|Home > South-East Asia >> East Timor|
East Timor News Digest 12 - December 1-31, 2005
Timor Sea Justice Campaign News - December 9, 2005.
East Timor's Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, has announced (on
Friday 9 December, 2005) that a resource sharing agreement has
been reached between East Timor and Australia...
The deal on how to share the Greater Sunrise gas field, worth an
estimated $40 billion in Government 'royalties' is expected be
signed on the 12th January 2006 in Sydney by the Foreign Affairs
ministers of both countries, in the presence of both Prime
According to Alkatiri, the agreement is without prejudice to the
positions and claims of both countries in respect of maritime
"Timor-Leste has not compromised its legal claim and legal
position in respect of the question of maritime boundaries. This
agreement takes account of the essential interests of both
Timor-Leste and Australia." Mr Alkatiri said.
The Timor Sea Justice Campaign claims the deal is an improvement
on the current situation, but believes it still falls short of
East Timor's likely entitlements under International Law.
Campaign coordinator, Tom Clarke, is pleased that the Australian
Government has slowly shifted is position over the last two years
due to the growing pressure from the Australian public and NGOs.
"The Australian Government has been told by the public to pull
its head in, to acknowledge principles of current International
Law, and to give East Timor a fair go. The Timor Sea Justice
Campaign would like to thank everyone that has helped force the
Howard Government to shift its position, " Mr Clarke said.
However, while the deal will be an improvement on current
situation, the Timor Sea Justice Campaign claims the Australian
Government's greed and self-interest has resulted in a short-
"This deal is really just a band-aid solution for one particular
gas field. If more petroleum resources are discovered tomorrow,
it will be back to square one. Only permanent maritime boundaries
will provide legal certainty to both governments and commercial
The deal also fails to address the $2 billion that the Australian
Government has unilaterally depleted from the contested Laminaria
Corallina fileds since 1999." Mr Clarke said.
The campaign is continuing to call for Alexander Downer to
'finish the job'. It is urging the Australian Government to
establish a permanent maritime boundary with East Timor along the
median line, half way between the two countries.
"These issues of boundaries are integral to the process of self-
determination and achieving true independence, so until the East
Timorese enjoy just and fair borders, their struggle will
continue and their many supporters in Australia will be here to
help," Mr Clarke said.
[No title in original posting, title used chosen by ASAP - James
Associated Press - December 9, 2005
Dili -- East Timor and Australia will sign a deal on Jan. 12 to
share billions of dollars in revenues from disputed oil and gas
reserves beneath the sea that divides them, East Timor's prime
minister said Friday.
Mari Alkatiri said the agreement reached last month to carve up
royalties from the Greater Sunrise gas field was "very positive,"
prejudicing neither country's position or claim in relation to
maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea.
It "also opens the way for the construction of a pipeline between
the Greater Sunrise and Timor-Leste and for the installation of a
refining facility that will be the start of petroleum activities
on Timorese soil," he said in his first public comments on the
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer earlier announced
that East Timor would get 90 percent of the royalty revenues from
oil and gas projects in the disputed area of the seabed. That
could potentially earn Dili $14.5 billion over the next 20 years,
The Greater Sunrise contains up to $40 billion of natural gas and
concentrate, representing a significant windfall for East Timor,
a poor nation of just 800,000 people which gained its
independence in 2002 and still relies heavily on foreign aid.
Alkatiri said the agreement is crucial in terms of government
revenues from the petroleum sector. "At the moment, Timor-Leste
is dependent almost exclusively on only one project -- Bayu-
Undan," he said.
Following the scheduled signing in Sydney next month, the Sunrise
agreement will need to be ratified by the parliaments of both
nations. That is expected to take several months.
Timor gas deal fails to address fundamental issues
East Timor, Australia to share oil revenues
Critics blast Australia-Timor Leste gas deal
Timor Sea Justice Campaign News - December 9, 2005.
East Timor's Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, has announced (on Friday 9 December, 2005) that a resource sharing agreement has been reached between East Timor and Australia...
The deal on how to share the Greater Sunrise gas field, worth an estimated $40 billion in Government 'royalties' is expected be signed on the 12th January 2006 in Sydney by the Foreign Affairs ministers of both countries, in the presence of both Prime Ministers
According to Alkatiri, the agreement is without prejudice to the positions and claims of both countries in respect of maritime boundaries.
"Timor-Leste has not compromised its legal claim and legal position in respect of the question of maritime boundaries. This agreement takes account of the essential interests of both Timor-Leste and Australia." Mr Alkatiri said.
The Timor Sea Justice Campaign claims the deal is an improvement on the current situation, but believes it still falls short of East Timor's likely entitlements under International Law.
Campaign coordinator, Tom Clarke, is pleased that the Australian Government has slowly shifted is position over the last two years due to the growing pressure from the Australian public and NGOs.
"The Australian Government has been told by the public to pull its head in, to acknowledge principles of current International Law, and to give East Timor a fair go. The Timor Sea Justice Campaign would like to thank everyone that has helped force the Howard Government to shift its position, " Mr Clarke said.
However, while the deal will be an improvement on current situation, the Timor Sea Justice Campaign claims the Australian Government's greed and self-interest has resulted in a short- sighted arrangement.
"This deal is really just a band-aid solution for one particular gas field. If more petroleum resources are discovered tomorrow, it will be back to square one. Only permanent maritime boundaries will provide legal certainty to both governments and commercial interests.
The deal also fails to address the $2 billion that the Australian Government has unilaterally depleted from the contested Laminaria Corallina fileds since 1999." Mr Clarke said.
The campaign is continuing to call for Alexander Downer to 'finish the job'. It is urging the Australian Government to establish a permanent maritime boundary with East Timor along the median line, half way between the two countries.
"These issues of boundaries are integral to the process of self- determination and achieving true independence, so until the East Timorese enjoy just and fair borders, their struggle will continue and their many supporters in Australia will be here to help," Mr Clarke said.
[No title in original posting, title used chosen by ASAP - James Balowski.]
Associated Press - December 9, 2005
Dili -- East Timor and Australia will sign a deal on Jan. 12 to share billions of dollars in revenues from disputed oil and gas reserves beneath the sea that divides them, East Timor's prime minister said Friday.
Mari Alkatiri said the agreement reached last month to carve up royalties from the Greater Sunrise gas field was "very positive," prejudicing neither country's position or claim in relation to maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea.
