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East Timorese not armed by ABRI

Jakarta Post - February 3, 1999

Jakarta - Amid escalating tension in East Timor, the Armed Forces (ABRI) has denied supplying ammunition to the province to terrorize pro-referendum East Timorese and to protect pro-integration forces. Instead it has accused separatist "disturbance groups" of being behind the recent killings and terror.

"We have never armed pro-integration East Timorese terror groups opposed to a referendum," ABRI Commander Gen. Wiranto told reporters after receiving three officers recently promoted to four-star general at his office here on Wednesday

The three promoted officers were Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Widodo A.S., Air Force Chief of Staff Marshal Hanifie Asnan, and National Police Chief Gen. Roesmanhadi.

Wiranto, also the Minister of Defense and Security acknowledged that the military had long ago set up an armed militia known as Wanra, to help it maintain security in East Timor.

"The civilian resistance groups whose members are given a monthly stipend have long been established, and they have been stationed in military districts to maintain security and fight against the local separatist movement," he said.

He added that it was impossible for these "resistance groups" to abuse their weapons and terrorize people because their activities were supervised by the local military and closely watched by local religious and social leaders.

Armed Forces spokesman Maj.Gen. Syamsul Ma'arif said last week that the arming of civilians had been a "temporary" measure to protect them from troublemakers.

Wiranto accused local "disturbance groups" of having intensified their resistance to the military and pro-integration groups following the government's recent announcement that East Timor could be given independence if ongoing negotiations on its offers of wide ranging autonomy should fail.

"The separatist groups should be blamed for the ongoing riots and terror and the recent killings. And they should be held responsible for the escalating political tension," he said.

Former East Timor governor Mario Viegas Carrascalao and other figures have blamed the military for the escalating tension, recent killings, and terror campaigns launched by armed civilians against East Timorese supporting the proreferendum group.

Meanwhile Abdurrahman Wahid, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), visited jailed East Timorese independence fighter Jose Alexandre

"Xanana" Gusmao at Cipinang penitentiary in East Jakarta on Tuesday and held a hour-long discussion on the latest developments in the province. Abdurrahman requested that Xanana provide guarantees of safety for pro-integration groups in East Timor, to which Xanana assented.

"We are working on steps to restore peace in East Timor and Xanana agreed on this. I was the one who initiated this visit," Abdurrahman, popularly known as Gus Dur, informed reporters after the meeting.

Abdurrahman said after the session which was organized by Solidamor, a non-governmental organization advocating a peaceful solution to the East Timor issue, that he had reiterated to Xanana that he was in favor of the province being part of Indonesia.

Xanana told Abdurrahman that Indonesia should disarm pro-Indonesian civilians in East Timor in order to avert bloodshed. Abdurrahman declined to say whether he was also making the same demand of the government.

Xanana's lawyer Johnson Panjaitan said the biggest problem in East Timor was The arming of about 20,000 civilians by the Indonesian military, who he said paid the recruits Rp 250,000 to 300,000 a month.

"If we want to initiate peace in the province, one prerequisite is for the military to disarm such civilian militias. The distribution of weapons must be stopped," he said.

Xanana is waiting to be moved to a house owned by the Indonesian justice ministry on Jl. Cipinang No. 5, East Jakarta, adjacent to the East Jakarta Immigration office.

Also Wednesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas met Anna Gomes, the first Portuguese diplomat to be based in Jakarta. She will head a diplomatic post called an interest section to start normalizing relations between the two countries as UN-sponsored talks on East Timor are underway.

Separately East Timor Governor Abilio Jose Osoario Soares called on all civil servants including teachers in the province to continue to serve the public and help defuse tension.