/** reg.easttimor: 2750.0 **/
** Topic: SMH: No defence for our tainted ties with butchers in uniform **
** Written 7:23 AM Sep 6, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: SMH: No defence for our tainted ties with butchers in uniform

Sydney Morning Post Tuesday, September 7, 1999

There's no defence for our tainted ties with butchers in uniform

By DAVID JENKINS, Asia Editor in Jakarta

If the Australian Government is searching for ways to register its displeasure with Jakarta over the army-created anarchy in East Timor, it could start by putting an immediate end to its close defence training links and military exercises with Indonesia.

If it wants to really get serious with Indonesia it could call on the major foreign donor countries to freeze the $US43 billion ($67 billion) IMF bail-out for Indonesia's broken-back economy. These are desperate times, with the people of East Timor at the mercy of rampaging militia gangs - groups created, trained, armed, bankrolled and supported by the Indonesian Army (TNI), an institution now out of control, acting in wilful disregard of the nation's civilian government. It is a time for desperate remedies.

A freeze on all defence links would, of course, send a largely symbolic message. A freeze on the IMF bail-out, to which Australia has pledged $US1 billion, would send a wake-up call that the Indonesian Government would find hard to ignore.

Indonesian Army officers began attending courses at Australian Army staff colleges in the early 1960s, laying the basis for wider defence co-operation.

But it was only in the early 1990s that the Australia-Indonesia defence program really took off, with much of the liaison work being done by the then Australian Army Attache in Jakarta, Colonel (now Brigadier) Jim Molan.

In 1993 an Australian Special Air Services detachment travelled to the Kopassus special forces base in West Java to exercise with their Indonesian opposite numbers, a controversial move given that Kopassus had played a key role in destabilising East Timor before Indonesia's 1975 invasion spearheaded by Kopassus troops. Not long afterwards, commandos from Kopassus began training in Australia, despite allegations that the Indonesia red beret unit continued to be involved in intimidation, torture and murder, not least in East Timor. The following year, an Australian Army battalion flew to East Java to take part in the first-ever combined airborne exercises with an Indonesian parachute unit. That unit, Battalion 502 of the Army Strategic Reserve, had been pulled out of East Timor in disgrace after it had run amok following the invasion, killing and looting. All of this was considered a success, and in 1994 the Keating Government, moving with what some saw as unbecoming haste, bolstered its defence training ties with Indonesia after the US Congress killed off a 40-year-old defence training program following the 1991 Dili Massacre.

By 1995, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) had become the most important foreign provider of military training to Indonesia. In that year more than 220 Indonesians trained at Australian military establishments. Indonesia was also holding more military exercises with Australia than it was with any other country.

In March 1995, Canberra invited the notorious Battalion 502 to an exercise at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland. Five months later, a company from Battalion 502 was back, joining a dawn parachute drop on Wyndham in an exercise eerily reminiscent of its attack on Dili 20 years earlier. An argument can be made for the case that there are benefits for Australia in programs like this. But it was always clear that Canberra was taking a huge gamble when it got so close to Kopassus, a 6,000-strong unit which spends most of its time dealing with domestic dissent - usually harshly.

This was brought home in March last year when Brigadier Molan, who is now Defence Attache, attended a ceremony at the Kopassus headquarters in Jakarta. At the time, Kopassus was engaged in a dirty war against President Soeharto's domestic enemies and had kidnapped and tortured more than a dozen political activists.

It later turned out that while Brigadier Molan and his wife were chatting on the lawn with senior Kopassus officers, "disappeared" activists who had been plucked off the street were languishing out the back in the Kopassus torture centre. Australia suspended its training links with Kopassus when the crimes of that unit became impossible to ignore. But it was revealed last year that Kopassus had been receiving training from US special operations soldiers in psychological warfare, despite the Congressional ban on training.

At present, Brigadier Molan is holed up in the Australian Consulate in Dili while East Timorese militiamen terrorise the innocent in a campaign orchestrated by Kopassus psychological warfare officers.

The ADF owes a heavy debt to the East Timorese, who provided invaluable help to Australian commandos during World War II. There is a terrible irony in the fact that the Kopassus troops who are now acting with such cynicism and brutality in East Timor can also claim a strong Australian connection.

** End of text from cdp:reg.easttimor **