor's new constitution. The constituent assembly that voters will be electing will have the task of drawing up a new constitution within 90 days. After that, it may transform itself into the territory's first Parliament.

"We are going to work hard to have control of Parliament," said Mr Cepeda, who like most of the party officers is currently working on an interim basis.

He is keen to put doubters at rest. If it does win a resounding victory, Fretilin will adopt a constitution that meets the aspirations of all Timorese, he says. It would not necessarily ban foreign investment, although there would be restrictions to ensure it worked to the benefit of locals.

Fretilin's leaders have indeed changed dramatically since 1975. Around 80 per cent was wiped out in the early years of the struggle against Indonesian rule. The party was nearly destroyed, until resistance hero Xanana Gusmao regrouped the remnants into a new fighting force in 1983. But Mr Gusmao is no longer a member of Fretilin. And the Falintil guerillas he once commanded no longer serve it.

Its chairman today is Francisco Guterres, a former guerilla better known by the nom-de-guerre Lu-Olo. He was one of four other Fretilin leaders who reorganised the movement along with Mr Gusmao. Lu-Olo spent 24 years in the jungles. His Indonesian is limited because he never had the chance to learn it.

It is not all plain sailing, however. Fretilin's candidates will be running against people the movement fought in 1975. Some of them worked for the Indonesian administration. Some are suspicious that the Fretilin leopard has not really changed its spots.

And the party is split. Its 1975 leader Francisco Xavier do Amaral is back in town. Regarded as a collaborator by many after long years in Indonesia, he wants to claim back the party he says is his.

Today, Mr Amaral's supporters talk about him as the "de facto" president. But to much of the younger generation, who grew up under Indonesian rule, his name means nothing. The possibility remains, however, that he could split the Fretilin vote.

Canberra accused over militia's bloody plan

Melbourne Age - May 9, 2001

Jill Jollife, Dariwn -- An Australian Army intelligence officer who served in East Timor has accused the Federal Government of concealing vital evidence on Indonesian army and militia war crimes in 1999.

Captain Andrew Plunkett, of 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, has alleged that a massacre of more than 40 people at a police station in the border town of Maliana in September, 1999, might not have occurred if the government had acted on intelligence information predicting the killings.

He also alleged that Australian soldiers from the International Force in East Timor who entered Maliana after the massacre had orders to understate the death toll.

As a serving officer, Captain Plunkett risks prosecution for his declarations, made in an interview with The Age and in greater detail in a two-part edition of SBS's Dateline that begins tonight. But he said he wanted the truth told regardless of the penalty.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last night the minister denied the allegations. "We would absolutely reject any assertion we were withholding information relating to the safety of people on the ground," the spokesman said. Mr Downer also denied claims that soldiers were ordered to understate death tolls, he said.

Captain Plunkett is on convalescent leave for post-traumatic stress suffered during his Timor mission, which involved examining mass graves. He said his decision to talk was also influenced by his belief that an international war crimes tribunal was needed to investigate East Timor atrocities.

Leaks to the media have revealed that Australian intelligence agencies were aware of the extent of Indonesian military involvement in orchestrating the 1999 violence.

But Mr Plunkett's allegations, and other revelations on Dateline, are the first direct accounts from intelligence insiders and the first accounts of prior knowledge of a specific mass killing .

Captain Plunkett arrived in East Timor with the first INTERFET soldiers in late 1999, serving until February, 2000. He said that before the referendum he had seen accurate reports from the Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation, "none of which were being passed on to the UN on the ground".

On the Maliana killings, Captain Plunkett said Australian sources had accurately reported on Indonesian plans to kill independence supporters in Maliana, but their reports were "pushed up the chain of command, hosed down and politically wordsmithed by the Asia division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade".

He said the information was "held" at the department instead of being passed to UN observers in Maliana who could have warned the population. Captain Plunkett said the reports held by the Australian Government had come from "human intelligence" sources in Maliana.

One of these sources was Wayne Sievers, at the time an Australian Federal Police officer serving with an unarmed UN force. Mr Sievers told Dateline that two of his reports on developments in Maliana were sent to the UN before the referendum, but officials and Australian diplomats ignored them.

Mr Sievers said he reported on plans by Indonesian officers and militia leaders to kill independence supporters in Maliana, predicting how and when the killings would take place. He said he also sent his reports to a friend in the Australian defence intelligence community.

Captain Plunkett said the UN subsequently told people in Maliana that if violence erupted they should go to the police station, where Indonesian police would protect them.

Instead of finding the sanctuary they sought, several thousand people were trapped in the police grounds. According to survivors, on September 8, 1999, the area was surrounded by militiamen, with Indonesian police and soldiers forming a ring behind them. The militias hacked independence supporters to death with machetes in front of the assembled crowd. About 47 people were killed.

He said Australian troops were aware that many victims of various acts of violence had probably been dumped at sea or in rivers, but estimates of these could not be included in body counts.

He said that as a result the official body count registered for post-election violence in Maliana was about 12, whereas as an intelligence officer he had evidence of more than 60 bodies in Maliana town and the surrounding area.

Militia commanders accept referendum result

Suara Timor Lorosae - May 7, 2001

Fifteen militia commanders on Saturday accepted the 30 August 1999 referendum result, because it was, as they said, the decision of the majority.

The decision by the militia leaders was made at a tripartite meeting between CNRT, the Defense Forces of Timor Lorosae (FDTL) and PPI (the militia grouping), in Denpasar, Bali.

At the meeting PPI stated it wanted the following points adhered to: a) All communication channels to be maintained without any breakdown; b) Reconciliation dialogue to be maintained till there is some form of agreement among nthe Timorese people of differing political opinions.

"What's most important is that they [the militia commanders] have accepted the results of the referendum, because for them it was the unanimous choice of the Timorese people," said a CNRT participant who was contacted by STL.

According to the CNRT source, the militia commanders also accepted that they and their followers could be brought before the courts to answer criminal charges. "What's clear is that the judicial process will go on. It doesn't mean that when reconciliation is talked about, all crimes will be forgotten," said the source.

The militia leaders present at the tripartite meeting were: Joanico Belo, Cancio Lopez de Carvalho, Nemecio de Carvalho and other commanders.

Labour struggle

Labor unions plan strikes against ministerial decree

Jakarta Post - May 12, 2001

Jakarta -- A number of independent labor unions are planning a series of strikes to force the government to revoke an amendment of a ministerial decree on severance and service payments. Jacob Nua Wea, chairman of the All-Indonesia Workers Union Federation (FSPSI), said FSPSI would mobilize labor activists and workers in Greater Jakarta to stage a strike at the manpower and transmigration ministry on May 16.

"On May 21, 2001, all trade unions under the federation will again organize a similar demonstration at the office of all governors across the country to make provincial administrations aware of their rejection," he said here on Friday.

Jacob said further that some 5.1 million members under the Federation would be asked to take "leave" on May 22 and May 23, as a warning to employers that workers were serious about the matter. "No regulation bars workers from taking leave en masse and neither the government nor employers can blame the workers," he said.

Jacob said FSPSI also planned a massive demonstration at the National Monument Square on June 11 if the government resisted. "We hope the decree will have been revoked before a national strike happens," he added.

Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Al-Hilal Hamdi, amended Ministerial Decree 150/2000 on May 4 which was issued by his predecessor Bomer Pasaribu. The amendments scale back the amount of compensation, service and severance pay given to resigning, retiring or dismissed workers. Labor unions have charged that the minister buckled under the pressure of foreign investors and big business.

Jacob, also a legislator for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), said on Friday that FSPSI rejected the amendments as it excluded the right of retiring workers to receive service payments. "Employers cannot regard the pension funds as service payment for retiring workers because the pension funds were collected from workers," he said.

Mochtar Pakpahan, chairman of the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI), said that after coordinating with FSPSI, SBSI had decided to stage a demonstration at the manpower and transmigration ministry on May 17 to protest the decree.

"We have 300,000 members in Jakarta and surrounding areas, and this number will be enough to fill the manpower and transmigration ministry compound on May 17," he warned. He said he had also asked SBSI's chapters in North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Lampung, West and East Java to organize labor strikes until the decree is revoked.

Antoni Silo, program coordinator of the Social Information and Legal Guidance Foundation (Sisbikum), said in cooperation with the Confederation of Independent Labor Unions (GSBI) it would also organize a series of labor rallies in the next two weeks in Tangerang and Bekasi.

"We are very disappointed with the government which has bowed to pressure from foreign investors and issued the amendments without taking into account the negative impact beforehand," he said in a press release.

Antoni said the amendments contained in Decree 78/2001 were contradictory to the national development program aimed at improving the people's social welfare and creating social justice in the society. "In the case of labor dismissals, the new decree cannot function as a social safety net because the compensation outlined in the decree is not adequate to cover dismissed workers' daily needs," he said.

Largest May Day rallies since Suharto's fall

Green Left Weeky - May 9, 2001

Max Lane -- At least 50,000 workers, mostly members of the Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggles (FNPBI), joined protests in 19 cities in Sulawesi, Bali, Java and Sumatra. The largest mobilisations were in Medan and the East Java town of Sidoarjo, where 15,000 workers demonstrated at each. The Medan demonstrations included 7000 FNPBI members. In Jakarta, a May Day alliance of 30 organisations mobilised 5000 workers, led by FNPBI chairperson Dita Sari. The 1500 FNPBI workers first rallied outside the office of the International Monetary Fund. They demanded that the Indonesian government repudiate Indonesia's foreign debt and that the IMF be abolished. They then marched to Freedom Square to join 3500 workers from other unions.

Other sizeable contingents came from the Jakarta Workers Union and the Shangri La Hotel Workers Union. The Indonesian Workers Prosperity Union (SBSI) also attended with a contingent of 100. SBSI chairperson Mochtar Pakpahan brought an official of the International Labour Organisation to speak.

Other large mobilisations occurred in Modjokerto, Semarang and in Bandung near Jakarta. In Bandung, 2000 workers clashed with police who blockaded the provicial parliament.

The demonstrations were much larger than any previous May Day since the fall of the dictator Suharto in 1997. As a result, there was widespread TV, newspaper and radio coverage of the demonstrations. This sparked a wide media discussion of the issues raised by the demonstrators. Apart from the call for the abolition of the IMF and the repudiation of the foreign debt, the FNPBI also raised the demand for a 32-hour working week with no cut in pay. The FNPBI also focused its attacks on both the parliament and the government, claiming that both had become absorbed in squabbles among themselves over how to slice up power. They called on workers to place no hope in the parliament and to begin the struggle for a genuine parliament based on people's councils.

Government reviews pro-labor decree

Jakarta Post - May 8, 2001

Jakarta -- Labor unions are threatening massive strikes following Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Al-Hilal Hamdi's decision to amend controversial Ministerial Decree No. 150/2000 on employment termination which allows employees to receive a substantial payout regardless of whether they resign or are dismissed. Labor unions charge that the government buckled under pressure from foreign investors and big businesses.

The amendment, issued on Friday, annuls the requirement to provide severance and service payment to workers who either resign or are fired for committing major violations.

According to Tianggur Sinaga, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, these workers would only receive compensation money.

"Workers who wish to resign are obliged to lodge a written notice 30 days beforehand," she told The Jakarta Post by telephone here on Saturday. She added that the new decree also allowed employers to limit the number of resigning workers within a certain period.

The previous decree stipulated that compensation consists of the basic annual leave, along with financial support for transport, health and housing facilities.

Workers who leave a company for reasons other than resignation, retirement or dismissal due to a major violation retain their right to receive severance and service payments along with compensation money.

Regarding the severance payment, workers employed less than a year will receive the equivalent of a month's salary, those employed between one and two years receive 200 percent of their salary, between two and three years get 300 percent and so on. The highest severance pay is 700 percent for those who have worked for six years or more.

Concerning service payment, workers employed between three to six years get 200 percent of their monthly wage, between six to nine years receive 300 percent of their wage, between nine to 12 years get 400 percent. The most that can be received is 1,000 percent of their wage for those who have worked 24 years or more.

According to Tianggur, employers are not obliged to provide severance and service payments for retiring workers who are in a pension fund. "If retirees are not in any pension fund, they can receive 200 percent in severance pay, 100 percent in service payment and 100 percent in compensation money," she said.

The amendment also stipulates that workers who do not turn up for work for five consecutive days to participate in an illegal strike will be considered absent without permission. "This ruling wants workers to comply with the official procedure when they are going to go to strike, and those violating it can have sanctions imposed on them by the management," said Tianggur.

She said that according to the law, workers have a right to stage a strike to fight for their interests, but they are obliged to undergo bipartite or tripartite negotiations with the management and/or government mediators before striking. "And workers are obliged to inform their employers and security authorities, including the police, if they want to go to strike," she said.

Tianggur claimed that the substance of the amendment had been discussed with labor unions, businessmen, local non-governmental organizations and foreign investors.


When the initial ministerial decree was issued in 2000 by then minister Bomer Pasaribu, employers and foreign investors were up in arms. Over the past week it was labor unions who charged that the government had acquiesced and was victimizing workers to serve the interests of foreign investors.

The All-Indonesia Workers Union Federation (FSPSI) warned that it would mobilize its 11 million members to stage industrial strikes and rallies until the amendment was revoked.

"We have established strong coordination with our sectoral unions to deploy their members to stage strikes in their workplaces. It is impossible for us to accept such a decree which is a serious betrayal of our right to protection," Jacob Nua Wea, chairman of FSPSI, told the Post on Sunday.

He warned that the situation would worsen and the government would lose public confidence if the minister refused to repeal the amendment. "The issuance of the new decree has raised a new problem that will certainly worsen the mounting conflict between the government and the House of Representatives," he said.

Muchtar Pakpahan, chairman of the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI) concurred and said the amendment was evidence that the government was not committed to improving labor conditions in the country. "Workers in East Java, especially in industrial bonded zones in the province, will come to Jakarta to ask for President Abdurrahman Wahid's accountability regarding the decree," Muchtar said.

Ariest Merdeka Sirait, deputy chairman of the Confederation of Independent Labor Unions (GSBI), regretted the amendment, which he said exhibited the government's weak bargaining power vis-a- vis foreign investors. "The amendment implicitly shows that the government is bowing to pressure from foreign investors, and labor conditions will remain poor in the future," he said.

Not surprisingly, Djimanto, deputy secretary of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), hailed the amendment as a win-win solution. "It is unfair and burdensome to employers if they are obliged to provide severance and service payments and compensation money for resigning or retired workers and to those dismissed for major wrongdoings," he said.

