- Parliamentary Business
- Senators and Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
Program 1—International Relations, Trade and Business Liaison
Subprogram 1.2—Interests in South and South East Asia
- Committee Name
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
Program 1—International Relations, Trade and Business Liaison
- Sub program
Subprogram 1.2—Interests in South and South East Asia
- System Id
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsPrevious Fragment Next Fragment
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS
- Program 1—Compensation
- Program 2—Health care and services
- Program 3—War Graves
- Senator Newman
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Major Gen. Dunn
Maj Gen. Dunn
Rear Adm. Briggs
- Group 2—Navy
- Group 3—Army
- Group 4—Air Force
- Group 8—Defence Personnel Executive
- Group 9—Acquisitions
- Group 14—Finance and Inspector-General
- Major Gen. Dunn
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
- Program 6—Development Cooperation
- Program 7—Australian Trade Commission
Program 1—International Relations, Trade and Business Liaison
- Subprogram 1.2—Interests in South and South East Asia
- Subprogram 1.3—Interests in the Americas and Europe
- Subprogram 1.5—Multilateral Trade Policy and Negotiations
- Program 2—Passport and consular services
- Senator Newman
Content WindowForeign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee - 05/05/99 - DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE - Program 1—International Relations, Trade and Business Liaison - Subprogram 1.2—Interests in South and South East Asia
Senator HOGG —My questions are solely in relation to East Timor, as flagged. In an interview about East Timor on radio 5DN on 29 April this year Foreign Minister Downer said, `You've probably got 30 per cent or so of the population there who strongly favour remaining with Indonesia.' What is this estimate of 30 per cent strong support for autonomy based on? On what basis did the minister make that statement?
—The numbers of people who support either continuing integration with Indonesia or independence or separation from Indonesia are of course impossible to be precise about. I think the estimates for those who support independence vary widely. At the upper end one hears a figure from quite a lot of people, including of course those who are supporters of independence, of 90 per cent. At the other end of the spectrum you have a figure which suggests about an even fifty[hyphen]fifty split. There is no science about this. It is simply that that is a figure more than any other which is more often heard in discussion in Jakarta and in Dili, and in other parts of the world where there is interest in East Timor, as to those who support
continuing integration with Indonesia. There is no science about it; it is a figure which is very frequently used.
Senator HOGG —So the minister could quite easily have said 20 per cent. He would have been no more right than wrong by saying 30 per cent.
Mr Dauth —No; I would not agree with that.
Senator HOGG —How did the minister arrive at the figure?
Mr Dauth —As I said to you, 30 per cent is a figure more often used by more credible witnesses than any other. It is not one which I am sure the minister or we would claim was definitive. It is simply that that is a figure which is frequently heard from people who are reasonably reliable. But there is no science about it.
Senator HOGG —Whilst I accept that there is no science about it, can I assume that it is not a figure that the department has arrived at themselves or accepted?
Mr Dauth —I would not say that it is a figure that the department has arrived at, since the expression `arrived at' suggests some sort of analysis of a scientific or polling sort on our part. That is of course not possible for us to do. It is a figure, though, that the department is broadly comfortable with; it is a figure that the department has offered the minister advice about; and it is a figure that we generally subscribe to. But it is a sufficiently imprecise figure, it is a sufficiently unclear statistic, for us not to claim any scientific basis or any great authority for. But it is a figure we work on.
Senator HOGG —Due to that very imprecise nature you have just described to me, has the department undertaken any action or process to attempt to ascertain what the balance of opinion in East Timor is?
Mr Dauth —Yes of course. We have been visiting East Timor, the embassy in Jakarta has been visiting East Timor, regularly for a very long while. The ambassador is going there again tomorrow. While there, of course, they have very intense programs. Mr Blazey, my colleague at the far left, was until recently the political counsellor at the embassy in Jakarta. He has frequently been to East Timor himself and many officers of the embassy visit and, during those very intense visits, have an opportunity to gauge what is going on there.
It is a community of 750,000[hyphen]odd people and it is not possible for us to conduct a poll; it is not possible for us to know what people, for example, in the hinterland think. I expect you might get some different results, even from a detailed poll done in Dili compared with polls carried out in other parts of East Timor. So yes we are constantly about gauging what opinion is there, but we obviously cannot reach precise conclusions.
Senator HOGG —Due to the imprecise nature and the general volatility that exists in East Timor—the violence and intimidation—is there a value in placing a figure such as 30 per cent on the support for pro[hyphen]integration or another figure for those who want independence? Does this serve any good purpose?
Mr Dauth —I think it is the basis of the best analysis we can do. I think it is important for us to have some working assumptions about what the situation on the ground looks like. I would have thought that it would be very hard to evaluate policy options without that sort of analysis.
