Jakarta names three generals as suspects in East Timor inquiry

JAKARTA, Reuters

Indonesia on Friday named three generals as suspects in its probe into the violence that followed last year’s East Timor independence vote but immediately came under pressure to go higher up the military chain of command.

The list of 19 names did not include some top generals, including Indonesia’s military chief at the time, Wiranto, who human rights activists insist had a hand in the systematic destruction of East Timor after most of the population voted a year ago to end 23 years of often brutal Indonesian rule.

Also absent were the names of some of the most notorious of the pro-Jakarta militia leaders who, with Indonesian military backing, launched a campaign of terror in the tiny territory after the result of the Aug. 30 vote was announced.

The attorney-general’s office named the three generals — former regional military commander Major-General Adam Damiri, former East Timor military commander Brigadier-General Tono Suratman and ex-East Timor police chief Brigadier-General Timbul Silaen.

The others named included a former East Timor Jakarta appointed governor Abilio Soares as well as mostly middle-ranking military officers who had been based in East Timor’s hardest-hit areas.

“The list is very unsatisfactory, especially because Wiranto is not on the list,” Asmara Nababan, Secretary-General of Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission told Reuters.

“We are talking about gross violation against humanity and Wiranto, who was at the top of the command line at that time, was excluded … (It) indicates that Indonesia still faces a lot of political constraints,” he said.

The majority of East Timorese were forced from their homes and much of the impoverished territory’s infrastructure was laid to waste in the violence in which hundreds are thought to have died.

Multinational troops were eventually sent in to bring under control the former Portuguese colony which Indonesia invaded in 1975. The territory is now under United Nations administration.

The initial international reaction was modestly enthusiastic.

“I think it is a good beginning. You have heard some say it fell short of expectations. It is true,” head of the United Nations operation in East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, told reporters during a visit to Jakarta.

But he said it was difficult to expect Jakarta to resolve the issue at its first attempt and took heart from a pledge by Indonesian Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman that the investigations would continue.

Indonesia has been under strong international pressure to put on trial those responsible for the violence or face the threat of an international tribunal. De Mello’s comments were echoed by Nobel peace laureate and key East Timorese independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta.

“It’s a good start, but we now have to wait to see how far the process will go in order to satisfy those who expect justice,” he told Reuters by telephone from East Timor.

Fellow East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao welcomed Jakarta’s naming of suspects and said he hoped more names would follow.

“We must have confidence and give time to the investigators. It may be during the process other proofs appear,” Gusmao told Portugal’s TSF radio.

Reaffirming that the East Timorese sought justice but not revenge, Gusmao said he believed the naming of the generals marked an important step in Indonesia’s move towards full democracy.

A leading Dili-based East Timorese said Indonesia had not gone far enough and urged international action if justice was not served.

Yayasn Hak director Aniceto Guterres said Wiranto and all those involved must be brought to justice.

“If soldiers do wrong, the generals take responsibility,” he told Reuters in Dili. “Final responsibility is in his (Wiranto’s) hands.”

However, he said it was too early to declare Indonesia’s efforts to bring those responsible to justice a failure.

“But the signs are not good and I am very pessimistic,” he said.