He noted that even under the amendment, employers could not dismiss their workers arbitrarily. "Employers are also obliged to pay money to retiring workers whose pension funds are less than the severance and service payment level," he said.

Aceh/West Papua

Aceh separatists declare state of emergency

Straits Times - May 12, 2001

Marianne Kearney, Jakarta -- Separatist rebels in Aceh declared a state of emergency yesterday, blaming the military offensive for the rising civilian death toll in the province.

Mr Sofyan Daud, the Free Aceh Movement's (GAM) spokesman, said: "As of Thursday, Aceh has been in an extreme state of emergency because Indonesian forces have begun entering villages by day and night in full uniform and combat gear." Non-government groups report that civilians have become the major victims of the conflict.

Another Free Aceh spokesman warned that the rebels would launch a counter-offensive to defend the ordinary people. "If the Indonesian military continues with its military operation, GAM will attack all military installations and the situation will become very dangerous," said Mr Teuku Nashiruddin, a spokesman for the rebels" negotiating team.

Mr Nashiruddin blamed the high civilian death toll during the conflict on Indonesian troops who had been using the villages as a base for their operations, rather than fighting out in the fields. "Every time the troops enter the villages, civilians become victims," he said.

The military stepped up its offensive against the Acehnese rebels in the wake of a failed peace process and following an attack on Exxon Mobil oil fields in Lhokseumawe, for which the rebels were blamed.

Mr Saifuddin Bantasyan, a spokesman for a non-government group, said that the military offensive appears to have inflicted heavy losses on the rebels in key districts. He added that the state of emergency might have been declared in an attempt to move the battle out of the villages and back to the fields.

Another non-government activist Faisal Hadi claimed that the rising tide of violence during the crackdown had boosted the number of people joining the ranks of the rebels. "The government's policy has created a lot more active GAM members, because if they become active they get a gun and can protect themselves or maybe take revenge. But if they don't have a gun they can't do anything," he said, referring to the recent military offensive.

On Thursday, another nine people died in violence across the province. However, one of the most shocking cases was the execution of Mr Teuku Djohan, a former vice-governor and Parliament member, outside Banda Aceh's main mosque. It is unclear whether he was shot by rebels, criminals or the military.

Aceh violence leaves at least three dead

Agence France-Presse - May 9, 2001

Banda Aceh -- At least three people were killed and four others were wounded in the latest violence between separatist rebels and government forces in the Indonesian province of Aceh, a report said Wednesday.

Two rebels were shot dead during a clash in the Jeumpa sub- district of North Aceh on Tuesday, police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Wanto Sumardi told the Banda Aceh-based Serambi daily. The fighting erupted after a convoy of ten motorcycles refused to stop at a military checkpoint and riders opened fire on the security personnel, Sumardi said.

In the Simpang Arjun area of Bireun district, some 20 armed gunmen ambushed a vehicle carrying soldiers and left one soldier wounded, Sumardi said.

In South Aceh, villagers found the badly charred body of a man in a ravine in the Gunung Tangga Besi on Monday, a member of the local Indonesian Red Cross said. No further details were immediately available.

A man believed to be a local commander of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) was arrested on Tuesday in Semantok village in West Aceh, police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Sad Harunantyo was quoted by Serambi as saying.

Teungku Ali, 44, was arrested by a joint police and military patrol after he attempted to flee on his motorcycle after being hailed by the patrol, Harunantyo said.

Ali, who is believed to be the local GAM commander, is under treatment at the general hospital in Meulaboh after villagers who helped police arrest him beat him up, he added.

Clashes also broke out in three subdistricts of North Aceh -- Meurah Mulia, Muara Dua and Nissam -- on Tuesday but there were no reports of casualties, Sumardi said.

Jakarta has stepped up military operations in Aceh in the past weeks, especially in North Aceh which is home to the huge Arun gas field where oil and gas operations have been temprorarily halted amid security concerns.

The government has poured in troops and police to safeguard the area and allow it to resume its oil and gas operations. The stoppage has already caused heavy losses in revenues to the government.

GAM has been fighting for a free Islamic state in Aceh since the mid-1970s. Jakarta sent 1,100 fresh troops to Aceh last month to launch a security operation against the GAM, after a year of talks between the government and rebels which resulted in a series of shaky truces between the two sides. But the truces failed to curtail the violence which has claimed more than 500 lives this year.

Rebels kill at least five in fresh Aceh violence

Agence France-Presse - May 6, 2001 (slightly abridged) Banda Aceh -- Continuing violence involving Indonesian government forces and separatist rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has left at least five killed, police and residents said Sunday.

Gunmen riding a motorcycle shot dead a police officer in the downtown area of Lokhseumawe in North Aceh after dark on Saturday, a police source there said. The attackers also took the victim's firearm before escaping, he added.

Sofyan Daud, Deputy Commander of the North Aceh GAM, denied that his men had done the shooting. "How is it possible for GAM members to enter, carrying firearms, a city like Lhokseumawe which is currently heavily guarded by thousands of soldiers and policemen," Daud said.

Lhokseumawe is the near the huge Arun gas field where oil and gas operations have been temprorarily halted amid security concerns. Jakarta has poured in troops and police to safeguard the area and allow it to resume its oil and gas operations, the stoppage of which has already caused heavy losses in revenues to the government.

In the neighbouring district of Pidie, a civilian suffering from mental problems was shot dead by soldiers during a sweep in the area on Saturday, according to human rights activists. He was killed as he fled from troops, according to Muharizal Hasan of the Coalition of Human Rights NGOs.

In West Aceh, a man arrested by police on suspicion of involvement in the GAM was found dead in Krueng Sabe on Saturday, a statement by the same rights coalition said. His body showed signs of heavy torture, it added. Another man who was arrested with him at the same time, is now being treated for severe injuries, the statement said.

The GAM commander for the Central Aceh region, Teungku Ilham bin ilyas Leubee, claimed that rebels have killed 10 policem during an ambush on a police truck. Ilham told AFP by handphone that that the truck was shot at from a hill in Timang gajah late on Friday night. The local police chief could not be immediately reached for comment.

Elite power struggle

Defiant Wahid refuses to share power

South China Morning Post - May 12, 2001

Agencies in Jakarta -- President Abdurrahman Wahid raised the stakes in Indonesia's political crisis yesterday, saying he would not hand further powers to his popular deputy and ruling out a reply to a second parliamentary censure for alleged corruption.

At a hastily convened news conference, Mr Wahid reacted angrily when asked what power he might give up to Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri. "What power?" he said. "I have already given her everything. She is happy." For the past week a team of seven ministers and the powerful Speaker of the lower house of Parliament and leader of the former ruling Golkar party, Akbar Tandjung, have been proposing that Mr Wahid hand over more responsibilities to her.

Last August, he promised to hand over responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Government to Ms Megawati. But critics say his promise came to little and are demanding he formally surrender power.

Yesterday, Mr Wahid said the August arrangement remained in place and that he was not prepared to give up more powers. Instead, he insisted he must remain in charge of appointing senior officials and cabinet ministers and determining basic government policy. He rejected reports of a widening rift between himself and Ms Megawati.