Senator HOGG —So it is basically gathered on anecdotal evidence from officers of the department—
Mr Dauth —No, I am sorry, it is not just anecdotal evidence. It is, as I said, a very widely accepted figure amongst many reliable observers. It is not, of course, the only figure advanced—other figures are advanced by other reliable observers—but it is, on the balance of what is available to us, the sort of figure that we are working on.
Senator HOGG —If one accepts that the figure of 30 per cent may be a high figure—
Mr Dauth —Or indeed a low figure.
Senator HOGG —or a low figure, but it may well be a high figure—for the support for autonomy within East Timor, could this come about as a result of the fact that there is an acceptance that there is a campaign of violence and intimidation being waged in East Timor by the pro[hyphen]integrationists? Could that distort the figure?
Mr Dauth —I would say no in respect of that figure, though I would absolutely agree with you that the expressed intentions of many in East Timor are currently being affected by a climate of intimidation. There is no question about that; I agree with that completely. That is of course very unfortunate and we are deeply concerned about it. We have expressed ourselves very clearly to the Indonesian government about that situation.
You are right to say that if that figure were, for example, to be based on some sort of estimate of attitudes today, then the figure would be distorted. But that is a figure which had been around for a long time, including from, as I say, some very reliable people amongst pro[hyphen]independence supporters. It is a figure which we have had in our minds, I should have said, for many months.
Senator HOGG —Yesterday I understand the Jakarta Post reported statements by Indonesia's Minister for Information, Lieutenant General Mohammad Yunus. The Minister for Information told the press that General Wiranto had told President Habibe's cabinet that the East Timorese resistance—the CNRT—had lost its roots in 10 of East Timor's 13 regencies. General Wiranto was reported as saying that pro[hyphen]integration groups were receiving wide support from the population and that pro[hyphen]integration supporters were the silent majority. Is it the department's assessment that the pro[hyphen]integrationists form the silent majority in East Timor?
Mr Dauth —It is not for us to comment on the judgments of other governments about what is going on in their borders, but it will be evident to you from what I have already said that we think it is very difficult to make judgments about the respective balance of support for autonomy and independence. It would be our judgment that there is a very substantial body of opinion in favour of separation from Indonesia.
Senator HOGG —So it would not necessarily be correct to say that the assessment that there is a silent majority in East Timor who are pro[hyphen]integrationists would be a correct statement?
Mr Dauth —I would not share that judgment myself, no.
Senator HOGG —In view of the prospective deployment of AFP personnel as UN police advisers in East Timor, I take it that the department is paying very close attention to all the factors which might influence the security situation on the ground in East Timor. That would include, would it not, the role of the Indonesian military and police in relation to the security for the forthcoming ballot? Is that in effect correct?
Mr Dauth —That is correct.
—At the estimates hearing on 11 February, Mr Warner of DFAT told the committee that the most commonly held figure for the number of Indonesian military in East Timor was 15,700, consisting predominantly of 13,500 plus a police component to bring up
the total to 15,700. Do we know who actually arrived at that estimate—the estimate that Mr Warner quoted to us at the estimates hearing on 11 February?
Mr Dauth —It is a figure which we have been working on for many months. As I said earlier, I cannot tell who precisely furnished us with that advice but it is a figure which has been agreed amongst us in the Australian government and, indeed, I think more generally internationally for some time.
Senator HOGG —Was it a department estimate or was it someone else's estimate that the department thought was reasonable and therefore took on board?
Mr Dauth —That is a figure that we subscribe to and have done for some time.
Senator HOGG —Last October a number of ABRI documents concerning Indonesian troop numbers in East Timor were leaked from Dili to the international press. I am also advised that Dr Andrew McNorton of Sydney passed copies of these documents to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via Foreign Minister Downer's office. In those documents, the total number of Indonesian military and police personnel given in the ABRI documents for August last year was 17,941, with the grand total, including the official local militia, the wanra, of 21,620. Did the department consider this material in forming its assessment of the number of Indonesian military in East Timor?
Mr Dauth —I cannot answer that question right now. I am sure we did, because we look very carefully at any material provided to us with that degree of potential integrity. The figures, of course, vary a bit from time to time. There are rotations of Indonesian troops through East Timor, so the figure is never precisely the same. I am sure that we considered that advice. I am sure that we considered any reasonable advice we were given. We stick by the sort of figures that Nick Warner was advancing the last time he was here.
All that being said, I do not think that we would die in a ditch about the precision of those figures. For example, I would not personally quarrel with a figure of 17,000. I would not think that that was necessarily wrong. I would not have an argument about it.
Senator HOGG —That is straight out of the leaked documents from ABRI, so I think we can reasonable accept that.
Mr Dauth —I would not say that at all, if I may disagree. We have had from a number of—we call it TNI now; they have renamed themselves—TNI estimates of numbers and they vary a bit depending on who you are talking to in TNI.
Senator HOGG —What sorts of variations? How substantial?
Mr Dauth —Sometimes quite substantial. The figures we work on are, roughly speaking, the figures that Nick Warner advanced when he was last at this place.
