/** reg.easttimor: 3091.0 **/

** Topic: Timor crisis lays bare military grip on Indonesia: diplomats **
** Written 3:03 AM Sep 9, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: Timor crisis lays bare military grip on Indonesia: diplomats

also: Indonesia demands time before world judges East Timor martial law

Timor crisis lays bare military grip on Indonesia: diplomats

JAKARTA, Sept 9 (AFP) - The crisis over East Timor has stripped bare any pretence over who is really in charge of Indonesia, diplomats said Thursday. The army, not content with its guaranteed presence in the cabinet and legislature, now has total charge of the embattled territory whose vote for independence has only met with bloodshed and forced deportations.

Rumours currently sending Jakarta financial markets into a tailspin are that the military may be poised to take control from the embattled president, B.J. Habibie, who is under intense pressure to sweep aside the military in East Timor and allow in foreign peacekeepers.

Imposition of martial law has not been seen anywhere in Indonesia since the dark days of 1965, when alleged plans for a communist takeover prompted General Suharto to seize power and hold onto it for the next three decades.

An anti-communist witchhunt which ensued after Suharto took over claimed anything up to 1.5 million lives, according to estimates.

Unlike the iron-fisted Suharto, his successor Habibie does not have a military base of support on which to draw when the going gets tough. East Timor presents him with a far graver threat than the economic crisis besetting Indonesia.

The Jakarta Post noted that the military's proposal of martial law for the territory was initially rejected by the cabinet on Monday before being approved hours later in unclear circumstances.

"East Timor has been a military adventure all along, from the 1975 invasion, the 1976 annexation, through all these years until today as Indonesia's rule is about to end," the paper said in an editorial.

"It would not be surprising to see TNI (the armed forces) doing all it can to prevent the inevitable separation, and deprive East Timorese of their hard-earned freedom."

But a Western diplomat told AFP talk of a coup was outlandish.

"The armed forces already have power, they control the fate of the next presidential election and will decide who will lead Indonesia -- why should they take the risk of undermining a position which is already to their advantage?" he said.

The Indonesian military, through its involvement in politics, holds a decisive presence in the fractured new legislature convening next month which will debate East Timor's self-determination vote and choose a new president.

Armed forces commander General Wiranto, who according to the rumours would lead a cabal seizing government, late Wednesday dismissed the coup rumours.

Presidential adviser Dewi Fortuna Anwar on Thursday added there was "no reason" for Habibie to step down.

But she warned the international community "to be very, very careful" as it ratchets up pressure on the president to cave in to its demands for foreign peacekeepers in East Timor.

"There are forces in Indonesia who are opposed to President Habibie's offer of independence to East Timor," she said, describing them as right-wing and nationalist.

Another Western diplomat said martial law in East Timor could be part of a creeping approach by the military.

"They could take (martial law in) Aceh, then the Malukus, then what's to stop them finishing the job off by targeting student protestors and other democrats?" he said.

Islamist separatism is rife in Aceh and the army has been largely unable to check Moslem-Christian violence in Ambon, part of the Maluku chain of islands. Other provinces, notably Irian Jaya, are also uneasy in Jakarta's grip.

A Western ambassador who recently ended a long stint in Indonesia said the military's capacity for political scheming should not be underestimated.

"The only difference between the generals in Indonesia and the generals in Burma is that the Indonesian ones are not stupid," he said.