Last week, the Parliament censured Mr Wahid for the second time over alleged corruption and incompetence. He was given one month to improve his performance or face impeachment. He said he would not formally respond to the censure by the June 1 deadline. "If there was a response it would be catastrophic for the Parliament," the President said, without elaborating.

Many lawmakers and members of Mr Wahid's cabinet have suggested the President can only avoid impeachment if he quits or shares power with Ms Megawati. "He is slowly committing political suicide," said Alvin Lie, an outspoken legislator who took part in parliamentary investigations that resulted in the censures.

Ms Megawati, the daughter of Indonesia's founding leader, Sukarno, has not publicly commented on the political crisis. But her party holds the largest share of seats in the legislature and has led the charge against him.

Earlier Mr Wahid's doctors said the President, who is almost blind and has suffered several strokes, would undergo a medical check-up today. There have been growing calls for Mr Wahid, 60, to undergo an independent health examination.

He has been accused of being erratic in policy-making, which has been attributed to his deteriorating health. Mr Wahid said rumours of illness were unfounded. Hours earlier, he fell asleep and missed Friday Muslim prayers for the first time since becoming president.

Journalists caught up in subtle power-play

South China Morning Post - May 8, 2001

Vaudine England, Jakarta -- Fresh signs of Government fragmentation came last week with the demand from Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri's office that journalists seek special accreditation to cover her activities.

"It's because the Vice-President's office wants more autonomy from the office of the President," said a member of staff at her press office. Journalists were given a deadline of last Thursday to fill in lengthy forms to obtain a special press card to show when covering vice-presidential events.

The proliferation of such demands shows how fractured the Government has become. No institution appears to trust another, and the Government's authority continues to shrink. The latest demand comes on top of requirements from at least four other parts of Government for different accreditations.

The presidential palace demands presentation of their own press pass, even though these all expired on December 31. President Abdurrahman Wahid's press office appears unable to issue updated versions.

Visiting and resident journalists must secure another press card from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- a relatively painless and efficient process. But several of them have already found that the Foreign Affairs pass does not give them access to presidential press conferences -- whereas the expired presidential pass does. If reporters wish to cover events inside the Parliament building, another kind of pass must be secured.

Coverage of events at the armed forces headquarters at Cilangcap requires yet another card. Each one has varying specifications, such as whether the passport photos provided should have red or blue backgrounds.

But not one of these cards is enough to guarantee safe conduct and there is an increasing number of incidents in which journalists fall prey to local power-holders in the provinces who demand further homage before fulfilling the Government's stated policy of press freedom. Nor do any of these cards protect journalists from frequent harassment by military intelligence operatives in far-flung provinces.

The vice-president's press card is a new and sudden demand. It remains to be seen whether it is also intended as a subtle message from her staff that she is readying herself for a greater role.

Megawati ready to lead coalition, says Akbar

Straits Times - May 8, 2001

Robert Go, Jakarta -- Golkar leader Akbar Tandjung once again pushed Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri into a more prominent role in the process of ousting President Abdurrahman Wahid by saying that she is ready to lead a multi-party coalition to govern Indonesia.

"In various informal meetings, the PDI-P chairman has indicated readiness to lead if a multi-party coalition is formed as a solution to the current political crisis," Mr Akbar said in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Sunday.

Online media Satunet also quoted the Parliamentary Speaker as saying that Golkar would completely back Ms Megawati's bid for presidency.

Over the last few weeks, Golkar legislators have encouraged the PDI-P, Indonesia's strongest political party, to take a leading role against the President while they themselves remain in the background.

Last Monday, for example, Mr Akbar delegated the job of leading the parliamentary session that issued a second warning against Mr Abdurrahman to his PDI-P deputy, Mr Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno.

Several analysts, including Mr Kusnanto Anggoro of Jakarta's Centre for Strategic International Studies and University of Indonesia, commented that rather than supporting Ms Megawati, the party of former President Suharto is up to its old tricks.

While PDI-P's active participation is required to force Mr Abdurrahman to quit, Mr Kusnanto argued that Golkar's agenda includes saving its own skin and preparing for future elections.

He added: "This is a classic divide and conquer policy. Making Ms Megawati more active against Gus Dur could cause a bigger divide between her PDI-P and the President's PKB.

"Golkar wants to protect itself by using PDI-P as a shield against the anger of Gus Dur's supporters." Indeed, Mr Akbar's statements came at a time when popular support for him and his party is approaching a low point.

Following the first censure motion against the President, Golkar offices throughout Java were burned and destroyed by mobs who demanded the party's disbandment and accused it of preserving the politics of Mr Suharto's New Order era.

And a recent Satunet poll revealed that 52 per cent of respondents want Mr Akbar and Dr Amien Rais, chairman of the country's highest legislative body MPR, to resign if Mr Abdurrahman gives up the presidency. Respondents believed that the two legislators, who are among the President's harshest critics, are also to blame for Indonesia's political malaise and economic troubles.

Mr Akbar and Dr Amien were key brokers and beneficiaries of the deal that passed over PDI-P's earlier victory at the polls and landed Mr Abdurrahman on the top seat in October 1999.

Despite Golkar's manoeuvrings, analysts also said that time is running out for Ms Megawati, and that she has to make a decision soon about her party's stance towards the President. Said Mr Kusnanto: "Waiting much longer will be risky for her."

The question is, what is Megawati thinking?

New York Times - May 8, 2001

Seth Mydans, Jakarta -- She is the immovable object of Indonesian politics -- stolid, silent, imperious, a puzzle to her countrymen even as she commands unrivalled popularity.

The presidency seems to be hers for the taking, but nobody knows for certain if she really wants it yet. Her deep and dignified silences create a circle of awe around her even as people debate whether they signify subtle political calculation or sheer ignorance.

She is Megawati Sukarnoputri, 54, Vice-President, daughter of Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno, and, to her wildly enthusiastic supporters, "mother of the nation". As the country's politics swirl and clash around her, she looms ever larger and more formidable, seemingly through no doing of her own.

With Abdurrahman Wahid, 60, counting the days of his presidency after a censure vote last week in parliament, it would take only a little push now from Megawati to step into his job.

Wahid faces possible impeachment in the months ahead and Megawati, who commands the largest political party and the strongest popular support, is in a position to set the pace for change. As Vice-President, she would take over if he goes. But few people, even among her advisers, seem to know what she is really thinking. Some of them have suggested that she herself does not know. She is not celebrated for her intellect.

Megawati became Vice-President 18 months ago when Wahid -- whom she calls brother -- manoeuvred behind her back in an electoral assembly to seize the top position that even he now acknowledges she really deserved. In a general election four months earlier her party had won 33 per cent of the vote in a crowded field, far ahead of Wahid's 10 per cent.

But most analysts blame her for her defeat in the assembly as much as they credit him. As Sukarno's daughter, they say, she sat back, waiting to be anointed in the role she believed was hers by right and destiny.

Her rise to the top now would close a circle. It was former president Soeharto who pushed her father from office in 1967, placing him under house arrest, where he died three years later.

And it was, in effect, Soeharto who created her as a political force, ousting her roughshod from leadership of an ineffective party in 1996 and making a martyr of her.

It is an extraordinary fact of Indonesian political life that her popularity has only swelled since that day, despite her determinedly low profile and persistent silences.