Senator HOGG —The difference between the figure that Mr Warner supplied and the figure from the ABRI documents, is around 2,200; in round figures.
Mr Dauth —Yes, that is right.
Senator HOGG —Is that the sort of variance that one sees in the figures?
Mr Dauth —That or more. As I say, it depends on who you talk to.
Senator HOGG —Up to 5,000?
Mr Dauth —I think that various sources are of varying reliability. There are variations in what people tell you as to how many TNI personnel are in East Timor, but the figures we work on are the figures, roughly speaking—give or take a few—that Nick gave the committee when he was last here.
Senator HOGG —What is the Australian government's present estimate of the size of the Indonesian security presence in East Timor? Would it be that 15,700 or would it be greater or less?
Mr Dauth —My own personal working estimate is slightly greater than that, but not substantially.
Senator HOGG —Is that the sum total of the police and the military or is that just the military presence, because there has been that split from—
Mr Dauth —You are quite right. The figures are complicated by recent changes in the composition of TNI.
Mr Mules —There is very little that I can add except to say that we work on a figure that is the total amount. Now that the police have been divided from TNI, we will be working to distinguish more clearly. It has been very difficult to do, so the figure we use tend to be a total number of uniformed ABRI people.
Senator HOGG —So, for the purpose of the record, you would say that the current presence—military and police—in East Timor would be 15,700, plus or minus a couple of thousand.
Mr Dauth —I would say plus rather than minus.
Senator HOGG —So it is more than Mr Warner indicated to us on 11 February?
Mr Dauth —Yes, but not substantially more.
Senator HOGG —Have these numbers changed significantly since the middle of last year when Indonesia claimed to have withdrawn a number of troops?
Mr Dauth —No.
Senator HOGG —So you are saying that there has been no substantial change from about this time last year in the number of military and police present in East Timor?
Mr Dauth —That is my understanding.
Senator HOGG —And, whilst it is greater than Mr Warner's estimate of 15,700, it has been relatively static over that period of time, even though the Indonesians claimed to have withdrawn a number of troops at that time?
Mr Dauth —I think that is a debate about the minutiae, but the claims were largely made in the media rather than by a responsible spokesman for the government of Indonesia. What is clear in retrospect is that the numbers varied at that time due to a substantial troop rotation—quite a lot left and there was a gap before their replacements arrived. I think the main point is that the numbers have not varied substantially.
Senator HOGG —One document among the ABRI documents listed numbers of personnel within various notorious paramilitary gangs—the so[hyphen]called Ninja gangs: Team Alpha, Team Saka, et cetera. Did it come as a surprise to the department to find confirmation in the ABRI documents of Indonesia's military role in organising these groups, which have for years terrorised the civilian population in Dili, Baucau and other towns?
Mr Dauth —There has been evidence for some time of cooperation between local militia groups and some elements of ABRI—TNI—located in East Timor. So, in that sense, it was no surprise to us. The precise nature of that cooperation and who authorises it are the sorts of questions that are very much more difficult to answer.
Senator HOGG —I accept what you are saying, but my question was: did it come as a surprise to the department to find confirmation in the ABRI documents of organising these groups?
Mr Dauth —As a measure of cooperation between elements of TNI and local militia?
Senator HOGG —Yes.
Mr Dauth —No.
Senator HOGG —It came as no surprise?
Mr Dauth —No.
Senator HOGG —When this material was made public in October last year, what specific representations did the government make to the Indonesian government concerning ABRI's organisation and support for such gangs?
Mr Dauth —If I may say, Senator, you are very focused on one set of documents.
Senator HOGG —I will move on, Mr Dauth, don't you worry.
Mr Dauth —I am just making a broader point. We have information from a much wider set of sources than documents like that. We are privy to all manner of information about events in East Timor. Our embassy is very thorough in reporting on the basis of their visits there. It has been our invariable practice, particularly in recent months when the security situation has so demonstrably deteriorated, to talk very openly and frankly to the government in Jakarta about what we see as ABRI's—TNI's—role in ensuring an improvement in security and not a deterioration. That is an issue which is very often the subject of discussion between the ambassador and his staff and the Indonesian authorities. It has also been the subject of exchanges between ministers. I think it is not easy or proper to say more than that. On the whole, we are not in the business of revealing the precise contents of our exchanges with other governments.
Senator HOGG —I accept that, but we are now dealing with a document that was leaked widely, and I wonder whether an issue such as I have raised with you—about ABRI's support for such gangs—would be the subject of exchange between ourselves and the Indonesian government, without getting down to the minutiae of discussions of government to government, particularly given that it was last October.
Mr Dauth —If I may say something about the potential for constructive exchange on the basis of that alleged leak, the government of Indonesia never acknowledged the veracity of those documents, so there could conceivably be a certain aridity to an exchange which began with one side making a set of assumptions that the other side objected to. That is an important consideration to bear in mind, but I do say to you very seriously that the sorts of issues that you raise are very much an important part of dialogue between us and the government of Indonesia on an ongoing basis.
