[The following is a response by ASIET to the Indonesian government's recent statement on autonomy and independence for East Timor.]
Indonesia & East Timor Digest
January 29, 1999
January 28, 1999
Jeremy Wagstaff, Jakarta – Indonesia raised for the first time Wednesday the possibility of independence for the troubled half-island of East Timor. But the offer was greeted with suspicion by East Timorese leaders.
Jakarta – Former President Suharto has, for the first time, revealed that he was forced to step down on May 21 because of pressures exerted by a foreign power, according to a report in the Indonesian-language Harian Terbit newspaper.
Jakarta – Two witnesses, a civilian and a soldier, Thursday told an Indonesian military court they could not recognize any of the 11 military defendants as the abductors of activists they had encountered before.
January 27, 1999
Jakarta – Indonesian MPs on Wednesday cleared a major hurdle blocking passage of political bills ahead of June elections, agreeing to give the military 38 seats in parliament, half the number they held under the former government of Suharto.
Jakarta – Indonesian students and political parties formed since the fall of former president Suharto, have condemned an agreement to allow the military to keep 38 seats in parliament, reports said Thursday.
The Indonesian media announced on December 13 that Indonesian political prisoner Dita Sari had been offered early bail by the Habibie government. Dita, a labour activist and leader of the People's Democratic Party, was sentenced to five years' jail on April 22, 1997 for subversion. Her "crime" was daring to fight alongside Indonesian workers for democracy and justice.
The East Timor International Support Centre argues that the Australian government's supposed "historic shift" in policy on East Timor, recently announced by foreign minister Alexander Downer, is much ado about little.
Max Lane – Speculation on the future of East Timor is rife in Jakarta. There have even been unconfirmed reports that the Habibie-Wiranto military regime may allow East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao to move to house arrest.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Two Australian aid workers in East Timor were evacuated yesterday from the southern town of Suai and hundreds of local people sought refuge in churches amid bloody fighting between new paramilitary units armed by the Indonesian military and pro-independence forces.
Jakarta – The government today raised the possibility of granting independence to the disputed half-island of East Timor for the first time since Indonesia annexed the territory 23 years ago.
East Timor, with a predominately Roman Catholic population of 800,000, has been wracked by bloodshed and human rights abuses since mainly Muslim Indonesia occupied it in 1976.
January 26, 1999
Terry Friel, Jakarta – As Indonesia lurches through its worst social and economic turmoil in 30 years, one thing political, military and religious leaders can agree on is that "dark forces" are masterminding the unrest sweeping their nation.
Jakarta – Four soldiers admitted to a military tribunal in the troubled Indonesian province of Aceh Tuesday that they had tortured detained villagers in an incident which left five dead, a report said.
Susan Sim, Jakarta – Armed with the first concrete proof that the recent deadly clashes across Indonesia were the work of organised provocateurs, military chief General Wiranto has sought the help of the country's most prominent opposition and reformist leaders to defuse tensions.
Jakarta – A soldier told an Indonesian military court Tuesday he believed he recognized one of the 11 soldiers on trial as one of the abductors of three activists.
Jakarta – Two influential Indonesian student groups Tuesday split openly on whether to oppose elections slated for June, but those against dismissed reports they were planning a massive street protest this week against the polls.
January 25, 1999
Jakarta – Security forces firing into a mob during a fight between two villages in Central Java, wounded six people, while another brawl between farmers in West Java left one man dead, reports said Monday.
Dorinda Elliott – There may be a financial crisis in Indonesia, but Ida Royani's business is booming. Her fashion collection has been rushed off to the stores, where outfits are flying off the racks as women buy new clothes to celebrate this week's end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.
More than 200,000 people have been killed since Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975. For decades, the British government was complicit in these killings. All that was supposed to change in May 1997. Instead, it's been business as usual. John Pilger reports on the sham of Labour's ethical foreign policy
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Five Muslim men have been dragged from a truck at a Christian road-block, hacked to death and their bodies set alight, with an outnumbered military patrol standing helplessly by. The unofficial death toll in religious violence on the devastated Indonesian island of Ambon is now put at more than 100.
January 24, 1999
Jakarta – Indonesian armed forces chief General Wiranto assured top opposition leaders Sunday the military would support any winner of a fair election and would not try to take over the government.
Jakarta – Indonesia's parliament is to reconvene Monday to finalize new bills that will set the ground rules for elections in June and for the country's post-Suharto political life.
The Suharto-era parliament is racing against a January 28 deadline to complete fine-tuning the government-proposed bills so the country can prepare for general elections promised for June 7.
Maj.-General Agus Wirahadikusuma, a leading reformer in Indonesia's military, spoke with Time reporter Jason Tedjasukmana on January 17 about President Abdurrahman Wahid's relationship with the army and rumors of a possible coup Time: How would you characterize the army's relationship with President Wahid?
January 23, 1999
Mike Head – Rarely does a veteran diplomat reveal the real concerns driving the foreign policy manoeuvres of a government he has served for decades.
Paul Daley, Canberra – Successive Australian governments have had access to intelligence reports on Indonesian troop movements in East Timor, including their skirmishes with Fretilin guerrillas and the killing of civilians in the troubled Indonesian province, since at least 1975.
Jakarta – Renewed violence and killings underscored tension Saturday in the eastern Indonesian city of Ambon after days of rioting that left 45 dead and massive destruction, residents said.
