Col Nur Muis [Noer Moeis, Mohd Muis]
East Timor military commander (Danrem 164/ Wira Dharma) 13 August 1999 - 30 March 2000
Col Nur Muis replaced Col Tono Suratman only two weeks before the 30 August referendum in East Timor. No clear reason was given but the change followed strong UN criticism of Tono Suratman’s partisan attitude to the militias. He was thus responsible for security in East Timor precisely when security broke down completely.
On 25 August 1999 he met Falintil commander Taur Matan Ruak in Dili, a meeting facilitated by Unamet in an attempt to prevent violence.
Before the ballot, Nur Muis several times warned that war was likely to break out if the pro-independence option won. But the 'possibility of war and violence would be very small if the pro-integration faction won'.
Just before the ballot result was announced Nur Muis said that the military had prepared detailed contingency plans to evacuate 250,000 East Timorese civilians by land, sea and air in the event of full-scale civil war breaking out. This plan is so close to what actually happened in subsequent days that it is fair to conclude the evacuation was conducted according to the same military plan. The only missing factor, apparently not so essential after all as a condition for executing the evacuation plan despite Nur Muis' frequent 'prediction' of it, was the 'civil war'. War was prevented, and world opinion therefore failed to turn against East Timor, because Falintil refused to respond to intense pro-Indonesian militia provocations.
The day after the announcement, most of the top military officers mentioned in this study gathered at Nur Muis’ official residence in Dili. It is difficult to believe that his evacuation plans were not discussed. Those present at the meeting, according to the Dili special panel indictment against Eurico Guterres (Case 13/ 2003), were Gen Wiranto, MajGen Zacky Anwar Makarim, MajGen Kiki Syahnakri, Feisal Tanjung, MajGen Adam Damiri, Indonesian police chief (Kapolri) Gen (Pol) Roesmanhadi, Col Nur Muis, Col (Pol) Timbul Silaen, Joao Tavares, FPDK members Basilio d’Araujo, Florentino Sarmento and Salvador Ximenes, BRTT leader Francisco Lopes da Cruz, CNRT member Mauhudo, Bishop Belo and fellow-Catholic worker Manuel Abrantes.
It was during this meeting, as Bishop Belo was pleading ineffectually with Wiranto to curb the militias, that soldiers under Nur Muis’ command participated in the brutal attack on the Dili Diocesan office (see Capt Agus Suwarno). Nur Muis’ house is located less than 2 km from those offices.
Still according to the Dili indictment (Case 13/ 2003, clause 79), Nur Muis outright refused Bishop Belo’s plea for help the next day, 6 September, saying he had no trucks. The attack on 5000 refugees in the Bishop Belo’s residential compound was carried out by Aitarak militiamen under military direction (see LtCol Sujarwo).
Nur Muis took some disciplinary action against Maj Jacob Sarosa, the commanding officer of the 745 Battalion that had killed or disappeared 25 people in the course of their panicky withdrawal from East Timor, including the Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes on 21 September 1999. However, he implicated himself in the abuses when he told soldiers from the same battalion after they arrived in Dili: 'You don't need to tell anyone about what you have done on your way here. Don't even tell your wives.'
In practical terms he lost his power as territorial commander when MajGen Kiki Syahnakri became martial law administrator. He claims that, before that moment on 5 September 1999, the police, not the military, were in charge of security in East Timor. This must strike observers as a hand-washing statement.
When quizzed by human rights prosecutors in January and then in May 2000, he consistently blamed Unamet 'cheating' for the outbreak of post-ballot violence. In October 2000 he reportedly publicised a TNI 'White Paper' revealing 'Unamet fraud' in the referendum in East Timor.
Nur Muis was on 4 July 2002 charged with crimes against humanity before the Ad Hoc Court in Indonesia, specifically over the attacks on the Dili Diocese (5 September 1999), Bishop Belo’s residence (6 September 1999) and the Suai church (6 September 1999). On 12 March 2003 he was convicted and sentenced to five years prison (the law actually stipulates a minimum ten years for this crime). However, he remained free pending an appeal.
On 24 February 2003 he was charged in absentia with crimes against humanity before the Dili special panel. Indicted with him were six other senior military officers including Gen Wiranto (where the indictment is summarised), as well as Governor Abilio Soares.
He is one of the high fliers of his generation, with a background in both Kopassus as well as Kostrad. He is said to have served a two year term in East Timor earlier in his career. Muis owes his rather quick ascent to the hurry-up that the classes of 1975 and '76 got because Prabowo (class of 1974) was given a very quick promotion in 1997, thus 'pulling' up a couple of younger classes with him.
Nur Muis was born in about 1953 in Aceh (another source says Madura), and graduated from the military academy in 1976. He has had some Australian training, as well as UN experience as a peacekeeper in Iraq. His Kostrad experience included a stint at one time as chief of staff for the 17th Infantry Brigade, based in Cijantung, East Jakarta (replacing Ryamizard Ryacudu, who recommended him). At another time he was Commander, 18th Airborne Infantry Brigade (Trisula), based in Malang for about two years. When Feisal Tanjung was Commander of the Armed Forces, he served as his personal assistant (Spri).
Between July 1998 and July 1999, before coming to East Timor, he was commander in a Central Java district (Korem 071/Wijayakusuma, based in Purwokerto). Here he appeared to play a moderate role amidst the inter-party conflicts of the pre-election period (PPP-PKB clash of June 1999, PDI-Golkar clash December 1998) as well as handling a major fishermen riot in Cilacap June 1998. He also very briefly held the command of the Army Combat Training Centre, in Baturaja, South Sumatra (Komandan Puslatpur), in August 1999.
After the Indonesian pull-out on 26 September 1999 he moved his command to Kupang, whence he was kept busy demobilising unhappy troops in the territorial batallion 745, then liquidating the Wira Dharma command on 30 March 2000. After first being mooted as chief of staff for the Brawijaya command (East Java) he was appointed chief of staff for the Udayana command (Bali and eastern Indonesia), rising to BrigGen. This makes him the first of his 1976 generation to reach this rank.