Senator HOGG —What is the department's estimate of the strength of various pro[hyphen]integrationist militias which have emerged in East Timor over the past six months?
Mr Dauth —Subject to my colleagues offering more precise information on this, I do not think we have a very clear idea. What is undoubtedly the case is that they have grown in numbers.
Senator HOGG —How many groups are clearly identifiable, in your estimation?
—I will ask my colleagues to answer that in a moment, but the point I want to make is that the important shift in the situation has been the extent to which the militia groups
have been able to acquire arms and have begun to behave in a more threatening fashion. So numbers in a sense are less important than their state of armouredness, as it were, and their recent preparedness to engage in aggressive and hostile behaviour. Does anyone have a better idea on numbers?
Mr Mules —It really is impossible to be very precise at all on numbers.
Senator HOGG —I know the imprecise nature of the issue that we are dealing with—I am not a bean counter by nature.
Mr Dauth —If we have a number, we will give it.
Mr Mules —We see estimates of between 2,000 and 50,000.
Senator HOGG —Can you tell us what your best estimate is?
Mr Mules —To give you an example of how difficult it would be for us to reach a conclusion about that, we hear, for example, that when one of these groups visits an area and undertakes the activities that we are all so unhappy about they are inclined to add the population of that town to the numbers of people they claim to be their supporters.
Senator HOGG —So this is a moving feast, in one sense?
Mr Mules —Absolutely.
Mr Dauth —But I do say that the numbers, as an element in the situation, are less important than the extent to which they are now armed and the extent to which they are clearly prepared to take aggressive behaviour.
Senator HOGG —So we have got no idea of the actual number of significant groups? Is it possible to identify that?
Mr Dauth —No, I do not think it is. On the other hand, I think the sort of pejorative formulation that we have got no idea is a bit tough. There are thousands and they are well armed and they are causing a lot of trouble.
Senator HOGG —When you say `well armed' what do you mean by that?
Mr Dauth —I mean that they have acquired a lot of weaponry in recent months which makes them very much better armed than they were.
Senator HOGG —You say they have acquired a lot of weaponry in the last few months. Has that been supplied by ABRI? How have they come across their weapons?
Mr Dauth —It is clear that some of the weaponry has been provided to them by some elements of TNI operating on East Timor. As I say, the issues of who has authorised that and the extent to which the collaboration has taken place is very much harder to answer.
Senator HOGG —So we cannot identify these pro[hyphen]integrationist militias with any degree of real certainty and we cannot quantify the numbers of people except to say that there are thousands. You have clearly conceded that they are well armed—that is our best advice.
Mr Dauth —Could I just have `agreed' rather than `conceded'?
Senator HOGG —Sorry, `agreed'.
Mr Dauth —Thank you.
—I was not trying to put words into your mouth. You have agreed that they are well armed. I wonder to what extent. When you say they are well armed, is that a whole group? If we take one identifiable group, and we are talking about a difficulty in identifying
a group, is it just a number within a particular militia who are well armed or is it the totality of the group? Is it that arms are widespread through and within one group?
Mr Dauth —I think they are widespread. There are thousands and there are many groups—that is true—and many of the many groups have a lot of arms. Is that helpful?
Senator HOGG —Yes, I am just trying to build up a picture of what is there because we are going to be putting the AFP into this place. I am trying to build some sort of picture as to what we are being confronted by.
Mr Dauth —That is true, and I really genuinely want to be helpful. We are undoubtedly facing, at the present time, a security situation that is serious. I would not in any way argue with that proposition and I think that the most significantly negative factor in that serious security situation is the extent to which the pro[hyphen]integration militia groups are well armed. Of course Falintil is still well armed too, although less well armed—in our assessment—than the pro[hyphen]integration militia groups, but nevertheless armed as well.
There is another phenomenon, of which I am sure you are aware, that not all of the pro[hyphen]integration militia groups are of one mind. A perfectly conceivable security scenario over the coming months—and there are many imponderables in the coming months—has some of them at each other's throat too. They are, of course, negative circumstances that worry us as well.
In all of this the situation is that the government of Indonesia and in particular TNI have responsibility for security and our expectation—and hope—is that the Indonesian government will meet their obligations in this respect.
Mr Mules —I wonder if I may add a comment to complement that.
Senator HOGG —Sure.
Mr Mules —I would not want to leave the impression that we basically had no idea about who they were, where they were or how serious the threat from them was. In fact, we do know who the key figures among these groups are and we are communicating with them. When our people visit Dili from Jakarta, they make contact with the political and the military leaders of the key groups down there and they are doing their best to make sure that we keep that channel of communication open.
Senator HOGG —When you say that they are well armed, does this imply arms in the heavier weapons range, rather than just small light arms?