"Five people were killed and burned in the middle of the road this morning in the Mangga Dua area," a witness working for a local newspaper told AFP by telephone.
Jakarta – More than 130 new political parties have sprouted up since May of last year when the reformation era was ushered in, but will the people entrust these parties with their hopes for democracy?
January 22, 1999
Jakarta – Four masked men, believed to be members of a pro-independence group, have killed an East Timorese soldier in front of his horrified family members.
Don Greenlees – Xanana Gusmao was willing to accept house arrest, an East Timorese resistance leader said yesterday after Indonesian authorities had "tested the water" over transferring him out of Jakarta's Cipinang jail.
Vaudine England, Jakarta – Recruitment of a civilian militia has started in the capital, amid growing fears these bamboo-stick wielding men could foment trouble in the coming months.
A Jakarta military command spokesman said recruitment began on January 11. Recruits must be male, aged between 18 and 45 and possess at least junior high school qualifications.
Jakarta – A court Friday ruled against an Indonesian student activist arrested on suspicion of abducting a police intelligence officer, saying his claim to have been illegally arrested could not be proven.
Former President Suharto drew the anger of a group of dispossessed villagers yesterday on a rare trip out of the Indonesian capital. About 150 people protested against Suharto in the Java island town of Solo, where the ex-army general travelled earlier this week to visit the grave of his wife.
Jakarta – Sporadic clashes between two ethnic groups have flared up in West Kalimantan, claiming four lives and injuring one man seriously. The clashes took place in Parit Setia village, Jawai subdistrict, 200 kilometers north of the provincial capital of Pontianak, Antara reported yesterday.
January 21, 1999
Jakarta – At least five outbreaks of mob violence on Indonesia's Java island marred the two-day Moslem Eid al-Fitr holiday in addition to rioting in Maluku in which 20 died, officials and reports said Thursday.
Surabaya – Five people accused of being black magicians were murdered over the past two weeks in Indonesia's East Java province, a cleric said on Thursday.
"It is so sad that ... the killing of alleged black magicians is not yet over ...," said Fairul Anam, who heads an investigation into the violence for Nahdlatul Ulama, a Moslem organisation.
Jakarta – Security forces patrolled three remote eastern Indonesian islands and imposed a curfew Friday after days of deadly rioting by rival mobs of Christians and Muslims.
Margot Cohen, Ujung Pandang – More than 30 years ago, Rahmat Hasanuddin boarded a canoe at a remote hamlet on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and journeyed in search of higher education. Eventually he reached Ujung Pandang, the capital of South Sulawesi province; then he went on to Jakarta and even the United States, becoming a management consultant and academic along the way.
January 20, 1999
Canberra – Nobel Peace prize winner Jose Ramos Horta believes the release of classified documents on East Timor will reveal Australian complicity in Indonesian atrocities.
The East Timorese activist said full disclosure of government records on East Timor during the 1970s would also help Australia avoid similar mistakes in the future.
Wahyu, Jakarta – After consolidating itself theoretically and organisationally in the beginning of the 1990s, the People's Democratic Party (PRD) began organising with workers.
Jakarta – Bloody rioting among rival mobs of Christians and Muslims flared for a third straight day Thursday on a remote island in eastern Indonesia. At least 22 people were killed, police said.
They feared the death toll could rise as religious strife intensifies on Ambon Island, 2,300 kilometers northeast of the capital, Jakarta.
January 19, 1999
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesia's armed forces were scrambling to contain a backlash over the torture and beating deaths of five men in military custody last week, as details emerged today of the lynching by civilians of another soldier in the troubled northern province of Aceh.
Don Greenlees, Jakarta – Indonesia is paving the way to transfer Xanana Gusmao out of Jakarta's Cipinang jail and place him under house arrest, in a significant concession to international demands the East Timorese resistence leader be immediately freed.
January 18, 1999
David Liebhold, lhokseumawe – On the northwestern tip of Indonesia, the proud people of Aceh have been dreaming of independence for nearly 100 years. Last week they got tired of waiting.
Jakarta – The family members of former Indonesian Communist Party – PKI – members could not only vote or be elected but could also form a political party providing they did not deviate from the national ideology, Pancasila.
Jakarta – The South Jakarta district court Monday ruled that a student activist, arrested on suspicion of abducting a police intelligence officer should be released as his arrest did not follow legal procedures.
Jakarta – A man who was tortured by soldiers while under detention in the troubled Indonesian province of Aceh has died in hospital, bringing the death toll from the incident to five, a hospital employee said Monday.
Jakarta – Indonesian police admitted Monday they "acted too hastily" in opening fire on a group in the troubled province of Aceh, leaving at least four people injured.
January 17, 1999
Jakarta – An Indonesian army major being court martialed for the torture of Aceh villagers during which four died faces four years in jail and dismissal from the army, the military police said Sunday.
Andrew Gilligan – The Indonesian army has admitted for the first time that it tortures people "sometimes", during an investigative "sting" by a television stand-up comedian.
Derwin Pereira, Jakarta – Watching the Indonesian military is much like watching the Soviet Kremlin of yesteryear. Obscure generals swapping positions within a labyrinthine armed forces (ABRI) bureaucracy are perennial affairs. But Indonesia watchers find it fascinating, and military chief General Wiranto obliged earlier this month by announcing a revamp of his senior command.