Australia part of Jakarta's Timor war effort

Issue 

"Australia is becoming more and more a part of Jakarta's war effort in East Timor", Max Lane, national coordinator of Indonesia Solidarity Action, told Green Left Weekly at a demonstration protesting against Australian military ties with Indonesia in Sydney on March 24. "Just as Jakarta is sending more troops into East Timor, Indonesian troops, ships and generals have been invited to Australia by the Keating-Evans government."

According to Lane, during March Indonesian naval vessels have been part of exercises in northern Australia, Indonesian combat troops from the Army Strategic Command have been taking part in joint exercises on Australia's north-east coast, and the former military commander of eastern Indonesia, Major General Panjaitan, was invited here apparently to investigate possible arms purchases.

Panjaitan was the officer in command of eastern Indonesia, including East Timor, when the 1991 Dili massacre took place. He was later sued in a US court by Helen Todd, the mother of massacre victim Kamal Bamadhaj, as the officer responsible. Todd was awarded US$14 million in damages.

"It's clear that Evans and Keating are determined to assist Suharto in Jakarta's war effort. Evans went out of his way to defend Panjaitan during his visit, claiming Panjaitan had no role in the massacre. Evans can say this because he sticks to his dishonest statement that the Dili massacre was an 'aberration' in Jakarta's policy.

"It was not an aberration, and indeed Jakarta is making preparations for more violence in East Timor if there are any protests before the next meeting between the Indonesian and Portuguese foreign ministers. Still Evans and Keating are more than doubling spending on war cooperation with Jakarta, going ahead with inviting Jakarta to send troops for the Kangaroo 95 war games, and still hoping for arms sales to Jakarta."

Lane explained that East Timorese resistance sources have reported that two battalions of Indonesian troops disembarked on March 19 in Dili, where they will remain until May. According to intelligence gathered by the Underground Front (Frente Clandestina) of the resistance movement, the additional units are Battalion 643, which will be operating in the west of the capital, and Battalion 521, which will cover the east side of the city.

According to the Timorese resistance reports, the Indonesian troops' mission is to prevent any demonstrations of opposition to the annexation of East Timor that could be staged before the foreign ministers' meeting, scheduled for May 19 in New York.

"It is clear that there is no change to the repressive policies of the Suharto dictatorship. The Portuguese press has reported that the military have drawn up a list of 180 Timorese civil servants living in Dili to be arrested over the coming weeks for their alleged membership of, or support for, the resistance movement."

Lane said that there was also news that Abilio Osorio Soares, the governor of East Timor appointed by Indonesia, was urged to sign the arrest warrants, but refused to do so and had been transferred to Jakarta.

"We don't know what the East Timorese freedom fighters will do in the lead-up to May 19", Lane said, "but I'm glad people are planning to do things here and in the Philippines. The initiative by Resistance for a national day of protests in all cities in solidarity with East Timor on May 13 is just the kind of action we need.

"We in Indonesia Solidarity Action are also supporting this day of action; in the struggle of the East Timorese and Indonesian people for freedom, each helps the other. Some of the East Timorese community and political groups are joining in too, and some East Timor solidarity committees. The big student organisation, KAMALAYAN, in Manila will be holding protests on the same day. We can't let Evans and Keating get away with this policy of war cooperation. We have to organise more people on to the street."

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