Armindo Soares Mariano
Speaker, East Timor provincial parliament (DPRD)
The central issue Armindo Soares should be asked to clarify is the allegation that he was, with Dili district head Domingos Soares, one of the two main leaders cooperating with East Timor military commander Tono Suratman in organising the militias in East Timor in 1999. These two and governor Abilio Soares (none related, despite the same name), were the three most prominent East Timorese officials in the territory in the period leading up to the ballot on 30 August 1999.
Armindo Soares was a strong supporter of the 'special autonomy' design being discussed at the UN late in 1998. When that proposal was overtaken by President Habibie's dramatic decision to offer the East Timorese a choice of autonomy or independence, he expressed his strong disapproval. In late February he began an aggressive Golkar campaign to 'socialise' the autonomy option in East Timor.
The campaign involved several incidents of serious violence. He promoted the violence by his vigorous defence of the need to arm pro-Indonesian militias. Immediately after Habibie's announcement on 30 January 1999, Armindo Soares defiantly rejected the demand by armed forces commander General Wiranto that these forces should be disarmed without Falintil being disarmed first.
According to some reports he was a member of a large group of prominent East Timorese civilians that came to Jakarta to meet with armed forces commander General Wiranto on 19 February 1999. Asking Wiranto to reverse his position on the arming of civilians, they wanted him to supply them with arms. Wiranto said he did not agree with the weapons request, but East Timor governor Abilio Soares later claimed large numbers of weapons were made available anyway by Armed Forces Chief of General Staff LtGen Sugiono (where the names are listed in detail).
After the Liquica massacre of 6 April 1999, Armindo Soares supported statements by military commander Col Tono Suratman that played down the number of victims ('five') and described foreign reporting on it as 'pure lies'.
Soares was present on 17 April 1999 at one of the first large militia shows of strength in Dili. Afterwards, militias murdered twelve people at the nearby home of former provincial parliamentarian Manuel Carrascalao. Soares refused to condemn either the rally or the violence afterwards, saying: 'Why make a fuss about the rally? This shows that the pro-integration forces are also consolidating to defend themselves'.
Militia leader Eurico Guterres himself reportedly said the blame for the massacre on 17 April should be shared with Domingos Soares and Armindo Soares. Strengthening Eurico Guterres' claim, one report shortly after alleged that the 17 April event was part of a campaign called Operasi Sisir planned by the military under Col Tono Suratman in conjunction with militia leaders. It then named Armindo Soares as one of the two key militia leaders cooperating with Suratman, together with Domingos Soares. Meetings were being held to plan another round of violence in May, the report added.
When Unamet arrived soon afterwards, it criticised the 'socialisation' campaign as the kind of premature action ruled out by the 5 May UN agreement. The criticism led Armindo Soares to lash out at Unamet as being under the influence of pro-independence groups.
As chief of Golkar in East Timor, Soares' job was to ensure that all Golkar members and their families voted for Indonesia. A large proportion of the urban workforce in East Timor was employed in the civil service, and all of them were expected to be Golkar supporters. This led Armindo Soares to state after the ballot that the pro-autonomy vote should have been well over 100,000 (instead of less than half that), a figure that formed the basis of his argument that Unamet had 'cheated' in the ballot.
Armindo Soares frequently took part in meetings to coordinate strategy among militia leaders, the police and the military. One such meeting reportedly took place on 24 July 1999.
Just before the ballot, on 26 August 1999, he was one of four speakers at another large pro-autonomy rally that turned violent, this time on the Pramuka Field in Dili. Afterwards, militias went on a rampage, joined by Brimob police and soldiers. Five civilians were killed.
Soares was a vigorous organiser, frequently traveling between Dili and Jakarta. Late in February 1999 he helped set up the pro-autonomy organisation FPDK. In June he helped set up the pro-Indonesian umbrella group Unif. In August, just before the ballot, Soares formed an 'alliance' of most of the political parties that had taken part in the national election earlier that month. The alliance expressed support for autonomy.
Unif rejected the ballot result. In October 1999 he (unsuccessfully) lobbied the Indonesian supreme legislative body MPR to reject it too and instead hold a national (Indonesian) referendum on the issue of East Timor's separation.
Under the Portuguese, Armindo Soares was a young primary school teacher. As Portugal prepared to decolonise East Timor in 1974 he joined Apodeti, which promoted autonomy within Indonesia. He was not a significant figure at the time. After the Indonesian military invasion he held a series of bureaucratic positions, at first within the Education Department. By the mid-1990s he had risen to second assistant to the provincial secretary (Asisten II Sekwilda Timtim), and had become chairman of Golkar's East Timor branch. He was twice a candidate for provincial governor (1992 and 1997) but lost each time to Abilio Soares, with whom he maintained a prickly relationship. In July 1997, on the recommendation of the armed forces faction in parliament, he was appointed speaker of the provincial parliament.
When President Suharto resigned in May 1998, students began a determined and popular push for a referendum in East Timor. Armindo Soares publicly rejected the demand as 'dreaming', and instead backed the hard line within Golkar. He had the moderate Golkar national parliamentarian and newspaper proprietor Salvador Ximenes Soares 'recalled' from his post in Jakarta for 'disloyalty to Golkar'.