It "also opens the way for the construction of a pipeline between the Greater Sunrise and Timor-Leste and for the installation of a refining facility that will be the start of petroleum activities on Timorese soil," he said in his first public comments on the pact.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer earlier announced that East Timor would get 90 percent of the royalty revenues from oil and gas projects in the disputed area of the seabed. That could potentially earn Dili $14.5 billion over the next 20 years, he said.
The Greater Sunrise contains up to $40 billion of natural gas and concentrate, representing a significant windfall for East Timor, a poor nation of just 800,000 people which gained its independence in 2002 and still relies heavily on foreign aid.
Alkatiri said the agreement is crucial in terms of government revenues from the petroleum sector. "At the moment, Timor-Leste is dependent almost exclusively on only one project -- Bayu- Undan," he said.
Following the scheduled signing in Sydney next month, the Sunrise agreement will need to be ratified by the parliaments of both nations. That is expected to take several months.
ISN Security Watch - December 2, 2005
Krishnadev Calamur, Washington -- Critics of a deal between Australia and Timor Leste on disputed undersea oil and gas reserves say Asia's poorest nation is giving away too much in exchange for too little.
"If the agreement turns out to be what was announced it is not a good tradeoff," Charlie Shiner (sic), an activist with the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) who works with Timorese non- governmental organizations on these and other issues, told ISN Security Watch. "Sovereignty is an important part of independence and East Timor needs to be more careful." East Timor is the old name for Timor Leste.
On Thursday, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the nations had settled a long-running dispute over disputed undersea oil and gas reserves. The deal potentially gives billions of dollars to one of the world's poorest countries.
No official details were released but Downer revealed that an agreement was expected to be announced in mid-January.
The apparent agreement over the disputed seabed, oil, and gas resources and the Greater Sunrise project came in the eighth round of talks held on Wednesday in the Australian city of Darwin between negotiators from both sides, Downer said.
The Greater Sunrise project holds some 8 trillion cubic feet of gas and nearly 300 million barrels of condensate. Some 20 per cent of the project lies in the Joint Petroleum Development Area and the rest in Australia's exclusive jurisdiction. Its stakeholders are Woodside Petroleum Ltd., ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch/Shell, and Japan's Osaka Gas Co. Ltd.
Although no details of the deal were given, the negotiations were said to be progressing along the line that Timor Leste would give up its claim to the seabed boundary for 50 years in exchange for 90 per cent of royalties from the Joint Petroleum Development Area. Downer noted that with current energy prices near all-time highs, that could net Timor Leste as much as $14.5 billion over the next 20 years.
Critics such as Shiner noted that Australia has in the past announced several times that a deal on the dispute was imminent when, in fact, none was forthcoming.
Downer told Australian Parliament on Thursday the agreement would increase investor confidence in the region.
"This is a deal which is a good one for both Australia and East Timor," he said. "It safeguards Australia's sovereign interests, and it will provide investors with the certainty needed for large-scale resource projects to go ahead."
The biggest gainer in the deal is likely to be Woodside Petroleum Ltd., which last year suspended the $5 billion Greater Sunrise gas field because the two countries failed to strike a deal by its Christmas deadline. In a statement on its Web site, Woodside said it "welcomes" the deal, but noted it had "yet to see the agreement".
"The future of the Sunrise Gas Project remains dependent on several factors including the fiscal regime under which it would operate, the cost, and location of any development and the successful marketing of the resource," the statement said.
Later, however, the firm said it was selling a stake in four undeveloped natural gas fields off northern Australia to Eni SpA for $30 million. That money could allow work on the Sunrise project to resume.
The project would certainly help Timor Leste, one of the world's poorest countries. It achieved -- after brutal violence by Indonesian-backed gangs - independence from Indonesia in 2002. More than 40 per cent of its 760,000 people live below the poverty line and some 50 per cent is illiterate.
But Skinner of ETAN said because of its size and poverty, Timor Leste had few choices other than to give in to the deal and was pressured by the oil companies and the Australian government.
He and other activists point out that just before East Timor became independent in 2002, Australia pulled out of the International Court of Justice's mechanisms that dealt with boundary disputes. That mechanism would have had final say on the dispute.
Australia said it wanted a 1970 agreement with Indonesia to remain in place. That deal gave most of the boundary and resources to Australia.
Current international law places the boundary at the mid-point between the two countries, giving the Timorese most of the territory and, consequently, the resources. But those laws are not applicable because Australia is no longer party to them.
Australian Associated Press - December 1, 2005
Australia and East Timor have struck agreement on how to carve up lucrative Timor Sea energy reserves worth up to $41 billion.
The in-principle agreement brings to a close more than a year of negotiations between the two countries and will culminate in a signing ceremony next month.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer trumpeted the deal as a boon for both nations but refused to elaborate on the detail until the official sign-off, expected in mid-January.
"Importantly, this is a deal which is a good one for both Australia and East Timor," Mr Downer said. "It safeguards Australia's sovereign interests and it will provide, with the certainty needed, for large scale resource projects to go ahead."
East Timor's Timor Sea Office was unwilling to speak about the agreement and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta was not immediately available for comment.
However, the Timor Sea Justice Campaign (TSCJ), a long-time critic of Australia's approach to resource sharing with East Timor, believes the young nation is being dudded.
The deal broadly is expected to revolve around a deferral for up to 50 years of a decision agreeing on a permanent maritime boundary between the two countries and a 50:50 split of royalties from the sizeable Greater Sunrise energy field.
TSCJ coordinator Tom Clarke described the agreement as a band-aid solution.
"East Timor, as a sovereign nation, is entitled to permanent boundaries, but sadly through a series of temporary resource sharing arrangements, the Australian government has continued to bully the poorest nation in Asia out of billions of dollars," he said.
"(We are) calling on Alexander Downer to finish the job, that is establish permanent maritime boundaries with East Timor in accordance with international law."
The successful conclusion to the deal came after the eighth round of talks, which finished in Darwin on Wednesday. "Officials have now initialled an agreement and exchanged letters on the basis of an agreed text," Mr Downer said.
Under the new arrangement, a 2002 Timor Sea treaty remains in place. East Timor is entitled to 90 per cent of royalties from oil and gas developments in the area under negotiation as part of the May 2002 interim deal.
Mr Downer says East Timor stands to reap billions of dollars in revenue as a result. "That means East Timor will continue to get its 90 per cent share of the revenues from the production of the joint development area," Mr Downer said.
"At current oil prices revenues from that area alone could deliver around $US14.5 billion to East Timor over the next 20 years."
The two countries were able to reach agreement after East Timor gave ground on an original claim for processing facilities to be located in Dili.
