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Guterres says Papuan force ready to fight

Melbourne Age - December 22 , 2003

Matthew Moore, Jakarta – The former leader of the most notorious of East Timor's militias, Eurico Guterres, claims he now heads an organisation with 18,000 members and funds to fight separatists in Indonesia's Papua province.

Mr Guterres brushed aside Papuan and human rights criticisms of his plan to open an office of the Red and White Defenders Front (FPMP) in Timika in Papua (formerly Irian Jaya). He said his new group was registered with the Indonesian Government and had the right to open offices wherever it chose. He said Papuans had requested he open a branch of the FPMP to fight separatists, although a Timika-based member of the Papuan Presidium Council, Tom Beanal, said the Guterres plan was driven by people in Jakarta who wanted to cause instability in Papua.

"Guterres should actually realise that he is not superman, he was a human rights abuser in East Timor. If he comes to Papua, he will create unrest," he said. "My view is Jakarta always tries to move unrest from one location to another." Free on appeal against a 10-year jail sentence for human rights crimes in East Timor, Mr Guterres looked prosperous when he met The Age. He said he made a good living working as a debt collector and settling land disputes.

He denied his new organisation received money or assistance from the Indonesian military as did his Aitarak militia in East Timor, which was at the centre of many of the attacks on East Timorese who supported independence in 1999. "That's really not true, we are an independent organisation," he said. But he refused to say where FPMP got the money for the 28 branches he said had been established or for shirts designed like the Indonesian flag that he said were given to members.

Mr Guterres has asked his brother-in-law, Kahar Rasyid, to set up the organisation's Timika branch. He said he was keen to meet Mr Beanal to find out where he stood on Papua's future. "I want to see Tom Beanal, I want to know his position. If he wants Papua to separate, he's my enemy. If he says no, we can sit down together." Mr Guterres said no matter what Mr Beanal said, his men would not take up arms to fight supporters of separatism but would try a different approach to the violence they wreaked in Timor. Despite his long history of dealings with senior Indonesian military members, Mr Guterres said that was all in the past.