As Soeharto was driven from power, she went shopping. She rebuffed pleas to speak out to calm deadly riots in the months that followed. She habitually absents herself from political fence-mending gatherings. And she has paid little attention to the potentially high-profile duties delegated to her by Wahid.

And yet the most enthusiastic political slogan, by far, in recent years has consisted of frenzied shouts of her nickname, "Mega! Mega! Mega! Mega!" Perhaps, some say, this could only happen in Indonesia, where Javanese culture reveres silence and where power is seen as a mysterious mantle that cannot be seized but envelops a leader of its own accord.

And Megawati seems to have benefited from comparisons. A cruel fact of political life in Indonesia in its time of crisis is the absence of capable leaders; Soeharto systematically neutered the most promising of his subordinates.

"Unfortunately, we don't have the best people at the top," said Goenawan Muhamad, a leading writer and editor. "There's no-one upstairs, no-one upstairs." It is common to speak of Megawati's dilemma: whether to push hard now for her prize or accept a power-sharing deal and wait for the next election in 2004.

Juwono Sudarsono, a former minister in the three most recent administrations, disagrees with the idea of waiting. "It's now or never," he said. "She has the problem of not being sure of the level of her support three years from now. There will be considerable slippage." And if she does not make a clean break with Wahid, she will be tarred with the failure of his administration.

Megawati is a conservative nationalist at heart -- in contrast to Wahid, with his libertarian and tolerant instincts. Experts in Jakarta expect her to give the military a freer hand in crushing disturbances, particularly the separatist movements that threaten the integrity of the vast archipelago nation of more than 210million that her father founded.

She would also take over what many see as a thankless, even hopeless, job. Indonesia is still plumbing the depths of its economic collapse and is seething with the rivalries and bloodshed that have filled the vacuum that followed the collapse of Soeharto's dictatorial rule.

And, she is well aware she would be surrounded by the same hungry political animals who have devoured Wahid -- including the same coalition of forces that opposed her presidency in the first place.

News & issues

Indonesians hanker for the `good old' Suharto days

Straits Times - May 12, 2001

Jakarta -- A majority of Indonesians are fed up with the ongoing political bickering and protracted economic crisis, and long for the stability of the Suharto era, a survey showed.

"Give us the good old days" was the cry of about three quarters of respondents of the survey conducted by the New Indonesia Alliance (PIB). The survey polled 600 people in Jakarta, Bandung (West Java), Denpasar (Bali), Padang (West Sumatra), Makassar (South Sulawesi), Manado (North Sulawesi), Medan (North Sumatra) and Surabaya (East Java). They were split evenly between men and women with about one fourth holding a university degree.

About 76 per cent said they wanted the return of the security and stability in former president Suharto's New Order era. But they pointed out that they did not want a rebirth of the stringent political system which dominated it.

Respondents charged that the current administration seemed more interested in political bickering than solving the economic crisis. They also have little confidence in the government's ability to restore security and order.

"Most respondents were deeply concerned with the unrest in Aceh, Ambon, East Java and Sampit, and the recent presence of President Abdurrahman Wahid's militant supporters in Jakarta," said a PIB spokesman.

PIB chairman Sjahrir, a noted economist, described the current situation as nothing short of a miracle. "We are experiencing a miracle because the horrible economic crisis has only sparked violent riots in Aceh, Irian Jaya, Sampit, Jakarta, Solo, Surabaya and several other cities," he said.

"I cannot understand why the country still exists if viewed from an economic perspective." The political elite should work hard to defuse the crisis, restore political stability and uphold the supremacy of the law, he said.

Rebels deny role in fatal hostel bomb blast

Straits Times - May 12, 2001

Jakarta -- Separatist rebels in Indonesia's Aceh province yesterday denied any involvement in a bomb blast in Jakarta that killed two people.

Representatives instead accused the Indonesian military of planting the device at a hostel for Acehnese students to discredit the independence movement and justify a crackdown in the province.

Police are questioning 11 people over Thursday's blast. "All 11 were residents of the house where the bomb blast occurred," Jakarta police spokesman Senior Commissioner Anton Bachrul Alam said. He said the two victims had been assembling the device when it went off accidentally.

"This is God's justice. Before they injure people, they injure themselves. Let them feel it!" Jakarta military commander Major- General Bibit Waluyo was quoted as saying by the Kompas newspaper.

Rebel spokesman Amni Achmad Marzuki said those living in the hostel were not members of the separatist Free Aceh Movement. He said the group had no interest in causing terror in the capital.

"We are fighting for freedom in Aceh, not Jakarta," he said by telephone from the province. He claimed the military was behind the operation. "They have done this before," he said. Military officials denied the accusations.

Rebels in Aceh, Indonesia's western-most province, have been fighting for independence for more than 25 years. At least 6,000 people have been killed in the past decade. A series of ceasefires have done nothing to stop the violence.

Rebels deny responsibility for Jakarta bomb, third body found

Agence France-Presse - May 11, 2001

Jakarta -- Separatist guerillas from Indonesia's restive Aceh province on Friday denied involvement in a Jakarta bomb blast as police found a third body at the scene.

"GAM [Free Aceh Movement] had no involvement in [Thursday's] blast. Our operations are focused on Aceh and fighting the Indonesian soldiers and police sent here," GAM operations commander, Amri Din Abdul Wahab, told AFP. "We are not interested in creating violence in other countries."

The bomb exploded on Thursday afternoon in a small house for Acehnese students in a residential area of south Jakarta, killing three people, injuring two others and causing heavy damage to the house. The third body was discovered on Friday afternoon by forensics officers combing the blast site for evidence, Jakarta police spokesman Senior Commissioner Anton Bachrul Alam told AFP.

President Abdurrahman Wahid described the blast as an "effort by groups trying to pit GAM against the TNI [Indonesian armed forces] and to diminish the government's credibility." Earlier bomb squad experts had discovered and removed a second bomb from the scene, taking it to their Jakarta headquarters for detonation.

Police have declared nine suspects, including the two victims and three people who fled the scene, Alam said. Four suspects were detained at the city police headquarters on Friday, out of 11 people held for questioning since late Thursday, Alam told AFP. The three missing suspects have been declared fugitives.

"The nine suspects are charged with involvement in the explosion and of protecting the activities of people in possession of dangerous materials," he said.

The majority of the suspects were Acehnese, Alam said, but stopped short of accusing them of belonging to the GAM rebels. "Not GAM, but they do have a connection with SIRA," Alam said, referring to a student activists' network campaigning for a referendum on self-determination in Aceh.

GAM's Wahab called the blast a deliberate attempt to create fear and terror among Acehnese students, but he stopped short of blaming anyone. "It was a deliberate explosion to create a fear of Acehnese students who live there, and to terrorise students from Aceh because they have held demonstrations protesting against human rights abuses in Aceh," he said.

"However we don't have any evidence yet so we don't want to point fingers." Alam said forensics experts were still analysing the substance of both bombs. "What we know so far is that it was a high powered bomb," he added.

Police forensics chief, Senior Commissioner Marsudhi speculated that "one of the two victims may have been assembling both bombs" when one accidentally went off.

"We have not yet concluded our investigation but based on the shrapnel and the extensive damage to the victims' body, he might have been making the bombs while the other victim was sleeping." "The first bomb was highly explosive because it threw the sleeping victim out of the room into the empty garden next to the house," Alam said.