Instead of making it part of the political accord, the East Timorese government will press Greater Sunrise operator Woodside to seriously consider locating the plant in Dili.
Resources giant Woodside Petroleum, the lead partner in the Greater Sunrise venture, welcomed news of the energy deal between the federal government and East Timor.
"Woodside acknowledges the negotiating efforts of both governments, although recognises the agreement still needs to be formally signed by both parties and then ratified," the company said in a statement.
"Woodside is also yet to see the agreement. The future of the Sunrise Gas project remains dependent on several factors including the fiscal regime under which it would operate, the cost and location of any development and the successful marketing of the resource."
ABC News - December 2, 2005
East Timor's Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, says his Government hopes to sign the full agreement with Australia over the Greater Sunrise gas field in early January.
Mr Horta says both countries have signed an in-principle agreement over the division of revenue from the gas field in the Timor Sea.
Mr Horta says the deal was achieved after the two countries decided to defer talks over maritime boundaries for a number of years and just focus on dividing the project.
"We have completed the negotiations with tremendous goodwill on both sides over our technical team, on our side always directed by our Prime Minister, and so we hope to sign agreement in the second week of January," he said.
Mr Horta says given the circumstances, it is the best-possible deal.
"[I'm] fully satisfied with what our negotiators have achieved," he said. "It is a fair deal for Australia and for Timor Leste. We're unlikely that we could have achieved anything better under any other circumstances."
The Northern Territory Chief Minister, Clare Martin, says there are a lot of details still to be worked out. "It would be terrific if it was January, but I think there's still a fair bit of work to go," she said.
|Justice & reconciliation|
Jakarta Post - December 17, 2005
Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta -- The Indonesia-Timor Leste Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF) plans to summon former Indonesian Military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto and several other generals in relation with the violence that took place in the then East Timor in 1999 prior to and after an independence referendum.
"Yes, we will clarify the status of Wiranto, as well as other related sources, in the violence which took place in East Timor in 1999," said CTF co-chairman Benjamin Mangkoedilaga, who represents Indonesia on the joint commission established by the governments of Indonesia and Timor Leste in August.
"The interviews, of course, will not name individuals as suspects in gross human rights violations because this is not a pro- justicia process," Benjamin said.
Benjamin said commissioners would examine all of the information related to the 1999 violence, including a report filed by an Indonesian government-sanctioned fact-finding team that investigated alleged gross human rights abuses in Timor Leste, and copies of all of the documents from an ad hoc human rights tribunal in Jakarta that tried rights abuse suspects.
The commission will also look over material given by the fact- finding team to Indonesia's Attorney General's Office.
"Recently, we interviewed former members of the now-defunct fact-finding team and several prosecutors at our secretariat in Denpasar, Bali. During the interviews, we also tried to compare reports from the two institutions," Benjamin said.
A member of the government-sanctioned fact-finding team said earlier the team proposed the names of almost 30 Indonesian generals to stand trial before the ad hoc human rights tribunal, but the Attorney General's Office scrapped several of the names, including that of Wiranto.
The CTF will not recommend that the government of either nation establish any form of judicial body. The CTF process is not meant to lead to prosecution, but will instead emphasize institutional responsibility.
The commissioners will work for one year, with the fact-finding process to begin in January and last until June next year. From July to December, the commission will focus on drawing up its conclusions.
Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights Watch has asked the Timor Leste administration to publicly release the 2,500-page Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on Indonesian abuses during 24 years of occupation, even if it offends the Indonesian government.
Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao has repeatedly said he favors reconciliation with Indonesia.
Lusa - December 16, 2005
Dili -- The head of East Timor's Catholic Church has written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reaffirm the need for an international tribunal to bring justice for victims of violence during Indonesia's quarter-century occupation of the territory.
Bishop Alberto Ricardo of Dili, in a letter dated Dec. 5, reminded Annan of "the importance of justice for the people of Timor and for our young and fragile democracy".
"The reluctance of political leaders to release the report of the Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) to the public is proof that the politicians want to conceal the truth and ensure that there is no accountability for those guilty of atrocities committed between 1975 and 1999".
Timor and Indonesia formally rejected earlier this year a recommendation by a UN panel of experts that an international tribunal be set up to judge military officers and others accused of atrocities in Timor in 1999.
Reacting to the call from Timor's religious leader to Kofi Annan for the creation of an international tribunal, Foreign Minister Ramos Horta said the Dili government had sole responsibility for making political decisions.
President Xanana Gusmco presented the 2,000-page CAVR report to parliament last month, criticizing some of the document's recommendations, such as bringing the United States and Australia to book for discreetly sanctioning Indonesia's invasion in 1975.
Gusmco, along with other Timorese leaders, has repeatedly said that reconciliation with Dili's larger neighbor must come before seeking justice for an estimated 200,000 people who died in the mainly Catholic territory under Jakarta's iron rule.
The CAVR was set up in 2001 and its report based on interviews with some 8,000 sufferers and witnesses of violence. It has also organized some reconciliation acts between perpetrators and victims of atrocities.
Dili has also set up a joint truth commission with Jakarta, with no powers to punish, to probe rights abuses before and after Timor's 1999 independence vote.
Jakarta officials on the Indonesia-Timor Truth and Friendship Commission were cited by various media Friday as saying they wanted to interview as many people as possible, including senior military commanders, on their involvement in the scorched-earth pullout by the Indonesian military after the resounding "yes" vote for independence.
Dili and Jakarta set up their commission last December after widespread international criticism at the failure of an ad-hoc Jakarta war crimes court to convict any former or serving senior Indonesian security officials.
Reuters - December 16, 2005
Jakarta -- A joint truth commission on violence surrounding East Timor's independence vote from Indonesia will try to summon people who may have been involved in the bloodshed next month, the commission said on Friday.
The Indonesia-East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission said it wanted to speak with all possible people linked to the violence, including former top Indonesian military brass such as retired General Wiranto, then chief of Jakarta's armed forces.
The United Nations estimates about 1,000 East Timorese were killed by militias backed by elements in the Indonesian military when the tiny territory voted in August 1999 to split from Indonesian rule after 24 years of often brutal occupation.
"The second phase starts in January until June. It is a fact- finding period," the commission's deputy chief Benjamin Mangkoedilaga of Indonesia told a news conference.
"We will invite those suspected perpetrators to speak with us directly or if the person holds a very important position, we will come to them to speak," Mangkoedilaga said, adding written testimonials could be submitted instead.
