How Jakarta's generals planned the campaign of terror in East Timor

Unearthed hoard of documents provides conclusive proof of plan to prevent independence for breakaway nation
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On the day that the crucial find was made, early in October last year, it was already much too late for East Timor. Its towns and cities, including the capital, Dili, were in ruins. The local militias who had carried out most of the dirty work had fled the country.

On the day that the crucial find was made, early in October last year, it was already much too late for East Timor. Its towns and cities, including the capital, Dili, were in ruins. The local militias who had carried out most of the dirty work had fled the country.

But the organisation that armed and supported them, the Indonesian armed forces (TNI), was still present - a few hundred soldiers, preparing for their final withdrawal and burning their headquarters behind them.

It was in this sinister atmosphere that a small team of human-rights workers sneaked into a one-storey building off Dili's main port road. Until a few weeks before, it had been the offices of the adjutant general of the regional commander and inside was a chaotic scene - room after room stripped of furniture and fittings, and littered with hundreds of thousands of papers, the detritus of 24 years of Indonesian rule.

"There were kids playing on them, and shouting, 'The Indos have gone! The Indos have gone!'," said one of the workers, from the East Timorese Hak (Human Rights) Foundation. It was weeks before they realised the importance of what they had found - a treasury of information on the campaign of genocide and deportation which followed East Timor's vote for independence.

The documents, obtained by The Independent in Dili, and analysed in Jakarta by Indonesian investigators and Western diplomatic sources, provide evidence of what has long been suspected, but never proved - that, for months before the referendum on East Timor's independence in August, it was being systematically undermined by Indonesia's top generals.

They first tried to pervert it, by using military resources to buy off Timorese voters. And they gave guns to the opponents of independence - the local militias, and the pro-Indonesia appointees in the local government. But, from the start they were anticipating their defeat at the polls, and hatching an alternative plan - the forcible deportation of hundreds of thousands of East Timorese, with the use of what a senior Indonesian general referred to as "repressive/coercive" measures.

When the result of the referendum - a 78.5 per cent vote for independence - was announced in early September, the plan went into effect. Within two weeks, unknown numbers of Timorese had been killed, more than one-quarter of them had been herded into Indonesia, and virtually every town had been laid waste.

The documents implicate officers at every level, from the head of the Dili traffic police, who worked out the minute details of the deportation plan, to General Subagyo Hadi Siswoyo, the army chief of staff. "It's the missing link," said one Western diplomat, after The Independent showed him the documents. "It connects the military to the use of repression and coercion, and it shows a clear chain of command from close to the very top."

The most important document dates from the very day that the referendum was born. On 5 May 1999, the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Portugal, the territory's former colonial ruler, reached a formal agreement at the United Nations in New York.

The planned referendum asked the East Timorese to accept or reject so-called "special autonomy" proposed by Jakarta, which allowed for limited self-government under continued Indonesian rule. The UN's responsibilities would be strictly limited to the conduct of the poll - all security would be the responsibility of the Indonesian security forces.

Hours before the signing of the agreement in New York, the army in Jakarta was already plotting its undoing. The Independent has obtained a telegram, sent on 5 May by General Subagyo, and signed on his behalf by his deputy, Major-General Johny Lumintang. The letter is addressed to Colonel Tono Suratman, the military commander in Dili, and copied to senior military figures. Its contents are damning.

The crucial order reads: "Prepare a security plan to prevent civil war that includes preventive action (create conditions), policing measures, repressive/coercive measures and a plan to move to the rear/evacuate if the second option [independence] is chosen."

The striking part of the order is the preparation for "evacuation" - and the frank instruction to use repression. "That is very strong language," said one Western diplomat. "Even in their most honest, secret discussions, generals don't often own up to that kind of thinking."

The meaning of the phrase "preventive action (create conditions)" is suggested by another cable found in the adjutant general's office, dated 6 July. It is a request from a Bali-based brigadier-general, Mahidin Simbolon, for a naval vessel, the Jenis Frost, to be dispatched to East Timor and is addressed to the TNI chief, General Wiranto. The cargo was not to be munitions, but rice; its purpose political. "During the referendum process," General Simbolon said, "there are 35 NGOs [non-governmental organisations]... who give food assistance to the people. This can affect the result of the referendum which is why the local government has to provide food assistance to the people as soon as possible."

The New York agreement banned any use of government resources to influence the referendum. But rice was the most harmless of the TNI's contributions to the anti-independence campaign. In the military headquarters in the town of Vikeke, the researchers from the Hak Foundation found a log book detailing the weapons distributed to the local Wanra militia and pro-Jakarta leaders.

The first page alone lists scores of guns given to the militia. "What surprises me is the sheer quantity," said the Western diplomat. "We knew that the militia were getting military weapons, but we never knew it was this many."

The Indonesian attitude to the referendum, as a war to be won or lost, is illustrated in a document dated July 1999, and drafted by an officer of the Dili-based Wira Dharma command, Lieutenant-Colonel Soedjarwo. The 13 pages outline "Operational Plan Wira Dharma '99", nothing less than a battle plan. One section describes the "Enemy Forces" - not only the guerrillas of the resistance movement, Falintil, but civilians, including unarmed student groups and political organisations.

By mid-summer, it was clear that hopes of winning the referendum were waning, and the generals were doing everything in their power to buy and coerce the population.

In August, the Dili police department produced a volume called Operation Remember Lorosae II, after the local word for Timor. This includes a meticulous plan to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Timorese after the referendum. It contains charts breaking down the population into regions and into two groups - for and against Indonesian rule. In keeping with the TNI's deluded assumptions, it estimates that supporters of autonomy outnumber those for independence by 517,430 to 367,591. Starting with these numbers it presents two plans, based on the outcome of the vote.

In each, it proposes an evacuation of 50 per cent of those who supported the losing side. Within a month, the plan was put into precise action. The table estimates the number of vehicles needed to transport the "evacuees" from each region. In the case of a win for independence, the number earmarked for "evacuation" is 258,710 people - almost exactly the 250,000 estimated to have been forcibly displaced after the vote.

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