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No Time Limit On War Crimes Investigation

Rumblings are beginning in Jakarta over reports that a British-led team of 50 UN investigators are expected to arrive in East Timor this week to begin a war crimes inquiry. There is no time limit of this, said John Dowd, an Australian judge. John Howard reports.

A probe into atrocities in East Timor would cover human-rights abuses going back as far as Indonesia's 1975 invasion of the territory, said Justice John Dowd, president of the Australian chapter of the International Commission of Jurists.

But in any inquiry sources say Indonesia's government is likely to also point at the blood on the hands of the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand for training Indonesia's military officers in civilian urban guerilla warfare, civilian surveillance, counter intelligence, sniper marksmanship and 'phsychological operations" which were all used against the East Timorese.

Code-named "Iron Balance" Washington had approved covert training of Indonesia's military sponsored by the Clinton administration which continued until last year but was hidden from Congressional authority.

Britain is also reported to have spent, since May 1997, one million pounds helping the Indonesian Army and training 24 senior members of Indonesia's forces in UK military colleges. 29 Indonesian officers also studied at non-military establishments.

A spokesman for the British Ministry of Defence said; " It is a way of ensuring professionalism in foreign affairs. It encourages higher standards, good governance and greater respect for human rights."

Arms sales were also made to Indonesia by both countries.

Human rights campaigners have long accused the Indonesian military of committing atrocities in East Timor and elsewhere, while watching their pleas for international action go unheeded. They also point to a bluprint called the East Asian Miracle, written by US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, in which he urges government's to "insultate themselves" from "pluralist pressures" and to suppress trade unions.

Mr Justice Dowd said a team of lawyers across Australia and West Timor would soon begin assembling evidence of atrocities, including malitia violence and possible genocide in East Timor.

He said if the evidence gathered was strong enough, leading Indonesian military and political figures, including the head of the armed forces, General Witanto, could face trial.

Meanwhile, Lee Kuan Yew, who ruled Singapore with an iron hand as Prime Minister for 30 years until 1990, said "What we must do is avoid a wholesale onsaught on our Asian way of doing things, our methods of dialogue and intercourse, and to bring about change that can make the system collapse."

He was warning Singaporians against making radical changes to their political system showing the chaos and dangers of Indonesia's radical reform.

Mr Lee said he sympahtised with President Habibie, who inherited a much-diminished presidency from ousted president Suharto. He said Mr Habibie's task was not made easier by the media undermining his authority by exposing scandals involving those around him.

Even if Megawati Sukarnoputri - whose party won the most votes in Indonesia's parliamentary elections in June - were to become President, Mr Lee doubted she would command the authority wielded by Suharto or her father, founding President Sukarno.

Singaporean human-rights activist's say Mr Lee's statements reveal he still has no idea how a proper democracy is supposed to work.


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