The commission, which has no power to punish, was sworn in last August and comprises 10 members ranging from a former Indonesian judge to East Timorese human rights activists.
One of the commission's goals is to bring closure to a dark chapter in relations, officials have said. Critics have said the establishment of the commission was an attempt to evade pressure to punish those guilty of abuses.
Another commission member conceded that the team had no legal authority to summon anyone. "We will do it persuasively," commission member Ali Achmad, also of Indonesia, told the same news conference.
Mangkoedilaga said the commission would review all documents from a special Indonesian human rights court that heard trials into the East Timor violence and would not ignore any names. "Clearly Wiranto's position will be examined, so please be patient," Mangkoedilaga added.
Wiranto has long denied any wrongdoing over the East Timor violence and has never been charged in Indonesia.
Last June, a UN panel appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Indonesian officers and militiamen should be tried by an international tribunal if Jakarta did not agree to prosecute them under foreign supervision within six months.
The Indonesian human rights court, which was set up under international pressure, convicted six of 18 Indonesian security officers and others charged in relation to the violence. Five convictions were later overturned and an appeal of the sixth is pending.
An East Timorese commission member, human rights activist Felicidada Guterres, said most East Timorese were disappointed at the verdicts delivered by that court.
Mainly Catholic East Timor became fully independent in May 2002 after two-and-a-half years of UN administration.
National Public Radio (NPR) - December 14, 2005
Alex Chadwick, host:
And elsewhere in the world now, human rights groups are calling on East Timor's government to release a report on Indonesia's 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony. This report is said to reveal decades of US support for the occupation, during which Indonesia was accused of massive human rights violations. NPR's Corey Flintoff has the story.
Corey Flintoff reporting:
For the past three years, East Timor has been conducting an investigation into killings and alleged atrocities during the Indonesian occupation, which began after East Timor declared its independence from Portugal in 1975. East Timor's president, Xanana Gusmao, presented the results of the investigation to Parliament. Paul van Zyl is with the International Center for Transitional Justice, which worked with East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Mr. Paul van Zyl (International Center for Transitional Justice): It is very likely that the report will find that tens of thousands of people died as a direct or indirect result of Indonesian occupation.
Flintoff: Some estimates say as many as 250,000 people may have been killed as Indonesia's military tried to crush East Timorese rebels. In 1999, East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-sponsored referendum. Pro-Indonesian militias, backed by the Indonesian military, went on a rampage after the vote, killing hundreds of people and wrecking the country's infrastructure. Again, Paul van Zyl.
Mr. van Zyl: Again, the report is likely to conclude -- and I think this is indisputable and uncontroversial -- that there has been no justice for the crimes that occurred throughout the Indonesian occupation.
Flintoff: Brad Simpson of the National Security Archive says his organization provided East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission with more than a thousand documents obtained from the US government under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr. Brad Simpson (National Security Archive): The documents reveal a consistent pattern of the United States not just supporting, but going out of its way to support Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor, increasing military supplies in a timely manner at a time when massive atrocities were taking place.
Flintoff: The National Security Archive is a private, non-profit organization based at George Washington University. Simpson says the US supported Indonesia because the giant Southeast Asian nation was considered a bulwark against communism after the Vietnam War.
Mr. Simpson: For lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, East Timor simply didn't matter.
Flintoff: When he presented the report to East Timor's Parliament, President Gusmao said its recommendations should not be made public because they could damage the tiny nation's relations with Indonesia and important donor countries such as the United States. Gusmao fought Indonesian forces during the occupation and spent years in Indonesian prisons, but he's known as a practical politician who believes his country's future will always be bound up with that of its powerful neighbor. Aderito Soares says that doesn't mean that East Timor should have to bury its painful history. Soares, a Timorese human rights lawyer, says Americans should also know about the US role.
Mr. Aderito SOARES (Timorese Human Rights Lawyer): The US has to know the truth that comes from this report and also to take some responsibility. Let's talk about reparation and other alternatives.
Flintoff: Just last month, the Bush administration lifted an arms embargo against Indonesia that was imposed after the violence of 1999. The move was seen as a reward for the Indonesian government's cooperation in the war on terrorism. But human rights groups say Indonesia has done little to reform its military. The Indonesian Embassy in Washington declined to comment for this story on the grounds that the report has not yet been made public. President Gusmao has said he hopes to present the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report in some form to the United Nations in January, but it's not clear how strong that version will be. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Washington.
Chadwick: NPR's Day to Day continues. I'm Alex Chadwick.
Agence France Presse - December 8, 2005
Dili -- About 300 East Timorese called for an international tribunal to try soldiers accused of human rights violations as they marked the 30th anniversary of Indonesia's invasion of the tiny territory.
The protesters marched through the capital Dili, waving banners and shouting slogans demanding justice for victims of the occupation.
"We will continue to cry for justice on behalf of the victims and this is the time for criminal actors to be brought to an international court," said one protester, who asked not to be named.
"There are many problems facing the nation and people of Timor Leste, but we believe that the people will never forget what happened 30 years ago and what they have gone through," he said.
Indonesia invaded East Timor on Dec. 7, 1975, after Portuguese colonizers disbanded the territory. Jakarta's move was never recognized by the United Nations.
The protesters also denounced the August creation of the Commission of Truth and Friendship by Indonesia and East Timor aimed at coming to terms with past bloodshed.
"The people will patiently fight for justice and fight leaders whose policies are against human rights principles," another protester told AFP.
The commission has said it plans to talk to former East Timorese rebel leaders, top Indonesian military officers and former pro- Jakarta militiamen.
Militia gangs, which the United Nations has said were recruited and directed by Indonesia's military, went on an arson and killing spree before and after East Timorese voted for independence in a UN-sponsored ballot in August 1999.
They killed about 1,400 independence supporters and laid waste to much of the infrastructure in the half-island.
An Indonesian court set up to try military officers and officials for atrocities in East Timor has been labeled a sham by critics. Of the 18 people tried, 17 have now been acquitted and one is still appealing.
East Timor gained full independence in May 2002 after more than two years of United Nations stewardship.
The East Timorese government opposes calls for an international tribunal for suspects, saying the priority is reconciliation with its giant neighbor.
Documents released last week in the United States showed that US officials were aware of Indonesia's invasion plans nearly a year in advance but adopted "a policy of silence".
A separate East Timorese commission of inquiry into human rights abuses that occurred between 1975 and 1999 produced a 2,500 page report with recommendations for action which have yet to be publicly released.
