|CHAOS IN EAST TIMOR|
September 6, 1999
Charles Costello, director of the Carter Center's Democracy Program and a monitor for East Timor's Aug. 30 independence referendum discusses the election's aftermath.
JIM LEHRER: East Timor: Ian Williams of Independent Television News has been reporting this story from the East Timor capital of Dili until he left on Sunday.
IAN WILLIAMS, ITN: Escaping the chaos and bloodshed, the first of 200 United Nations workers to be evacuated from East Timor arrived in Darwin today. Their U.N. compound has been under siege from pro-Jakarta gangs who've run wild, killing and burning across East Timor. But in Jakarta, an embattled Indonesian president insisted he's still in control and trying to stop the mayhem.
|A nationalist backlash|
PRESIDENT B. J. HABIBIE, Indonesia: I'm responsible as the president of the Republic of Indonesia for the whole Republic of Indonesia, including East Timor today. And I am working on that.
REPORTER: So you're on the streets. Your police are doing nothing to stop the militias and the U.N. believes your own military is coordinating it.
PRESIDENT B. J. HABIBIE: What we have achieved right now is one thing: We have achieved the effect that we had are transference, peaceful ballot. And don't take that for granted.
IAN WILLIAMS: But there's mounting evidence the army is working hand in hand with the militias. Before we were evacuated from Dili yesterday, we witnessed this extraordinary scene: A clean-cut soldier takes a rest before donning a wig, giving him the trademark hairstyle of the more hardened militiamen; and evidence of collusion compiled by their own staff today brought the usually cautious U.N. Special Envoy to Jakarta.
REPORTER: Do you believe the government of Indonesia any longer controls the military in East Timor?
JAMSHEED MARKER, U.N. Envoy to East Timor: I intend to... I intend to take this up with them because what has happened in Dili and what is happening now is unacceptable. And this has been said and made very clear.
IAN WILLIAMS: He said a Security Council delegation is to come, and a peacekeeping force might be on their agenda-- too little, too late for some.
ANA GOMES, Portuguese Ambassador, Indonesia: That is not enough. Where is the dignity of the members of the Security Council? Where are the responsibilities of the permanent members of the Security Council, especially those that say they uphold the values of democracy, justice and human rights?
IAN WILLIAMS: Yet, the Timor vote has provoked a nationalist backlash in the Indonesian capital. There's widespread credence given to the accusation of the pro-Jakarta camp of an international conspiracy against them. But even government ministers have described the violence as understandable.
REPORTER: But we have been on the streets of Dili and seen your police doing nothing to stop the militias. They're not disarming them, they're not arresting them and the violence is going on and getting worse every day.
PRESIDENT B. J. HABIBIE: We have been aware of your accusations...
REPORTER: It's an observation, sir.
ALI ALATAS, Foreign Minister, Indonesia: The situation is not as simple as you have described. Very often our police have to wait for reinforcements in the face of overwhelming... overwhelming presence of armed, unruly elements.
IAN WILLIAMS: The news from Dili has been more shocking by the hour, but Jakarta remains largely unmoved. Among Indonesia's most popular politicians there is outrage not at the violence, but at the very fact East Timor was allowed to vote on its future. The woman likely to be Indonesia's next president today condemned the violence, but said it was Habibie's fault for holding a referendum. Megawati Sukanaputri urged her fellow countrymen to accept the result, but she wouldn't commit herself to granting East Timor independence when it comes before parliament in November.
|A discussion with Charles Costello|
JIM LEHRER: Now to Charles Costello, director of the Carter Center's
Democracy Program, which monitored the August 30th elections in East
Timor. And he recently returned from there.
CHARLES COSTELLO: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: Why do you believe the militias are able to operate freely, as they have been doing and are doing as we speak?
CHARLES COSTELLO: It's been clear for some time, even before the balloting, that they were operating with a tacit and sometimes even active support of the Indonesian police and military.
JIM LEHRER: Is there just in terms of numbers, if the Indonesian police and military wanted to stop the violence, could they do it?
CHARLES COSTELLO: They certainly could. I'm referring in particular to the situation in the capital, Dili, where the militias are a rough, rag-tag band, poorly armed, operating like gangs or thugs. And a strong police or military presence could shut them down quickly.
JIM LEHRER: Quickly. You mean...what do you mean by quickly?
CHARLES COSTELLO: I mean that as they form up in their groups on foot or using pick-up trucks, that their access to the places where they're attacking people could be stopped, they could be stopped in their tracks and disbanded.
JIM LEHRER: Is there any question in your mind and the minds of your staff members that the military is in collusion with these militias?
CHARLES COSTELLO: We've seen clear evidence of it.
JIM LEHRER: Like what, sir?
CHARLES COSTELLO: We've seen the police stand by while refugees are attacked. We had our own staff members trying to take local staff to the port to leave on a ferry assaulted in the presence of police officers and in view of a military group. We asked for assistance and got none.
JIM LEHRER: The police would do nothing to help your people?
CHARLES COSTELLO: They did nothing. They watched and then ultimately walked away.
JIM LEHRER: And you had to...you had to evacuate your last staff members today or yesterday, correct?