Mr Dauth —No, they are light arms. They are more than side[hyphen]arms but they are not cannons.
Senator QUIRKE —What are they not?
Mr Dauth —Cannons.
Senator QUIRKE —Do they have mortars and that sort of stuff?
Mr Dauth —I am no expert, I would have to say. It would be sensible in a way to ask that question in a detailed way of the Defence Intelligence Organisation. I would be surprised if there were not some mortars in the hands of some in the hills, although I think that mostly they are rifles and that sort of kit. I apologise for my lack of technical capacity in this respect.
Senator HOGG —The senator is a little bit technical when it comes to weaponry. What is our assessment in terms of the continuing flow of weapons? Has it slowed down or is it on the increase?
Mr Dauth —Our assessment is that it has slowed significantly in the last month or six weeks.
Senator HOGG —What about the flow of the ammunition and supplies that are needed to keep the weaponry going? Has that slowed down?
Mr Dauth —Our impression is that it has slowed but I do not have as clear an impression on that score.
Senator HOGG —Associated Press reported on Monday that General Wiranto has again denied allegations that Indonesian troops have stood by or have supported pro[hyphen]integrationist attacks. He is reported as saying, `I reject any suggestion that the military was siding with a particular group in the conflict.' Is General Wiranto telling the truth?
Mr Dauth —I said earlier it is not our practice to comment on the statements of other governments in public in that way. Again, I would say also that there is some record in our experience of rogue behaviour by some in TNI on East Timor and it has obviously, in a number of instances, been difficult for the central authorities in Jakarta to ensure that TNI conduct themselves to the standards that General Wiranto and others undoubtedly expect.
Senator HOGG —Is it not a fact that the Indonesian military and police have sided with the pro[hyphen]integrationist militias?
Mr Dauth —As I said earlier, there have clearly been examples of some behaving in that way. I have said all along it is very difficult to assess the extent to which that is a universal approach or the extent to which it has authorisation from more senior officers.
Senator HOGG —What makes that assessment difficult? I am not being funny here. Is it simply the fact that we have not got people on the ground? Is that part of it?
Mr Dauth —That is a consideration. More generally, as I say, the Indonesian authorities say to us that they do not condone that sort of behaviour. So, on the one hand, you have evidence which is pretty plain—indeed documented, for example, by Australian journalists—and, on the other hand, you have the claims of authorities which reject that. That makes assessment hard.
Senator HOGG —Would the department agree with the assessment that the Indonesian military in East Timor has clearly been protecting and, in some instances, operating with the pro[hyphen]integrationist militias in East Timor?
Mr Dauth —I have already said that there is clear evidence that some elements of TNI behave in that way.
Senator HOGG —Would the department agree with the assessment that the Indonesian military could apprehend or easily control the pro[hyphen]integrationist militias but has chosen not to?
Mr Dauth —No, I would not agree with that at all. Controlling the security situation in East Timor is an extremely difficult task. It is the responsibility of the government of Indonesia, it is the responsibility of the Indonesian military and police, but it is a real tough ask, particularly since the militia has become better armed. It is very much more difficult. Frankly, the whole question of disarmament is a very difficult issue indeed.
Senator HOGG —The militias have become better armed to a fair extent by the fact that ABRI have given them the weapons.
Mr Dauth —Some elements, certainly.
Senator HOGG —Surely, one would think that if they can give these weapons to these people—and they seem to have a fairly reasonable hold over them—they could equally control the pro[hyphen]integrationist militias?
Mr Dauth —I absolutely would not agree with that at all. I think that is quite wrong. The situation has been poisoned over many years. Once people have got arms, they are going to be extremely reluctant to give them back to anyone.
Senator HOGG —On 7 March, Foreign Minister Downer told the Nine Network's Sunday program that he was sure that General Wiranto was not condoning the arming of the militias but:
. . . there may be some rogue elements within the armed forces which are providing arms of one kind or another to pro[hyphen]integrationists . . .
The Foreign Minister has since referred to these rogue elements within the Indonesian military on a number of occasions. Who precisely are these rogue elements?
Mr Dauth —They are local commanders in East Timor.
Senator HOGG —Are they readily identifiable by name or is that just a broad description of who they are?
Mr Dauth —It is a broad description. Some of them are identifiable from a variety of sources, but we are not in the business of publishing every bit of intelligence we know.
Senator HOGG —I accept that and I was not asking you to publish all your intelligence. I was trying to get close to the fact that we may or may not be able to identify these people in reality.
Mr Dauth —It would be very difficult to develop a complete picture of the category of people to whom Mr Downer was referring.
Senator HOGG —Are you saying to me that in effect you can broadly identify the rogue elements who are responsible for supporting the militias?
Mr Dauth —We can broadly identify a category of people.
Senator HOGG —A category of people who you said are local commanders.