East Timor president Xanana Gusmao handed the report to his parliament late last month but wanted it withheld from the public, amid an outcry from opposition politicians and rights activists.
The Australian - December 8, 2005
Sian Powell, Jakarta -- Exactly 30 years after Indonesia sent a major invasion force into East Timor, the tiny half-island has come full circle in relations with its giant neighbour: from guerilla resistance to friendly neighbourliness.
Too friendly, some critics believe. They point to the East Timor Government's failure to release a massive report on Indonesia's 24-year occupation, during which as many as 250,000 people were killed or died because of the conflict, from hunger or untreated illness.
Since gaining independence, East Timor has bent over backwards to maintain good relations with Indonesia.
One-time guerilla hero and now president Xanana Gusmao has publicly hugged an Indonesian military leader connected with the occupation -- the notorious General Wiranto. An international arrest warrant for General Wiranto was stalled by the East Timorese leaders.
Now the East Timor Government's shelving of a 2500-page report by an independent organisation it established, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), has angered many East Timorese.
The report recommended compensation for the East Timorese victims of Indonesian torture, rape and violence, and is believed to include a damning indictment of the Indonesian military. CAVR denies the report has been suppressed, issuing a statement this week saying it was helping Mr Gusmao to "prepare" the report for release to the international community.
But Aderito de Jesus Soares, an East Timorese lawyer, human rights advocate and former MP, yesterday demanded the immediate release of the report.
"I think the East Timorese people and the public in general have the right to know the truth," he said. "They should release it today to mark the 30th anniversary. It's a historical moment. I think it's really demoralising to see the leadership's attitude towards this."
Indonesia's massive sea and air invasion of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor 30 years ago yesterday was ordered by then President Suharto and tacitly approved in advance by Australia, the US and Britain, all fearing the birth of a communist state in southeast Asia.
The invasion began the brutal Indonesian occupation that has shaped the new nation of East Timor, where many families lost at least one person to the conflict.
Yet almost no Indonesians have been brought to book for the war crimes of the occupation or the bloody rampage and retreat that followed the independence vote in 1999.
After international pressure, Indonesia established a tribunal which tried 18 soldiers, police officers and civilians for crimes committed in East Timor. But all convictions have been overturned on appeal, bar one. And an appeal by brutal militia leader Eurico Guterres is pending in Indonesia's Supreme Court.
Associated Press - December 6, 2005
Dili -- East Timor's president should make public a UN- commissioned report that recommends troops who carried out atrocities during Indonesia's 24-year rule be prosecuted, one of the authors said Tuesday.
The 2,500-page Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission report -- which also calls on countries that supported Indonesia's 1975 invasion to compensate the victims -- was presented to President Xanana Gusmao on Oct. 31.
The former resistance leader, who has repeatedly said he favors reconciliation with his powerful neighbor to seeking justice for those who died, handed it to parliament last month but has not yet made it public.
Aniceto Guterres, head of the national commission that complied the report, said Gusmao has a "moral responsibility" to the 200,000 people who died during Indonesia's 1975-1999 rule.
"The report is now in the hands of the state and it is the responsibility of the state to disseminate it," he said at a press conference Tuesday.
The former Portuguese colony was devastated during a long war of liberation that followed Indonesia's December 1975 invasion. The attack was tacitly sanctioned by then-US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who both met with Indonesia's then-dictator, Suharto, in Jakarta a day before the assault.
Indonesia's iron-fisted rule ended in 1999, after a UN- organized plebiscite resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence.
In a final act of vengeance, withdrawing Indonesian troops and their militia auxiliaries destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and killed at least 1,500 people.
Gusmao, who spent six years in prison for fighting against Indonesian occupation, said last week some of the recommendations made by commissioners were unrealistic and could lead to "political anarchy and social chaos."
Radio Australia - December 1, 2005
Timor has rejected a government commission's recommendation that Australia, Britain and the United States pay compensation for their part in Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor.
Presenter/Interviewer: Sen Lam
Speakers: Jose Ramos Horta, East Timor's foreign minister
Ramos-Horta: When they talk about compensation to be paid by certain countries that one way or another were implicated in the violence of the 24 years, the government's response is "No" we do not believe it is realistic or even fair. The fact is that by 1999, the international community has redeemed itself. Australia, for instance, was instrumental in bringing Interfet here, in ending the violence here. Its peacekeeping forces were here and ever since, Australia has contributed significantly to peace consolidation, nation-building, economic development in this country. The same happened with Japan, with the United States, with the European countries. Talking about compensation by these countries seem to ignore the enormous effort, the generosity, the goodwill of these countries since '99, have done a lot to restore peace and freedom and dignity to the people of East Timor.
Lam: So were you surprised that Australia was listed alongside the United States and Britain, as being supporters of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor?
Ramos-Horta: That, to some extent is correct. Correct to the extent that the United States provided diplomatic backing, military assistance, helicopters, airplanes to Indonesia in its occupation of East Timor. The same happened with the U.K. Australia was one of the first few countries to recognise the annexation. But we have to view all of this in the context of the Cold War, in the seventies and eighties. We cannot see the conflict in East Timor as isolated from all of this geo-politics of the Cold War. The governments at the time, in 75 were very different ones. For me, and for my President, and my government as a whole, it's out of the question that we would even raise this issue with these countries -- we will not. It would be undiplomatic, it would not be fair, it would be showing a lack of gratitude, lack of statesmanship, a lack of maturity.
Lam: So will it be accurate to say then, that interests of national reconciliation override all other considerations, including justice for victims of Indonesian excesses during its occupation of East Timor?
Ramos-Horta: No, it is not accurate to say that the national interest overrides justice, because there are different interpretations of justice. Justice is also truth-telling. It's asking for forgiveness and to be forgiven. This is what we've been trying to do in East Timor and we are trying to do in Indonesia.
Lam: And what about the Commission's recommendation that individuals be targeted, that those suspected of human rights abuses or atrocities, be handed over and their assets frozen, including some of the Indonesian generals?
Ramos-Horta: Well, these are very high-sounding statements, but the United Nations were here, from 99 to 2003, with the massive peacekeeping force. They didn't do that. So why should the East Timorese, with our own priorities and concerns, to continue to consolidate peace, reconciliation, creating jobs for our people, reducing poverty -- should pretend to be a sort of Don Quixote de la Mancha of justice, in fighting the mighty Indonesian army?
Lam: What do you think has been achieved by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor?