A second blast Thursday in Depok, a suburb southeast of Jakarta caused by a suspected parcel bomb, occurred half an hour after the first, but no one was injured and no serious damage caused, police said.

Jakarta was the focus of a series of bomb explosions in Indonesia last year, including a near-simultaneous round of explosions on Christmas Eve at Christian churches across the archipelago, in which 19 people were killed.

Destruction of books condemned

Jakarta Post - May 12, 2001

Jakarta -- The Indonesian Publishers Association (IKAPI) condemned on Friday a planned sweep and burning of "leftist" books and rejected any ban against them.

"In principle, we oppose any ban on books, even if they contain pornographic or communist content. But if the ban is unavoidable, it should be made through a court ruling, not a a political decision," IKAPI chairman Arselan told a media conference at the association's office in Central Jakarta.

He said IKAPI also urged the government to repeal Law No. 4/1963, which bans printed goods that are considered disruptive to public order, saying that it is against democracy and hampers efforts to develop civil society.

Some anticommunist groups under the Anticommunist Coalition (AAK) have threatened to remove "leftist" books from their shelves and burn them on May 20, in conjunction with National Awakening Day. The government has responded to the threats by warning the groups against conducting such activities.

Also present at the press conference was Indonesian Book Store Association (GATBI) chairman Firdaus Umar, who said the threats would only further burden the crisis-hit book stores. "In nearly a decade, the number of book stores in the country has dropped from about 3,000 to only 350. If the sweep materializes, I am afraid there will be more book stores closed," he said.

One AAK figure, Eggi Sudjana, joined the chorus of criticism against the threat to sweep and burn the "leftist" books, but fell short of condemning the planned move. "I don't agree with the plan to sweep and burn books, but I disagree with any plan to revoke a People's Consultative Assembly decree that bans communism. As a Muslim, I hate communism," he said. Eggi accused the government of double standards on the issue by allowing the publication of the "leftist" books while maintaining the Assembly decree No. XXV/1966.

Eggi was speaking in a discussion which also featured senior journalist Goenawan Mohammad, political observer Asvi Warman Adam and scholar Franz Magnis-Suseno. Goenawan deplored the way book stores and the public reacted to the anticommunist groups' threats. "Removing the books from shelves is an illustration of our deep fears. Fight the acts, don't let our excessive fears repress our freedom of speech and freedom of thought," he said.

Franz said he had yet to decide whether he would file a complaint against AAK members, who have burned his book titled Pikiran Karl Marx: Dari Sosialisme Ke Perselisihan Revisionisme (Karl Marx's Thoughts: From Socialism to the Revisionism Dispute). "I don't even know whether they have violated my basic right to express ideas. I'm just waiting," he said.

Meanwhile, Central Java Police have pledged to take strict measures against any move to sweep "leftist" books. Police chief Insp. Gen. Erwin M.A.P. said his personnel would not hesitate to arrest those raiding bookstores and burning books. "We have received reports that there are a group of people who have confiscated books on communism, but we have yet to identify them," Erwin said in Purwokerto.

Journalist slain by police after his arrest

Jakarta Post - May 11, 2001

Jakarta -- PILAR biweekly magazine photographer Rudi P. Singgih was in the midst of covering some long-term investigation when he was shot dead by Bandung Police for allegedly being a car thief.

The magazine's managing editor Yusuf Yazid told The Jakarta Post by telephone on Thursday that "Rudi was on leave to conduct an investigation covering a confidential case." Yusuf, however, declined to reveal the story Rudi was working on. "He had been on leave since November last year," Yusuf said.

Rudi, 38, a father of two and one of the founders of PILAR magazine who once worked for Tempo weekly from 1987 to 1994 as photo editor, was shot dead on April 23 after he was arrested at his home in South Bandung, West Java.

Police claim that Rudi was on the police's wanted list, and had to be shot as the latter had put the lives of officers in danger after he stabbed one of four policemen on the way to the police station.

Rudi's wife, Kenny Kaniawati, 29, came to the National Commission of Human Rights on Thursday to raise the issue of her husband's slaying. She was met by commission members Koespamono Irsan and Samsuddin. Accompanying Kenny were Rudi's brother Coki, and Rommy Leo from the Extra Judicial Killing Advocation Alliance.

Kenny said police had shot Rudi in his right foot just a minute after they had arrested him. "Why should the police kill my husband after he had already surrendered?," Kenny asked.

Kenny further said that police also confiscated Rudi's car from the garage along with some of Rudi's professional equipment including a handycam, film rolls, and a laptop computer. "I reported the killing to the police and Bandung Military Police a couple days after the incident. But thus far, there has been no significant progress. "Police even accused my husband of being involved in the theft of luxury cars," Kenny said.

Yusuf said PILAR would fully support any legal action taken by Kenny to uncover the shooting. He also said the magazine plans to file a complaint against the police.

Police stage preemptive raids to save communist books

Agence France-Presse - May 11, 2001

Jakarta -- Police in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta have raided book sellers, impounding hundreds of titles considered leftist or communist-linked, to save them from being burned by anti-communist zealots, reports said Friday.

The Jakarta Post quoted Yogyakarta police chief Brigadier General Saleh Sa'af as saying Thursday's raids conducted on street stalls and book shops in the East Java city were "preemptive". "We were not confiscating the books, we only asked the book owners to entrust police with keeping them in a safe place," Sa'af said. "We'll return them when the situation has returned to normal."

Sa'af also urged private citizens in possession of "leftist" books to voluntarily hand them over to police for safekeeping. "It will be safer for them to put the books here in the police's hands. We're afraid of possible conflict between the owners of the books and the anti-communist groups."

A newly formed anti-communist coalition last month burned a pile of leftist books and threatened book shops countrywide with raids if they did not clear their shelves of all books considered left-leaning by May 20. One of the groups, the Islamic Youth Movement (GPI), has also threatened to start raiding authors considered leftist after May 30.

The GPI, which falls under the Anti-Communist Alliance (AAK), a new coalition of 33 hardline Muslim groups, launched its first raids last month. Many Jakarta book stores -- including branches of the country's largest book retailer Gramedia -- have pulled about 30 titles from their shelves after telephoned threats of raids by the AAK.

The Indonesian government said Thursday it would not allow the raids, but did not spell out how it planned to stop them. Among the titles targeted by the AAK are books by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia's leading author and a Nobel prize nominee whose books were banned for decades under former president Suharto for alleged leftist tendencies.

Suharto brought in a blanket ban on teaching and publishing the works of all communist ideologists after an abortive coup attempt blamed on the Communist Party of Indonesia in 1965. The party was outlawed and 500,000 followers were killed in the ensuing bloodbath, according to the official count. Hundreds of thousands were also jailed without trial. The ban on distributing and selling books with a communist ideology remains in place, but sales of books such as the biography of Che Guevara have been brisk for the past two years since Suharto fell.

Right expands attacks to PRD

Green Left Weeky - May 9, 2001

Max Lane -- Contrary to many predictions circulating in Jakarta during the last few weeks, the Indonesian capital remained calm after the Golkar-Central Axis-led majority in the House of Representatives voted to censure President Abdurrahman Wahid for a second time.

The pro-Wahid Islamic organisation, the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), called a mass prayer meeting on April 29 as a show of support for Wahid. More than 200,000 people attended.