CHARLES COSTELLO: That's correct, because they were under fire.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Now, give us your...your impression... give us a profile of who these militias are.
CHARLES COSTELLO: Well, these militias are overwhelmingly young men. The evidence began to surface well before the period of registration and campaigning that they were being organized with support from certain elements of the Indonesian military. And they've been operating with impunity throughout the territory for some time. They've been intimidating people, they've been committing acts of property damage, some acts of violence, but overall, limited killing. But you can see by the escalation now that they've decided to start killing people on a serious scale.
JIM LEHRER: Is it...is the military and the police, are they also arming these people?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Well, they're not handing out arms in the presence of people, but to the extent that these groups have modern armaments, that's their main source. Their weaponry oftentimes is rudimentary, but they've used machetes to attack people with deadly efficiency.
|Motives of the militias|
JIM LEHRER: And their basic motive, I hate to keep going over this every time but a lot of people are not that familiar with East Timor, their motive is they're just opposed to independence, they want East Timor to remain a part of Indonesia?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Yes, but I think at this point following the balloting, this obeys a larger plan, which is to create such a level of unrest and violence as to bring into question the legitimacy of the well-run balloting by the United Nations and try to prevent action in the Indonesian assembly in November, which would be required to let the balloting result in independence for East Timor.
JIM LEHRER: Now, you... you have said tonight and others have said it also during the day today, Mr. Costello, that if the Indonesian government wanted to stop this violence in East Timor, they could do so. What is your reading and what is your staff's reading as to why they won't do it?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Well, this is part of the larger crisis of authority in Indonesia right now in this limbo period between the elections in June and selection of a president in November.
JIM LEHRER: Now, these are the elections in Indonesia, not the East Timor referendum we're talking about.
CHARLES COSTELLO: That's correct. The ones held in June.
JIM LEHRER: Right.
CHARLES COSTELLO: And certainly it's been clear that the military was opposed to President Habibie's decision earlier to allow for a referendum in East Timor, and certain elements-- and we're not exactly sure which ones-- seemed determined to resist that decision and the results of the balloting and it's not clear what...how the command structure within the Indonesian military is working right now.
JIM LEHRER: So you're not sure that President Habibie could stop it?
CHARLES COSTELLO: No. But I think we're quite certain that determined action, which as we've stated today, includes changes in command and issuance of orders for the military to take action on the streets of Dili could clearly stop this.
JIM LEHRER: Now, if the Indonesian government does not stop it, the Australian government said today they were willing to mount... to lead an international force. Secretary Albright has said the United States would support an international force, if Indonesia does not stop. This what's your view of that?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Well, I heard the report there minutes ago of Secretary Albright's comments, and the Carter Center certainly conquers with that view. And President Carter himself is looking to the visit of the five-member delegation being sent by the U.N. Security Council that if Indonesia doesn't take steps at once to bring this violence under control, then clearly they should allow the international community to step in to do the job.
JIM LEHRER: What if the Indonesian government does not allow it? Can it be done without its permission?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Well, then the U.N. Security Council, which has seized the matter and is operating under an agreement with Portugal and the government of Indonesia I think would have to take final decision on the matter.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. The... the guerrillas, the pro-independence side has been fairly silent since the election. In other words, they've hailed the election results but there are some guerrillas, some of armed, but they have not fought back yet. Do you have any reading as to why?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Well, as part of the procedures leading up to the balloting, they had agreed to desist from any military activity and have honored that pledge since sometime in April. Here well before the balloting, they moved to three containment areas in interiors in the mountains to make sure they wouldn't engage in armed activity. They have remained there, even in the face of this violence. I think part of this is an attempt to draw them into action so it can be claimed that a civil war has broken out in the territory.
JIM LEHRER: You think that's what afoot here?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. The other night one of the leaders of the pro-independence group here on the NewsHour, I asked him how many troops did he think it would take, how many people in an international force would it take to bring peace back to East Timor. He said 50,000. Based on your own experience on the ground and those of your fellow staff members, would you agree with that?
CHARLES COSTELLO: I think it would take much less. The militias are strong in the western part of the territory, but I think without any active backing from Indonesian military elements, they would melt away quickly in the face of any strong show of force. A much smaller force could take over Dili, but in a mountainous country, rugged terrain, poor roads, if there is armed resistance to any international peacekeeping force, it would take a force of considerable size to bring it up under control if they face serious resistance. But I doubt they would face that.
|The question of international aid|
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. What is your reading of the U.N. Security Council and the general feeling? You saw in our intro piece the ambassador from Portugal to Indonesia very angry about the fact that western countries... she was talking clearly very poignantly about the United States and others that the U.N. Security Council have not done anything. Is there a will to do something about this in the international community?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Well, Indonesia, until now, has been thought of as a very serious country with clear state capability to live up to international agreements it makes. And it made clear commitments to maintain security during this process. We still believe that they have the capability to do so.
JIM LEHRER: So that should be -- they should be pushed to do it before troops start getting on airplanes?
CHARLES COSTELLO: Yes. Especially because there would be a considerable lag time before an international force of size could be organized and dispatched, even though there is, I'm told, a brigade of Australian troops ready to move in. In that interim period, many lives would be lost.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Costello, thank you very much.