Ramos-Horta: They have achieved tremendously, in giving the opportunity for the victims and witnesses to speak out. We are going to study, to analyse, to reflect in the personal testimony of so many people -- many of us testified, and what is very important is not looking at the past in order to seek compensation or revenge. We are looking at the past to learn our own mistakes, East Timorese own mistakes, the mistakes are not only from Indonesia, and in hoping that we create conditions so that East Timorese will not fight each other again in the future.
Lusa - December 21, 2005
Dili -- Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri acknowledged Wednesday that his FRETILIN party forces committed "errors" and "excesses" during East Timor's brief civil war in 1975, but he vehemently denied an official report's findings that 3,000 people died in that conflict.
"Who assumes the responsibility of carrying out a struggle and doesn't commit errors, especially in the face of such a powerful enemy", Alkatiri asked rhetorically when questioned by Lusa on the report.
"We also committed errors. And there were errors that were effectively excesses", he added, referring to both the weeks-long civil war and resistance to the Indonesian invasion and annexation of East Timor that came in its wake.
But the prime minister was adamant in denying that 3,000 people perished in the civil conflict that initially pitted FRETILIN forces against the rival UDT party.
"It's an absolute lie that there were 3,000 killed in the civil war. A few hundred died in Ermera and Maubisse, a few tens in Dili and isolated killings in other areas", Alkatiri said.
He charged that the inflated casualty figure had been influenced by "some foreigners" interviewed by Dili's Welcome, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR).
The "executive summary" of the CAVR report, to which Lusa had access earlier this week, said that at least 183,0000 East Timorese were killed during the 24-year struggle against Indonesian occupation and some 3,000 during the civil war in 1975.
The 2,500-page report, prepared over 18 months, was delivered to President Xanana Gusmco on Oct. 31 and by him to parliament on Nov. 28. But it has yet to be made public, given the fears of the country's leaders that it could be manipulated for political reasons or to seek revenge.
As far as the ruling FRETILIN party was concerned, Alkatiri told Lusa "there is no problem" in publishing the CAVR report, "as long as the consequences don't lead to persecution of the past". "Re-enforcing stability is contradictory to persecuting the past", he emphasized.
Human rights organizations and the influential East Timorese Catholic Church are pressing for the release of the 2,500-page CAVR document.
NZ Sunday Star-Times - December 18, 2005
Anthony Hubbard -- Greig Cunningham has learned the hard way about governments and foreign affairs. His brother Gary, a television cameraman, was killed during Indonesia's attack on Balibo in East Timor in 1975.
The New Zealand government, says Cunningham, didn't want to know about Gary's death, although he was born and raised in New Zealand and was a New Zealand citizen. It was too busy defending the Indonesians.
"It might seem slightly cynical not believing that governments always tell the truth all the time," Cunningham says from his home in Melbourne. But "one of the most disappointing things which has happened in this whole episode is the way we've been treated by our governments on all sides".
Cunningham is a mild man, not given to exaggeration. When he talks about government cover-ups and official lying, he does not use the words casually. But the Cunningham family has suffered 30 years of grief and double-talk. Indonesia invaded the former Portages colony of East Timor in late 1975 and occupied it for 25 years, during which about 200,000 people, or a third of the population, are estimated to have died.
But in the past 10 years researchers have used freedom of information laws in Britain, America, Australia and New Zealand to piece together the truth about what some have described as a genocide.
The then-US president, Gerald Ford, visited Jakarta hours before the invasion and made it plain to Indonesian president Suharto that the US would not oppose it. US official records show Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told Suharto: "It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly."
Other Western countries, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand also thought East Timor could not govern itself and should be part of Indonesia. They too told the Indonesians in private that they "understood" the Indonesian position and connived at the invasion.
And New Zealand, says East Timor and Indonesian human rights campaigner Maire Leadbeater, who has just finished the manuscript of a book about the issue, "played a far more significant role in East Timor's tragedy than has ever been acknowledged".
"We did not simply follow a path trodden out by big brother Australia, as is sometimes suggested. New Zealand made its own unique contributions to help Indonesia out on the international stage."
The latest revelations come from London, where newly-revealed documents show the British government proposed to lie about Indonesian atrocities. It also decided not to lobby Indonesia over the death of the journalists, even though two of them were British.
The British Ambassador in Jakarta, John A Ford, said in a secret telegram to London on December 24, 1975 that Indonesian invading forces in East Timor's capital Dili had gone "on a rampage of looting and killing". "If asked to comment on any stories of atrocities," he told the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "I suggest we say we have no information."
In an earlier message, on October 24, he said the five journalists -- two Australians, two Britons and Gary Cunningham, a cameraman for Australia's Channel Seven -- had been killed on October 16. "Their bodies were immediately disposed of by the local commander, probably by burning.
"We have suggested to the Australians that since we, in fact, know what happened to the newsmen it is pointless to go on demanding information from the Indonesians which they cannot, or are unwilling to provide... Since no protests will produce the journalists' bodies, I think we should ourselves avoid representations to the Indonesians about them, they were in a war zone of their own choice."
These documents -- issued to researcher Hugh Dowson and widely publicised this month in the British media -- have many parallels in New Zealand archives.
The documents, issued under the Official Information Act over the years, echo the British and American ones. Like Britain, New Zealand tacitly supported the Indonesian invasion, while publicly talking about the right of the Timorese people to determine their own fate.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs senior staffer Merwyn Norrish told visiting Indonesian officials in Wellington on December 8, 1975 that New Zealand "had a private and a public position with respect to Timor".
In correspondence made public only in 2002, Norrish said: "Publicly we had sought to emphasise the need for an act of self-determination, wherever that might lead, while privately we acknowledged that the most logical solution would be one that led to (Indonesian) integration (of East Timor) through self- determination."
In a cable to New Zealand embassies overseas on November 26, the ministry had referred to the same private position of preferring integration with Indonesia, adding: "the government couldn't state this publicly, however".
The journalists, who had filmed Indonesian troops storming into the border town of Balibo, were a serious obstacle to officials wanting to downplay an Indonesian attack.
One -- presumably Australian -- source told a New Zealand diplomat in November 1975 that there were "about 5000 invading troops" in Timor. He also spoke about "the difficulties that have arisen in the bilateral relationship with the Indonesians.
"The (assumed) death of the five journalists was the first irritant, and journalists have since tended to be a primary source of difficulty," the New Zealand embassy in Canberra says in a cable to Wellington about the briefing on November 7.
The source complained the journalists associated with Fretilin -- the armed Timorese independence movement that resisted the Indonesian invasion -- were sympathetic to the Fretilin cause.
For Greig Cunningham, one New Zealand official document sums up the government's attitude towards his brother Gary.
