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Military warns of rebels in West Timor

Jakarta Post - December 18, 2001

Yemris Fointuna, Kupang – The military says it has found evidence that a group on the Indonesian side of Timor island is striving for an independent state, which it wants to call Timor Raya. Col. Moeswarno Moesanip, chief of Kupang Military District overseeing East Nusa Tenggara, said here over the weekend that a separatist movement had been detected in East Nusa Tenggara after the local military monitored and analyzed all factors behind the rejection by certain groups of the planned deployment of an infantry battalion along the border between Indonesia and East Timor.

The separatist movement has a political motive in its effort to separate East Nusa Tenggara, or West Timor, from the unitary state of Indonesia, he said. Certain parties in North Timor Tengah regency, which borders Atambua, have rejected the government's plan to deploy an infantry battalion to increase security along the border.

According to Moesanip, the separatist movement would find it difficulty to operate if security along the border was stepped up. He said that because of the detected separatist movement, the Udayana Military Command overseeing Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara considered it urgent to station an elite force along the border between East Timor and East Nusa Tenggara.

"It's not a problem if the Timor Raya state is merely an idea, but if it is declared, the rebels will be digging their own graves because they will come face to face with the military," he said.

Udayana Military Commander Maj. Gen. Willem T. da Costa recently called for the immediate deployment of elite soldiers along the border to prevent East Timor's communist ideology from infiltrating West Timor.

Moesanip said the plan to station an infantry battalion in North Timor Tengah regency had gained support from local people and the Atambua Catholic diocese. "It's not the residents of North Timor Tengah regency but those in Atambua who know the real situation along the border. So those who do not live in Atambua should not comment on whether an infantry battalion is really needed along the border," he said.

He said the infantry battalion would be made up of servicemen mostly from West Timor because they understood the social problems and traditional customs in the province. East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet A. Tallo dismissed the separatist movement, saying it was an idea aired by minority groups in the province.

"The issue of a Timor Raya state was raised by East Timorese informal leaders taking refuge in North Timor Tengah at a recent meeting with local people, but the local people will not be easily influenced by such a weak issue," he told The Jakarta Post here on Monday.