Lt-Gen (ret) Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono [Hendro Priyono]
Transmigration and Resettlement Minister
Hendropriyono's part in East Timor's 1999 nightmare consisted in funding militias before the ballot, and funding the forced expulsion of much of the population after it. His background in Kopassus gave him the motivation and the networks to do this.
Soon after accepting his appointment as transmigration minister, he spoke in favour of a plan to establish armed civilian militias all over the country, also in transmigration areas. They would be 'multi-purpose', he said, and tasked with handling 'anarchic' situations under armed forces supervision.
Tomas Goncalves, a prominent militia leader who defected in April 1999 and later spoke with the foreign media, said that he met with four senior government figures soon after the East Timor militia strategy was conceived towards the end of 1998. Hendropriyono was one of them. The others were the serving military officers Adam Damiri, Kiki Syahnakri, and 'Amirud' (probably Amirul Isnaeni).
' The point they made was if we continued to defend the white and red flag, they were ready to provide any funds, and all sorts of guns and all the troops here could help us,' Goncalves said. Hendropriyono's enthusiasm to create and incite a militia force was so extreme that he even offered to don camouflage and fire the guns himself, Goncalves and others have said. But in the end he just provided the money for others to do it. Goncalves said he went to Hendropriyono's office in Jakarta. 'That's when he told Governor Abilio [Soares'] brother, Chiquito, the chief of the Transmigration Department in Timor, to devote the whole departmental budget for the use of the militias.'
After that, militia leaders reportedly gathered several times at the house of fellow cabinet minister Yunus Yosfiah in Jakarta to meet with Hendropriyono and with Zacky Anwar Makarim and to make arrangements for money transfers.
Hendropriyono also played a major role in the expulsion of a quarter of a million East Timorese into Indonesian West Timor in September 1999. Leaked communications intercepted by the Australian Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) show that Hendropriyono often communicated with MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim about this issue. Information Minister Yunus Yosfiah also played an important part.
In July 1999, soon after fellow cabinet minister Feisal Tanjung had received a report from his subordinate in Dili, Garnadi, outlining a large scale evacuation plan in the event of a ballot loss for Indonesia, Hendropriyono revealed that a sizeable budget had already been allocated for such an evacuation. Hendropriyono was part of a dozen-strong cabinet delegation led by Feisal Tanjung that had just visited Dili on 12 July 1999.
After the ballot, almost as soon as the quarter of a million displaced persons had arrived in West Timor, Hendropriyono announced that '58%' of them wanted to transmigrate to other parts of Indonesia. The budget was ready and implementation began immediately. It is not known how many people were moved out of Timor at this time. Strong international protest suggested that, by forcibly transmigrating pro-independence East Timorese, the government was hoping to undo the results of the ballot.
Hendropriyono was born in Jakarta in 1945. Graduating in 1967 from the military academy (AMN), his career has been with Kopassus and its predecessors RPKAD and Kopassandha. He had several tours of combat duty in Kalimantan in the late 1960s and early '70s. He is an intelligence specialist, and saw extensive combat in East Timor in 1975. He is one of the most highly educated officers in the army and regarded as an intellectual.
On 7 February 1989, as Lampung regional military commander in southern Sumatra, he led hundreds of troops in an attack on the 'Islamic Village' of Talangsari. Hundreds of unarmed peasants died in the attack, which resulted in his nickname 'the butcher of Lampung'.
In the early 1990s he held senior positions within the military intelligence agency Bais. Between 1993-94 he was entrusted with the Jakarta area command. He has been overseas for training at least twice, including a stint in Australia in 1970. He was Minister for Transmigration and Resettlement in the Habibie cabinet (May 1998 - October 1999).
As chief of the National Intelligence Agency since August 2001, a cabinet level post in Megawati's government, he controls all intelligence agencies in the country. He has considerable wealth, derived in part from a successful law office he owns.
'Armed civilian militia plan comes under fire', The Jakarta Post, 12 December 1998.
Mark Davis, 'Dateline', SBS TV (Australia), 16 February 2000, transcript on www.sbs.com.au/dateline.
'Submission by "Timor Aid" to UN Commission of Inquiry Concerning East Timor', posted to [email protected] by Andrew McNaughtan, 12 February, 2000.
Hamish McDonald, 'Australia's bloody East Timor secret', 'Silence over a crime against humanity', Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 2002.
'Indonesia anticipates East Timor exodus', The Jakarta Post, 24 July 1999; 'Government prepares to accommodate possible post-ballot exodus', Antara, 22 July 1999; 'Indonesia is preparing for massive post-ballot slaughter in East Timor', CNRT media release, 20 July 1999.
Pos Kupang, 30 September 1999; '40 percent of refugees in West Timor want to return home: minister', AFP, 29 September 1999; Sidney Jones, 'Don't betray the refugees trapped in West Timor', International Herald Tribune, 27 September 1999; Humphrey Hawksley, 'East Timor crisis: Jakarta "planned mass exodus of refugees"', The Independent [London], 14 September 1999.