Col (Inf) Gerhan Lentara
Commander, 17th Airborne Brigade (Brigif Linud 17); Martial law commander, Dili sector, 9-27 September 1999
Gerhan Lentara, a combat officer, was involved in the Santa Cruz massacre in November 1991, and was then out of the limelight for a long time until reappearing at MajGen Kiki Syahnakriís side welcoming Maj-Gen Peter Cosgrove to East Timor in September 1999 as Commander of the Dili region. He occupied this position at the time of the worst militia/ military violence and destruction.
In 1999 Gerhan held the position of Commander, 17th Airborne Infantry Brigade, Kostrad, and kept this position when he was simultaneously appointed martial law commander for the Dili sector in September. This Kostrad brigade shares its headquarter location with that of Kopassus - in Cijantung, East Jakarta. He had been its chief of staff in 1996-98. He was assisted in the brigade by his chief of staff, LtCol Adi Mulyono, who according to TNI Watch! should also be investigated for crimes against humanity. No details are publicly available of Gerhan's activities in 1999, apart from the fact of these appointments. Kostrad's 17th Airborne Brigade has a record of human rights abuse around Indonesia, including in East Timor.
Gerhan's colleague in assisting Kiki Syahnakri during the martial law phase was another Kostrad Airborne Infantry Brigade commander, Col Irwan Kusnadi.
Some anonymous militia leaders who had moved to Java and Bali after the Indonesian withdrawal said in October 1999 that, provided their safety could be guaranteed, they were prepared to testify that Gerhan Lentara was one of those who organised the militia forces and occasionally visited the field himself. (Others mentioned by one of these sources were Maj-Gen Garnadi, MajGen Sjafrie Syamsuddin, and MajGen Adam Damiri).
On one occasion during the martial law period, he was reported to have helped Kiki Syahnakri round up some looting police.However, there are no other reports of Gerhan succeeding, or even attempting, to reign in the violence by troops in his martial law sector in September. In response to the killing of the Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes on 22 September, he likened the Becora suburb of Dili, where it happened, to the 'wild West'. 'We donít know who did this. In this kind of area, many things can happen.'
Gerhan Lentara is a high flier in his generation. He was born in Makassar (Ujung Pandang) and graduated in 1978 from the military academy. He has a long history of service in East Timor in units under the command of Prabowo. He served as lieutenant and captain in the East Timor territorial battalion 744. By 1991 Gerhan was still in East Timor, with the rank of major, and was deputy commander of the non-territorial Infantry Battalion 700. Some observers said this battalion was controlled by Kopassus. During the peaceful demonstration that preceded the Santa Cruz massacre on 12 November 1991, Lentara infiltrated the crowd. When he was spotted behaving provocatively, someone slashed him with a knife. Troops soon afterwards opened fire on the demonstrators, killing a large number. He was flown out of East Timor within hours and disappeared for several years. Mystery surrounded his absence from the official inquiry into the massacre in 1992.
When he re-appeared in East Timor as the officer in charge of sector A (Dili and surroundings) in September 1999, it seemed as if the non-organic combat structure had been reinvigorated for the purpose. Although combat sectors A, B, and C had been formally disbanded many years earlier when the operational command called Koopskam was disbanded, the structure remained in place. However, throughout 1999 until the post-ballot crisis there had been only two combat sectors - A for eastern East Timor and B for western East Timor, with none for Dili as such.