More troops sent to West Timor

After three UN workers were killed, Gus Dur has acted swiftly to prevent more global criticism over Timor.

INDONESIA, facing international condemnation after the savage killings of three United Nations relief workers in West Timor, yesterday sought to assuage the world community by sending more troops into the troubled area and making several arrests.

The issue of Timor has once again returned to dent Jakarta’s international image as President Abdurrahman Wahid announced emergency measures after consulting his army generals.

In New York for the UN Millennium Summit, the Indonesian leader said he had ordered the Indonesian Defence Force (TNI) to send in two troop battalions from the elite Army Strategic Reserve Command and the Police Mobile Brigade Unit to the border town of Atambua – where bloody rioting erupted on Wednesday.

“Action is already being taken to find the culprits,” he told reporters after an urgent meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

“We regret what has happened and I would like to express condolences to the families of the deceased,” he said. Mr Annan condemned the killing of the foreigners – an American, an Ethiopian and a Croatian – and “declared the security situation in the region to be unacceptable”.

Mr Abdurrahman took pains to point out to him that the attack on the office of the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) was not planned by the military high command.

But he did concede that TNI elements could have instigated the thousands of refugees and pro-Jakarta militiamen to run amok after the murder of militia leader Olivio Moruk.

He was on a government list of 19 suspects identified as being responsible for the mayhem in East Timor last year. Coordinating Minister for Politics, Social and Security Affairs Bambang Yudhoyono said in Jakarta yesterday he had not ruled out the possibility that the riot was politically motivated.

“We are carrying out investigations to determine whether the problem in Atambua was genuine or whether it was engineered to discredit Gus Dur and the government,” he said.

Military insiders believe the broad aim was to tarnish the international image of the 60-year-old Islamic cleric, especially since foreign support – more than anything else – was sustaining his political lifeline.

The breakdown in the military chain of command only made it easier for senior officers with vested interests to destabilise the country.

A senior government official said: “The violence in West Timor, Maluku and Aceh are all symptomatic of a ‘dual command’ structure that is crashing gears because of conflicting interests between the old guard and the new guard in the TNI.

“The new guard is not in control because it has no money and political clout. The old guard revolves around active and retired officers still clinging on to the bad old ways of the New Order regime.

“They have the money and the resources to wreck havoc in the provinces.”

Besides sending in more soldiers, Mr Bambang said he had instructed security personnel in West Timor to crack down on rioters and prevent violence from spreading to other parts of the province.

The TNI and police personnel were also tasked to protect the security of foreigners, including UNHCR staff, in Atambua.

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