Mr Dauth —When I say local commanders, I do not mean all local commanders. I am being entirely speculative here, but individual TNI personnel may well conduct themselves without the authority of their local commander. I am sure you know that for TNI the conflict in East Timor has been a very important conflict. It is very much a part of their view of themselves that their activity in East Timor has been legitimate to protect the integrity of the Republic of Indonesia. The TNI has, over 25 years, suffered very high losses. That is the sort of mind-set that many local commanders and troops have in operating in East Timor. For them, the prospect of independence for East Timor is utterly repugnant. You can understand that. None of that excuses any of the undisciplined behaviour that clearly some of them engaged in. I am just trying to paint a picture of the sorts of factors involved in the behaviour of the rogue elements that Mr Downer was referring to.
Senator QUIRKE —Are they rogue elements or directed elements?
Mr Dauth —That is precisely the question. The word `rogue' answers that question. The extent to which there is complicity on the part of commanders is something we do not have a clear picture of. But, as Mr Downer said, as far as we can tell, the behaviour that rogue elements have engaged in is not condoned by the centre.
Senator HOGG —For example, could we say that the commander in Dili, who I understand is Colonel Suratman, would be part of the rogue element? Is it possible for us to go to that extent?
Mr Dauth —It may be possible, but I would not be prepared to do so here.
Senator HOGG —Or, say, the regional commander in Denpasar or one of those sorts of places.
Mr Dauth —That particular individual has been widely identified in the media. I am not going to say anything. I do not think it is appropriate that I offer public comment on individuals, but in identifying that individual, you are—
Senator HOGG —I am saying that, as an example, it is not possible in your estimation to go to the extent of identifying those sorts of people as being the rogue elements as described in Minister Downer's statement.
Mr Dauth —In some cases it is but, as I say, it would not be appropriate for me to speculate in public about individuals and their pattern of behaviour.
Senator HOGG —Are the Indonesian special forces—Kopassus—a rogue element in East Timor?
Mr Dauth —I am not sure that there are Kopassus deployments in East Timor, but I am told that there are. However, the answer is that I cannot answer that question.
Senator HOGG —On 2 March, Xanana Gusmao publicly identified the Kopassus intelligence unit the SGI as a key player in the organisation and support of the militias in East Timor. Is the department aware of any reports that Kopassus units are engaged in operations in East Timor?
Mr Dauth —We are obviously aware of that report and I am sure that there have been other reports as well, but I do not think it is appropriate to say more than that. It is not our business to comment on the behaviour of individuals or individual units in the government of Indonesia.
Senator HOGG —Is it not the case that Kopassus operations are essentially controlled from Jakarta rather than from the local headquarters in Dili?
Mr Dauth —The entirety of TNI is centrally controlled. The problem is clearly that some are conducting themselves outside of that command and control structure.
Senator FORSHAW —You said that it is not your role or intention to identify individuals. Is that because there is some doubt as to the accuracy of the information—that you do not have enough?
Mr Dauth —No. It is because this is a public forum.
Senator FORSHAW —I appreciate that.
Mr Dauth —There are plainly things that can be said in public forums and there are plainly things that can be said in private briefings. There are many opportunities for the department and for the minister to speak in a more private way to parliamentary colleagues but, in a public forum such as this where we are talking about the behaviour of elements of another government, there are clearly constraints on what the department would want to say.
Senator FORSHAW —I understand that. That is why I asked the question. The next topic we are coming to is the Balkans and Kosovo. I do not think there has been terribly much reticence on the part of the international community—the United Nations and other countries involved—in the various crises, wars, whatever has occurred in the Balkans to name what you might call the `rogue elements', readily identifiable in Serbia and Bosnia, acting as agents for central government in Serbia and indeed identified as possibly being arraigned for war crimes. I am not suggesting that the situations are directly comparable; I am trying to understand all of it, when you get to a point where you can be more specific, having regard to diplomacy, I suppose.
Mr Dauth —We are not, of course, involved in Kosovo. Presumably you are talking about the willingness of NATO partners to identify people on the Yugoslav side. In that context, there is a very important distinction to be drawn: they are at war.
Senator FORSHAW —Some would argue that they were not necessarily at war when they were wiping out the various ethnic groups in Bosnia Herzegovina and various places. I do not want to move into that area, but here you have allegations of citizens in East Timor being massacred by rogue elements and allegations that they are controlled directly or indirectly by central government or various forces within the armed forces. I am just trying to understand; to some extent there are some parallels.
Mr Dauth —In a very broad sense perhaps. I think you do need to be very precise in any circumstances, even in circumstances of war, before you start identifying individuals. But more than that, I think we are working at this time for an outcome in East Timor which is the best possible outcome and we are working very closely in that respect with President Habibie. Prime Minister Howard was there last week.
Senator FORSHAW —I do not think you need to elaborate. I understand. That is why I asked whether that was the basis for the hesitancy. Thank you.