Prior to the prayer rally, Golkar and Central Axis politicians had been running a scare campaign that the Wahid supporters would riot after the prayer rally. This scare campaign was aimed at pressuring Wahid and the NU leadership into blocking any attempt by the grass-roots NU leaders to mobilise the 200,000 NU masses against the censure motion or against Golkar itself.

Wahid and the NU caved in under this pressure and called for all those at the prayer rally to return to their towns and villages immediately. This decision caused a sharp debate between the NU heads and the grass-roots leadership, but Wahid's own opposition to the mass mobilisation carried the day. At least 90% of the NU masses returned home.

On April 30, 5000-10,000 NU members held a march and rally along the main Jakarta thoroughfare and rallied in Freedom Square. Under pressure from the NU tops, these maverick forces kept away from the parliament building, thereby avoiding any confrontation with the military and police.

Rightist attacks on PRD

In addition to their scare campaign against pro-Wahid mobilisations, the Indonesian right has escalated its pressure on the other wing of the anti-Golkar democratic movement -- the emerging left-wing coalitions, frequently led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD). These coalitions have been actively campaigning for the trial of Golkar for its role during the Suharto dictatorship, and for fresh general elections. They have mobilised mainly students but also factory workers from the Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggles (FNPBI) on some occasions.

Over the last three weeks, there has been a systematic national campaign of vilification and harassment of the PRD. The signal for this campaign was given in February when the PRD-led coalitions joined with pro-Wahid forces in angry demonstrations calling for the cleansing of the state apparatus of figures from the Suharto dictatorship. At that time, the head of Golkar, Akbar Tanjung, called for a review of whether the PRD was still operating "within the national consensus". This set the framework for the campaign against the PRD which has taken the form of demonstrations -- mainly tiny -- calling for the PRD to be banned for spreading "new-style communism".

In some cases the campaign has gone further than demonstrations. There have been attacks by armed gangs on the Jakarta office of the National Student League for Democracy, some of whose leaders are also PRD members. In one incident, the office was trashed and all the equipment and documents stolen. There have also been similar demonstrations and attacks in other cities, such as Jogjakarta, Solo, Lampung, Semarang and Macassar.

Prior to the censure motion in the parliament, there was a demonstration of 100 people held 30 metres from the PRD national office. The police had heard of the planned attack on the PRD office and provided security.

After the big 10,000 strong May Day rally, where the FNPBI participated with 6000 workers, another gang approached and threatened PRD chairperson Budiman Sujatmiko. The gang demanded he stop mobilisng people in Jakarta. A scuffle broke out and PRD activist Jokabus Kurniawan was stabbed and beaten.

Most of these tiny right-wing demonstrations and attacks have been carried out by known local gangs, whose services are for hire. In each city and for each activity, they use different organisational names. The campaign against the PRD does not actually reflect any real increase in active right-wing sentiment among the masses.

Wahid-Megawati deal?

Wahid's decision to block the anti-impeachment mobilisations was signalled beforehand with a national TV address before the parliament met which was very conciliatory towards Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

In his speech, Wahid stated that Megawati was the "rightful president" of Indonesia as her party had won the largest number of votes in the 1999 elections. He emphasised that he ended up as president because nobody else was acceptable to all parliamentary groups. Although he made a strong appeal to be allowed to continue as president, his statements acknowledging Megawati's right to the presidency can be seen as opening the way for some deal with her.

Megawati's party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), used the censure motion against Wahid to call on him to resign or for there to be a special sitting of the parliament to impeach Wahid.

While the 460-member House of Representatives (DPR) can censure the president, an incumbent president can only be constitutionally removed by the 920-member People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Unlike Golkar and the Central Axis, the PDIP leaders emphasised in their statements that they were supporting the censure motion as a means of forcing Wahid to improve his performance and not to unseat him.

On May 1 the PDIP took its first serious political initiative since Wahid came to power. It called for a meeting of the heads of all the major parliamentary parties. Such a meeting would include Megawati, who is chairperson of the PDIP, but not Wahid who holds no position in any political party.

The other major parties appear to be responding positively to the PDIP's call. It therefore seems that the PDIP may be manoeuvring to strengthen its position in any negotiations with Wahid.

At the same time, the capitalist media has begun speculating that Wahid has been asked to appoint a new cabinet which reflects the strength in parliament of the various parties. This would give the PDIP the largest number of cabinet ministers (and Golkar, the second largest number).

Jakarta police beef up arsenal with AK assault rifles

Straits Times - May 10, 2001

Robert Go, Jakarta -- The next time rioters run amok through Jakarta's streets, they will come face to face with elite police units armed with Russian AK assault rifles, possibly loaded with live -- not rubber -- bullets.

The weapons each weigh about 3 kg and feature magazines with 30 rounds each, a sighting range of up to 1000 m, and a 600-rounds- per-minute rate of fire.

Last week's delivery was the second major purchase of Kalashnikov rifles from Russia. Indonesia purchased 4,000 units at the end of last year.

The police also plan to buy 18,000 additional assault rifles for Brimob, a 32,000-strong, riot-control brigade, and thousands more handguns for regular duty officers throughout the country from state-owned materiel factory Pindad.

The new weapons, according to National Police spokesman Inspector-General Didi Widayadi, are part of an organisation-wide improvement programme designed to make the country's internal security apparatus more professional and deadly.

Insp-Gen Didi said: "The security threat is becoming critical. Crime and lawlessness are rising. We are responsible for internal security, but we need more personnel and weapons. These new rifles are serious attacking weapons. We hope the sight of them alone would be enough to scare thugs and potential rioters away from criminal activities."

Both Indonesia's military and police have come under fire in recent years for using excessive force in suppressing demonstrations and riots.

Aware of the human-rights concerns facing the force, Insp-Gen Didi argued that deterring violence and anarchy remained the police's main goals, but officers should be able to commit to their jobs without fearing future prosecution for violating human rights. "We try not to kill, but ultimately, we will use any method, and whatever supply is available, to stop crime," he said.

In addition to their increased arsenal, detectives have also stepped up raids against street thugs in Jakarta and other major cities. Massive operations in the capital last month netted over 400 suspects. More than half of them -- detained for various petty and serious crimes including running extortion rackets, carrying illegal weapons, and robbery -- are awaiting trial.

Police officers also shot dead 17 alleged hoodlums, known locally as premans, who tried to resist or run from arrest in Jakarta.

But several sources said some gangs of thugs run under the orders of the security apparatus itself. The anti-preman campaign, these sources said, was not so much aimed at cleaning up the streets, but rather was a battle for control of a highly-evolved extortion racket controlled by elements of the security apparatus itself.

But Insp-Gen Didi declined to comment on this side of the issue and said simply that the police wanted to see calm and order restored throughout the country. "We have had successes in Jakarta, but more efforts will be devoted to controlling the situation in the provinces," he said.

He identified hot spots such as Aceh, Maluku and Kalimantan as potential areas where the police would pay special attention to implementing their upgrade programme.

Muslim militants force leftist author's works off the bookshelves

Australian Financial Review - May 7, 2001

Tim Dodd, Jakarta -- For more than 30 years until Soeharto's fall in 1998, the writings of Indonesia's pre-eminent novelist and political prisoner, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, were banned in his own country.

Now his books have disappeared from bookshops again -- not because of a government edict but because Indonesia's largest book seller has given in to threats from radical Muslim and nationalist groups to attack retailers who continue to stock Pramoedya's works.

