Antara - Monday, June 8, 2009 22:04 WIB

Kupang - Former commander of East Timor Integration Fighters , Joao Tavares, died at around 8.20 pm on Monday in Atambua at the age of 78 following a stroke.

"He had been suffering from stroke for a long time before he died," one of his friends, Armindo Mariano Soares, said when contacted about Tavares` demise.

Armindo who was former chairman of the East Timor legislative assembly when the province was part of Indonesia described Tavares as a tough integration fighter.

"The late Tavares loved the Red and While (Indonesia) deeply. The love was rooted deeply in his heart as shown by his struggle to defend East Timor`s integration into Indonesia. Because of that Pak Tawares chose to move to Atambua after the referendum in East Timor in 1999 until he died," he said.

Armindo who is now a member of the Indonesian East Nusa Tenggara`s provincial legislative assembly from Golkar Party said when the civil war broke out in East Timor in 1975 Tavares who was from the Uni Democrat Timorence Party (UDT) once fled to Atambua.

When integration occured in 1976 through the Balibo Declaration Tavares returned to East Timor along with his forces to fight Fretilin which was anti-integration.

At the time, Armindo said, Tavares was directly assigned to be the head of the Bobonaro regency with his office located in Maliana. "He was head of Bobonaro regency for around 13 years," he added.

He said when East Timor was still a Portuguese colony Tavares was once a member of the colonal forces.

After the vote in 1999 that led to East Timor`s independence Tavares and his forces and also the people who supported integration left East Timor for East Nusa Tenggara and lived in Atambua which borders with Bobonaro.

While in a refuge Tavares was one of the advisors for UNTAS, an organization for East Timorese in exile, Armindo said.

Tavares survived by a wife, a number of children, one of them elected as member of the legislative assembly in Belu in the recent elections representing the Democrat Party.

"I do not know all his family members but his is a big family and one of his sons was chosen as a legislative assembly member in Belu for the period of 2009-2010," he said.

Armindo himself is now a member of the Gerindra Party and was also elected as a legislative assembly member for East Nusa Tenggara recently.(*)

MASTERS OF TERROR - Joao da Silva Tavares 

Leader, Halilintar militia, Bobonaro district; supreme commander, PPI militia forces, Joao Tavares was an ageing militia leader whose name inspired fear and hate in many East Timorese.

On 10 or 12 August 1998, in the face of rising independence demands following Suharto's resignation the previous May, he allegedly met Maj-Gen Adam Damiri and Col Tono Suratman, who told him and two other militia leaders, Eurico Guterresand Cancio de Carvalho they must organise 'to protect integration'. This meeting represented the official launch of the militias - part of a strategy worked out by Generals Syamsuddin and Zacky Anwar Makarim between July and September 1998.[1]

On 17 February 1999 Joao Tavares reportedly told a meeting of sub-district and village heads in Bobonaro that they would be sacked if they failed to mobilise their citizens to attend a pro-government rally in Balibo. On February 19 he told a Balibo rally that there would be war if people rejected the autonomy proposal.[2]

On 27 February 1999, witnessed by senior military officers and hundreds of militia members, he was installed as head of an East Timor-wide militia organisation. This formally made him responsible for all unlawful acts committed by the many militia groups around East Timor for the remainder of 1999.[3]

On 1 March 1999 Joao Tavares at a meeting said at least one Australian diplomat had to be 'sacrificed' in order to stop a civil war among East Timorese caused by Australia[n support for the ballot].[4]

On 11 March 1999 Tavares received a letter from the militia leader Lafaek Saburai (Afonso Pinto), informing the 'highly respected pro-integration war general' of plans to remove pro-integrationist (pro-Indonesian) people from Dili. It then went on to say that the rest 'whether they be men, women, children or old people, are anti-integration and must be eliminated', beginning on 1 May 1999.

On 19 March 1999 Halilintar members acting jointly with TNI personnel murdered four pro-independence villagers in Mariabo village (also named as Moleana-Maliubun) near Maliana.[5]

On 12 April 1999 he and LtCol Burhanuddin Siagian personally ordered the execution of four East Timorese civilians from the village of Cailaco near Maliana, in revenge for a Falintil attack on a pro-Indonesian militia leader.[6] On 15-17 April 1999 the same militia tortured five people from the village of Aidabalete, Bobonaro district.[7] A long list of Halilintar militia members indicted in Dili for this massacre and a subsequent rampage around Cailaco subdistrict is given in a footnote underLtCol Burhanuddin Siagian.

On 17 April 1999 Joao Tavares and Eurico Guterres spoke at a large militia rally in front of Governor Abilio Soares� office in Dili. At this rally Joao Tavares was made supreme commander of the combined pro-integration forces PPI (Pasukan Pro-Integrasi), a military-backed umbrella grouping of militias. Eurico Guterres was made his deputy. After the rally, which was attended by all the top provincial officials, militias now nominally under his command murdered at least twelve people in the house of Manuel Carrascalao. On the same day Halilintar militias directly under his command destroyed equipment at the only local newspaper, forcing it to close down. A few days later his militias destroyed the house of a journalist with the same newspaper who lived in Maliana.[8]

Despite his record of violence, the state party Golkar did not hesitate to put him on its ticket for the 7 June 1999 election.[9]

On 17 July 1999 he allegedly wrote a letter to all his militia forces, with copies to all military and police commanders, ordering them to step up 'terror and intimidation' against pro-independence leaders, and informing them of plans to launch widespread violence should the independence option win. The letter may have been a fake.[10]

On 8 September 1999 he and Eurico Guterres reportedly met MajGen Adam Damiri and told him they had ordered their militias to stop the destruction of East Timor. He was lying. Militias under his PPI umbrella were murdering people at the Maliana police station as he spoke. This meeting once more demonstrated the close and hierarchical relationship between militias and the military.[11] In July 2003 Joao Tavares was indicted in absentia in Dili with crimes against humanity for his active leadership role in the militias in Bobonaro district, which led to a string of abuses culminating in the massacre at the Maliana police station on 8 September (see many details in LtCol Burhanuddin Siagian).

Following the Indonesian withdrawal from East Timor, Joao Tavares first openly supported armed incursions into East Timor, by '59,500' troops under his command. Many of them were ethnic East Timorese who had defected from the Indonesian armed forces after the withdrawal.[12]

He was questioned by KPP HAM in December 1999, where he did not deny his militias had engaged in destruction of East Timor after the ballot, but (implausibly) denied they had any contact with TNI at all.

He claimed that militias under PPI were disbanded on 13 November 1991. However, in October 2000 four militia leaders contemplating a return to East Timor said Joao Tavares had threatened them with 'extrajudicial action' for acting treasonously, thus demonstrating that the militias remained a coherent organisation.[13] In December 2000 his name was linked to a fresh surge in militia incursions into East Timor. It was alleged he had distributed more money to militias.[14]

More information:
From TLN News in English

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