A June 29, 1976 Foreign Affairs paper warned Foreign Minister Brian Talboys that pressing a case against Indonesia over the killing of the journalists "would harm our own relations with Indonesia".
The journalists had died during the attack, and only Fretilin sources claimed all five were executed, the officials said. There seemed no clear-cut case against Indonesia of violation of international law.
If Australia did press the case against Indonesia, "largely in response to domestic political pressure, New Zealand will be faced with a difficult situation because of Mr Cunningham's nationality", the briefing says.
But it noted: "Mr Cunningham, while a New Zealand citizen, was an Australian resident, was employed by an Australian organisation, was a member of the Australian Journalists' Association, and his closest relations live in Australia.
"The Australian Government, if it proceeds, will do so on behalf of all five journalists since they were Australian residents and there would be no need for New Zealand to present a separate case. Accordingly, there would be no necessity for New Zealand to become involved in the dispute."
Cunningham, who with most of his family has lived in Australia since the 1970s, says "this is not nice to read". The New Zealand officials "are basically saying, 'Look, he's lived in Australia, let the Australians handle it.' Well, he had lived in Australia, but it was only for a few years, and he was still a New Zealander."
The New Zealand government was saying, in effect, that it wasn't going to bother about one of its own citizens. And when the alleged remains of the journalists were buried in Jakarta on December 5, no New Zealand official attended the funeral -- although British and Australian diplomats did.
This, says Cunningham with characteristic understatement, was "very difficult" for the family. But the latest London documents showed the British were also underplaying the deaths of their citizens, he said. And the family had known for a long time that the Australian government has not been frank.
Maire Leadbeater says: "It's particularly appalling we behaved this way when it was a New Zealand citizen's life in question." But, she says, a later government behaved similarly when New Zealander Kamal Bamadhaj was shot by Indonesian troops during the massacre of independence protesters in Dili in 1991.
The public pressure on the New Zealand government over Bamadhaj was much greater, says Leadbeater. "But they were trying to do exactly the same, trying to close it down as quickly as possible."
Investigations by Australian journalists have uncovered strong evidence that the Indonesian invaders and Timorese helpers executed the journalists in cold blood. Journalist Jill Jolliffe's 2001 book Cover-Up: the Inside Story of the Balibo Five, identifies some of the alleged killers by name.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff regrets New Zealand's lack of support for the Cunninghams. "New Zealand has a responsibility towards its nationals abroad and to assisting their families in circumstances such as this," he told the Sunday Star-Times.
The Timor policy -- followed by governments of right and left until 1999, when New Zealand abruptly switched to a Timorese independence line after president Bill Clinton changed the US position -- was also wrong, Goff says.
"We are committed to principles of international relationships set out under the United Nations and should have clearly and firmly opposed the invasion and subsequent abuses of human rights." Nor should New Zealand have had a different private policy from its stated one. "Public and private positions should be consistent."
So why did New Zealand take such a tough and two-faced pro- Indonesian line for so many years? Its defenders say the policy must be understood in the context of the Cold War. Washington wanted to show South-East Asia -- and especially Indonesia, the anti-communist regional power -- that it was a dependable ally despite the US defeat in Vietnam in April 1975.
Indonesia said it was worried an independent East Timor would provide a haven for forces wanting to break up the Indonesian state. Western powers believed the desperately poor former Portuguese colony, cast adrift after a left-wing coup ousted the right-wing dictatorship of Portugal, was not a viable country.
National Party leader -- later prime minister -- Robert Muldoon told president Suharto in early 1975 "a completely independent Portuguese Timor was not a viable proposition".
The most striking example of this attitude was a report by Roger Peren, New Zealand's ambassador in Jakarta, about his visit to Indonesian-occupied East Timor in January 1978. His distaste is evident.
The East Timorese people, he wrote, "are poor, small, riddled with disease and almost totally illiterate, very simple and, we were told again and again, 'primitive'.
"Considered as human stock they are not at all impressive -- and this is something that one has to think about when judging their capacity to take part in an act of self-determination or even to perform as responsible citizens of an independent country".
Leadbeater says she was repelled by this report: it was "a horrible thing, I don't even want to read it really". She points out these "unimpressive" people defied a reign of terror started by pro-Indonesian militiamen during the UN-supervised referendum in 1999 and voted overwhelmingly for independence.
Two years ago, Helen Clark accused New Zealand officials of misleading Labour prime minister Bill Rowling over the issue in 1975 -a charge the officials angrily reject.
Leadbeater, having studied the documents, thinks officials were "doing a Yes Minister, leading and steering the PM". "But... politicians must ultimately take responsibility."
Rowling signed the statement that merely "regretted" the full- scale invasion on December 8. He put his name to the press release, drafted by Foreign Affairs, saying NZ was impressed by the "restraint" shown by the Indonesians during the attacks on East Timor in mid-October.
He even watered down an earlier statement saying New Zealand would be "gravely concerned" if Indonesia intervened. An official told Leadbeater Rowling removed the word "gravely".
New Zealand had alternatives at the time, Leadbeater says. It did not simply have to toe the line of the Indonesian hawks. A report by the New Zealand defence attache in Jakarta on October 8, 1975 said that before the latest attacks "the Indonesian military was divided between hawks and doves -- the former, a comparative minority". The doves apparently included Suharto, who "has continued to set his face against direct military intervention", he wrote.
Leadbeater says New Zealand could have aligned itself with the doves and tried to persuade Indonesia against the attack. She believes this could have made the difference at a vital time. Instead, New Zealand backed the invaders -- and even played an important role in lobbying at the UN against moves to condemn Indonesia. In other words, "we didn't just turn a blind eye to Indonesia, as is sometimes claimed", says Leadbeater. "We actively supported them."
But retired foreign affairs chief Merv Norrish, who has rarely spoken publicly about the East Timor issue, says the idea that the invasion could have been prevented is "rubbish, utter rubbish. Do you seriously think they (the Indonesians) would have been willing to have that sort of little state with no political experience right on their border? I don't".
Greig Cunningham still wants accountability and justice. Each year the family remembers Gary. "(He is) still part of our lives. He was killed on October 16 and my sister Ann's birthday is the 17th. She was the youngest and he was the oldest and they absolutely adored each other."
His father Jim was "a man's man" and didn't "rail against the world" over Gary's death. "But basically it ate him up so much, to the point in the last few years of Dad's life if anything came up about East Timor he wouldn't talk about it."