The Gramedia chain (part of the group that owns two of Indonesia's most prominent newspapers, Kompas and The Jakarta Post) removed Pramoedya's books, along with other leftist literature, more than a week ago. It said a group called United Islamic Youth had threatened to raid bookshops and seize so- called communist books.

So for now, Pramoedya's novels and his extraordinary memoir of the years he spent in Soeharto's gulags, The Mute's Soliloquy, cannot be bought in Gramedia even though the retailer admits they have been good sellers. "They have been very popular," Mr Edi Harianto, sales supervisor at one of Gramedia's Jakarta branches, said on Friday.

Indonesia is one of the few places in the world where the communist bogey is alive and well and can be readily exploited for political advantage. It even promises to be a comeback vehicle for the notorious former East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres, who was sentenced by a Jakarta court last week to six months' imprisonment.

Guterres, regarded as a hero by hardline nationalists, is now the chairman of the Anti-Communist Coalition, which brings together Moslem and nationalist groups agitating for a return to more authoritarian government.

One of its member groups, Red and White, appears to have close links to Soeharto associates. Thugs from this organisation gathered to protect former Soeharto minister Mr Ginandjar Kartasasmita when he was released from detention by court order last Wednesday after his arrest a month ago on corruption charges.

The irony is that the communist movement has been invisible in Indonesia since 1966 when Soeharto, after he grabbed power, launched a purge that wiped the party out and killed an estimated 500,000 people or more. Then, for as long as he ruled, the families of former communists were officially ostracised and prevented from obtaining a proper education and doing respectable jobs. Today, if the party exists at all, it is extremely weak.

Communism as an ideology is still officially banned under a parliamentary decree passed in 1966 and Soeharto's demise has not lessened its potency as a political smear tool. When President Abdurrahman Wahid, long a supporter of political pluralism, suggested removing the ban on communism last year, he was vilified from across the political spectrum and was forced to withdraw the idea.

Pramoedya is not the only author tarred with the communist label. Other left-leaning writers are getting the same treatment.

Anti-communist frenzy `just a cover'

South China Morning Post - May 7, 2001

Vaudine England, Jakarta -- A spate of recent anti-communist incidents and violent threats is part of a plot to destroy Indonesia's fledgling democracy, philosophers and activists say.

"It smells of the New Order," said Dr Franz Magnis Suseno, in a reference to the brutally anti-communist regime of former president Suharto.

"The mentality of the military during the Suharto era has curious parallels to this current campaign." Dr Suseno's book about the development of Marxist thought is one of several volumes about communism which were burned three weeks ago by a previously unknown group called the Islam Youth Movement (GPI).

Last week, the country's leading publishing and book-selling chain, Gramedia, withdrew more than 30 titles about communism from its shelves due to threats by the same group. Other bookshops are following suit.

"Conditions right now are extremely sensitive ... the consequences could be extreme if something happens, so we're taking preventative measures," said Gramedia's national sales supervisor.

Along with Dr Suseno's book, all those by the country's leading novelist, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, are also being targeted, as are works by political analyst Hermawan Sulistyo. Pramoedya was a member of a leftist cultural group in the 1960s and was imprisoned by Suharto for 14 years.

The GPI is threatening to conduct vigilante sweeps against all book shops in the country on May 20, Indonesia's National Awakening Day. "All of our people, around 36,000 in greater Jakarta, will move on that day to show our commitment to fight against communism," GPI chairman H. M. Suaib said.

The term "communist" is heavily loaded in Indonesia. Suharto's rise to power was on the back of an alleged communist coup in 1965, and was followed by mass murders of alleged communists in 1966-67 which left at least half a million dead. Suharto banned the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), the largest in Asia outside China. Descendants of alleged communists faced discrimination and intimidation during the Suharto era. By contrast, President Abdurrahman Wahid called for the decriminalisation of communism early in his rule.

Dr Suseno said the current rise of anti-communism was a retrograde step designed to act as a smokescreen for an anti- democracy movement. "It is a deliberate attempt to, on the one hand, mobilise an anti-communist frenzy, and on the other hand, to obscure where the real danger comes from," said Dr Suseno.

Economy & investment

World Bank supports government's 2001 fiscal adjustment package

Jakarta Post - May 12, 2001

Jakarta -- The World Bank has expressed its full support of the government's fiscal adjustment package, which contains various measures to prevent the 2001 state budget deficit from growing out of control.

The Ministry of Finance said in a statement issued on Friday that the support was conveyed by World Bank deputy chairman Jammal Kassum during a meeting with Minister of Finance Prijadi Praptosuhardjo at the 34th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"[The World Bank] also expects that the discussion with the House of Representatives will progress positively to help revive confidence [in the economy]," the statement said.

The deficit in the current January-December state budget could widen to a critical level of up to 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), or about Rp 80 trillion (about US$7.2 billion). Initial projections estimated a deficit of 3.7 percent, which has been shattered by a sharp plunge in the value of the rupiah against the US dollar and rising domestic interest rates.

Senior economic ministers have been involved in intensive meetings over recent weeks to revise the state budget and design measures aimed at restricting the deficit to a safer level of around 3.7 percent of GDP.

The measures contained in the fiscal adjustment package focus on increasing domestic revenue and cutting spending. Among the crucial measures, analysts said, are plans to raise tax revenue and fuel prices.

Although no figure has been fixed, the government may have to increase the value added tax (VAT) from the current level of 10 percent, in a bid to collect more tax revenue which may increase by up to Rp 10 trillion. The government originally targeted nearly Rp 180 trillion in tax revenues. Director General of Tax Hadi Purnomo said on Thursday that, according to the existing law on VAT, the government was entitled to raise the VAT to a maximum level of 15 percent.

The government also plans to reduce the fuel subsidy by a larger amount than initially planned, which may cause fuel prices to increase by an average 30 percent this year. There have been fears that increasing fuel prices could trigger widespread social unrest.

The revised budget will also change: the exchange rate assumption of the rupiah to Rp 9,600 per US dollar from the previous assumption of Rp 7,800 per dollar; the inflation rate to 9.3 percent from 7.2 percent; economic growth to 3.5 percent from 5 percent; and the interest rate of Bank Indonesia SBI promissory notes to 15 percent from 11.5 percent.

Minister of Industry and Trade Luhut B. Pandjaitan said this week that the government would submit the revised budget and fiscal adjustment measures to the House following final approval by the Cabinet on May 16. The House will debate the government proposal, which may need to undergo some changes before being approved by the legislature.

The government was expected to have already started the deliberation process with the House last week, with the hope of completing it by the end of this month.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that it would only agree to a resumption of talks with the government over its economic bailout program after the House approved the budget revisions.

The IMF canceled the disbursement of its third US$400 million loan tranche to Indonesia late last year upon signs that the government was wavering with the implementation of an agreed economic reform program. The IMF promised the current administration a $5 billion bailout package early last year. The Fund has so far disbursed around $1 billion.

Meanwhile, the IMF said on Thursday that the move by the government to improve its fiscal position offered a good basis for restarting talks on the stalled loan program. "Last week the finance minister informed us of the elements of a fiscal package that would broadly restore the budget deficit target to 3.7 percent of GDP," IMF spokesman Tom Dawson was quoted by Reuters as saying in Washington.

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