CHAIR —Senator Hogg has approximately 20 minutes of questions and would like to be away at 4.15 p.m. So I seek the indulgence of the committee.
Senator HOGG —Have any senior Indonesian military officers involved in East Timor operations been disciplined or removed from their post as a consequence of failure to act in accordance with policy laid down by Jakarta?
Mr Dauth —Yes, undoubtedly. Mr Blazey may be best placed to answer that.
Mr Blazey —Yes, Senator, that occurred after the Dili massacre and also after the Liquica massacre, which I believe was 1994.
Senator HOGG —In more recent times?
Mr Blazey —Not to my recollection, Senator.
Senator HOGG —Has General Wiranto taken any action against any so[hyphen]called rogue elements in East Timor?
Mr Dauth —The detail of that I cannot answer.
Senator HOGG —Do you want to take that on notice?
Mr Dauth —No, not at all. To the best of our knowledge, General Wiranto is concerned about examples of indiscipline, examples of where TNI has behaved in a way which is inconsistent with the government's responsibilities in East Timor. To the best of our knowledge, he pursues that concern in a forthright way within TNI, but as to just exactly what he has done within his organisation, I am sorry I cannot tell you.
Senator HOGG —Last Saturdays' edition of the Financial Review carried a story by its foreign editor Peter Hartcher entitled `Army is lying in wait for independence voters'. The opening paragraph of the article reads as follows:
It's been puzzling governments around the world. How can you reconcile the reassuring words of Indonesian's top army brass with the reality that they have been allowing thugs to butcher civilians in East Timor in recent weeks?
Easy, says a leading expert on the Indonesian army: `They are lying through their teeth the whole time.'
The article goes on to quote Mr Bob Lowry who was a major in the Australian Army. Do you think that expert, Mr Bob Lowry, has got it right? What reliance can be placed on statements
such as that by General Wiranto last Monday that the Indonesian military have not been taking sides in East Timor?
Mr Dauth —I have not seen the detail of what Mr Lowry has said. He is of course someone who knows a great deal about the Indonesian military. We have quite a lot of people in the government who know a lot about the Indonesian military too. So I would say to you that we are at least as well versed to be able to make judgments as is he. All I can say to you about what the government of Indonesian says to us is that we have to operate on the basis of what they say. I have said very clearly that they have some command and control problems in East Timor. Clearly there are some in TNI who are behaving in a way which is inconsistent with what the government of Indonesian is saying is the way they want them to behave. If you are asking me to lay out here a critical and negative analysis of the way the government of Indonesian works, you will not be surprised to hear me say I am not prepared to do that.
Senator HOGG —No. It is just that there is a fairly strong allegation there when he says `They are lying through their teeth the whole time', not just part of the time but the whole time.
Mr Dauth —I think Mr Lowry is frequently given to colourful language, in my experience of his writings—I do not know him personally. Mr Hartcher telephoned me after he had had that conversation with Mr Lowry and retailed it to him, and I can say to you what I said to Mr Hartcher then, that Mr Lowry is given to colourful language and it seemed like a rather excessive judgment.
Senator HOGG —I do not see your comments anywhere in the article.
Mr Dauth —No because I did not offer Mr Hartcher comments.
Senator HOGG —The Financial Review article concludes:
Australian intelligence says the TNI region commander, based in Denpasar, is particularly determined to deflect any move to independence. Lowry says that if Wiranto did not approve, it would be simple for him to replace the recalcitrant officer.
Then moving back into quotes from Lowry himself, the article continues:
`After Soeharto's resignation last May, Wiranto was in a reasonably precarious position. But since then, he has made significant rotations of commanders and he now has a relatively free hand.
`No Indonesian military leader can move entirely on his own—he needs to keep the support of his officers—but he could easily replace a regional commander. With Habibie in office as president, Wiranto is not subject to any effective presidential direction.
In view of General Wiranto's failure to remove or discipline commanders who are either deliberately or by omission sabotaging President Habibie's East Timor policy, would it be reasonable to conclude that the general has himself been one of the rogue elements causing so much trouble?
Mr Dauth —No, it would not be reasonable to conclude that.
Senator HOGG —Is it the department's assessment that, in the absence of vigorous actions by the Indonesian military to rein in the pro[hyphen]integrationist militias, General Wiranto has at least been turning a blind eye to their activities?
Mr Dauth —Sorry, is the question do we—
Senator HOGG —Is it the department's assessment—
Mr Dauth —No, it is not the department's assessment.
Senator HOGG —On 28 April, Foreign Minister Downer foreshadowed that the Indonesian police will play a greater role in providing security in the run[hyphen]up to the forthcoming ballot and that the role of the military would be reduced. Minister Downer told the ABC Radio AM program:
I think people will feel more confident with the police playing a much more substantial role on the ground rather than the armed forces.
Is it not a fact that the Indonesian police, especially the police mobile brigades, have played a significant role in the suppression of pro[hyphen]independence supporters in East Timor for many years?
Mr Dauth —I think, as I said to you earlier, there is a wide range of people from TNI who have conducted themselves in a way which is inconsistent with the expressed wishes of the present government of Indonesia. Detailing who has done what to whom in recent times is a confusing and difficult picture, and I am not prepared—particularly in the circumstances where the new arrangements between the army, the military and the police are so new—to apportion blame in East Timor which at this time is not very easy or productive.
Senator HOGG —Is there any credible available assessment?
Mr Dauth —Of what, sorry?
Senator HOGG —Of what we have just been speaking about.
Mr Dauth —Of the behaviour of the police in East Timor?
Senator HOGG —Yes.
Mr Dauth —Yes, there are lots of assessments available to us.
Senator HOGG —Is the department aware of the account of the Liquica massacre by Father Raphael?
Mr Dauth —Yes.
Senator HOGG —The priest states that members of the police mobile brigade fired the tear gas into the church which drove the refugees outside to be killed by the BMP militia.
Mr Dauth —Yes.
Senator HOGG —Are you aware of that?
Mr Dauth —Yes, we are aware of that report.
Senator HOGG —What sort of credence do you place on that report?
Mr Dauth —You will be aware that, in the immediate wake of the Liquica incident, the ambassador despatched a small team from the embassy in Jakarta to report on the events at Liquica. They did so and came to the best set of conclusions they could about events there. Clearly the numbers of casualties were more than originally claimed by TNI—less than some of the more lurid accounts, but clearly a substantial number of people perished.
Senator HOGG —So you have a report on this?
Mr Dauth —We do. Yes, indeed. Mr Downer is on the public record on this, as you know.
Senator HOGG —Is that available?
Mr Dauth —No, it is not.
Senator HOGG —Is it available with deletions to protect those who may need to be protected?
Mr Dauth —That is not a question I have put to Mr Downer. He has, I think, taken a very clear attitude about the release of the report.
Senator HOGG —Could you take that on board?
Mr Dauth —No, I really can't because it is something I checked again with him today, and he has reiterated the view he took at the time that he received the report.
Senator HOGG —So, even with the appropriate deletions that would protect people in that environment, it is still not appropriate, in the minister's view, to release that report?
Mr Dauth —That is, of course, a question for him rather than for me, but I believe that to be his approach, yes.
Senator HOGG —If that is his approach, then I am putting to you that you might take that to him from these estimates.
Senator Newman —What was that? I am sorry, I did not hear the end of your sentence.
Senator HOGG —You might take to the minister—through you, Minister—the release of that report with the appropriate deletions if it is without revealing the names of people that should be protected.
Senator Newman —Mr Downer has made it pretty clear what the instructions of the minister are on this particular matter. I do not think that much good can be obtained by pursuing it any further. I think Mr Downer has been very helpful along the way, but he is not in a position to do anything about that.
Senator HOGG —In view of the involvement of the Indonesian police in human rights abuse and support for the militias, on what basis does Mr Downer claim that East Timorese will feel more confident to rely on the police for their security?
Mr Dauth —I think it is really a first principles statement as much as anything else. I find it difficult to imagine that anyone could disagree with it. The people of East Timor have in many cases, particularly those who have been in favour of independence for many years, been intimidated by the Indonesian military on East Timor. There has been a pattern of some rogue behaviour which has certainly added to that sense of intimidation. In those circumstances I should have thought that, as I say, as a matter of first principles, to have army uniforms replaced by police uniforms would be welcome to a number of people in East Timor. That is not to say, of course, that people are going to feel comfortable about security in East Timor—how could they?—because the security situation is so plainly so unsatisfactory at this time.
Senator HOGG —But also because of the very close links between the army and the police over a long period of time.
Mr Dauth —Over a long period of time, yes. But they are less close than they were. That is also plainly the case.
Senator HOGG —But is that just a superficial separation rather than—
—No, I do not think it is superficial because it is a very determined approach on the part of General Wiranto and the government of Indonesia that they should separate, that there should be clear daylight between them. This is a process which is going to take a bit of time, and undoubtedly, I am sure, if I were an East Timorese I would be a bit sceptical for a while. I would want to see how the newly created police elements conducted themselves before I made a final judgment. But, as a first principles statement, you can surely not argue
with the proposition that there is greater potential for a level of comfort with the police than with the military in East Timor.
Mr Mules —The performance of the police is, I think it is fair to say, that they have historically had, relative to the rest of the military, a somewhat better reputation for their behaviour. I think, given the choice, people would be more comfortable with the police.
Senator HOGG —Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr Dauth, and thanks to the other officers for being so helpful.
CHAIR —Thank you, Senator Hogg, for being so expeditious. Thank you, Mr Dauth. Thank you, Minister. If you are not returning, Minister, thank you.
Senator Newman —I will stay until 5.
Proceedings suspended from 4.09 p.m. to 4.25 p.m.