He wishes his father had been alive in 2003, when the Cunninghams joined the families of the other journalists at a ceremony in Balibo to commemorate the men. For the first time, the families were able to see the place where their loved ones were killed.
Yet his father would probably have refused to come. "I think it would have been just too hard."
Cunningham says the family does not want vengeance. "None of us agree with the death penalty... But there are a couple of individuals swanning around in East Timor and Indonesia who shouldn't be -- they committed crimes, and not just against the journalists, but other war crimes."
Some Western politicians and officials are now prepared to say sorry. In 1999, former Australian Cabinet Minister Doug Everingham, a member of the pro-Indonesian Labour administration of Gough Whitlam, apologised for accepting the invasion.
And in a letter to the Times newspaper in London this month, former British diplomat Andrew Stuart apologised for saying in 1975 that it was "probably inevitable and understandable" Timor should be incorporated in Indonesia.
He wrote, "I overestimated the sense of the Indonesian generals and underestimated the warlike qualities of the Timorese. At the time I, and most other observers, got it wrong and I apologise. What more can a civil servant do?"
Norrish has a different view. He recommended the pro-Indonesian line to the government, and backed its decision to apply it. "That was what was believed at the time in the circumstances of the time to be the sensible course. And I have no apology to make for that at all."
Interpress Service - December 10, 2005
Sonny Inbaraj, Dili -- Cecelia Soares' eyes glaze over, each time she remembers the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Thirty years ago, on Dec. 7, 1975, she had just been married for a year and three months earlier had given birth to a baby girl.
"I used to live near the Dili port and on that day I saw planes dropping Indonesian paratroopers. And that was the day my life was shattered forever," she recalled with tears in her eyes, as International Human Rights Day is commemorated on Dec. 10.
"The next thing I knew there were battleships firing shells. It was frightening. I ran home, grabbed my baby, and then just ran to the hills. I tried looking for my husband, but he was nowhere to be seen," Soares told IPS.
Some 210,000 East Timorese, mostly civilians, women and children, lost their lives in the bombardments and 'cleaning' manoeuvres of the Indonesian army during the months following the Dec. 7, 1975 'D-Day'.
For four years, Soares and her baby girl lived with the Falintil resistance in the hills, till they were captured by Indonesian troops and sent to prison on Atauro Island, 22 kilometers north of Dili. "It was hell there. There wasn't enough food; we were tortured; and my girl who was, now, about four died of hunger," she said between sobs.
Soares, who now washes clothes for foreign aid workers staying in a local hotel, said she once tried to kill herself, after sensing that there was no hope in ever finding her husband again. "But a priest saved me," she recalled. "He told me to have faith in God and said East Timor will be free someday. He also said all our suffering will end."
The brutal occupation by Indonesia lasted for 24 years, and Jakarta only had a change of heart over East Timor after Gen. Suharto stepped down as president in May 1998. In late August 1999, the East Timorese in a United Nations-sponsored referendum opted for independence. But when the ballot results were announced in September 1999, Indonesian military-sponsored militias went on an orgy of terror and razed Dili to the ground.
East Timor gained independence in May 2002 after a two-year interim administration lead by the United Nations. But three years after independence, the country is one of the poorest nations in the world and still depends heavily on international donor assistance.
The irony is that, since gaining independence, East Timor has bent over backwards to maintain good relations with Indonesia, even to the extent of Falintil resistance hero and now President Xanana Gusmao photographed, in Jakarta, publicly hugging the notorious Gen. Wiranto -- the former Indonesian army chief who has been implicated in the 1999 orgy of terror.
And now as though to rub salt into the wounds of the people, the government of East Timor has shelved the 2,500-page report of the independent Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), which is calling for reparations for victims of torture, rape and violence perpetrated by Indonesia from its invasion in 1975 to its bloody withdrawal in 1999. The CAVR report is also calling on countries that supported Indonesia's 1975 invasion to compensate the victims.
"What truly concerns me are the recommendations pertaining to reparations to the victims," President Gusmao told parliament on Oct. 31. "This recommendation does not take into account the situation of political anarchy and social chaos that could easily erupt if we decided to bring to court every crime committed since 1975," he added.
But Soares, the clothes-washer, does not accept her president's arguments. "My whole life was ruined by the 1975 invasion and I want the world to acknowledge that. The outside world stood by while my people were being slaughtered by the Indonesians," she said, while again trying to hold back the tears.
But the public release of the CAVR report could open an old can of worms, especially on the role of the United States in the 1975 invasion.
"The US was the most important supporter of Indonesia's illegal attack and occupation," said John Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN). "If President (Gerald) Ford and Secretary of State (Henry) Kissinger had not given the go- ahead for Indonesia's 1975 invasion, tremendous suffering would have been avoided," he added.
The US had a bad year in 1975. The world's greatest economic and military power suffered its first ever defeat by a Third World peasant army in Vietnam. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were 'lost' to the communists.
It was in the midst of these international changes, which seemed to prove Lyndon Johnson's 'domino theory', that Ford and Kissinger visited Jakarta and conferred with Suharto on the Timor problem. The Indonesian propaganda machine fabricated stories of Chinese and Vietnamese generals arriving in East Timor to train rebel forces.
But the fledgling East Timor government that depends on international support for the country's survival could ill-afford to incur Washington's wrath -- bearing in mind that the United States is still the world's newest country's largest donor.
ETAN's John Miller, however, disagrees. "Since Timor's independence referendum in September 1999, Washington has provided monetary and other assistance to East Timor's reconstruction and development, but such aid does not even begin to compensate the East Timorese people for the suffering caused by 24 years of US support for the Indonesian military occupation," said the rights activist. "Along with the CAVR, we agree that the US owes East Timor reparations."
CAVR, itself, has tried to remain impartial in calls to release its report. "I just would like to say that the report was from everybody involved in the CAVR process. So the most important thing is that the report returns to all East Timorese. But CAVR itself is not insisting it," the commission's president Aniceto Guterres told a press conference.
Democracy Now - December 7, 2005
Amy Goodman: We're going to turn first to a documentary I did in 1992. It was a year after the Santa Cruz massacre, in which the Indonesian military gunned down more than 270 Timorese. I had gone to East Timor with my colleague, journalist Allan Nairn. We produced this document when we came back. It's called Massacre: The Story of East Timor.
East Timorese man 1: I lost one sister and two brothers.
East Timorese woman: It was ten days before I was to give birth. The army was shooting people, and they would die at our feet, but you couldn't stop to help them.
East Timorese man 1: I know families that were totally wiped out.
East Timorese man 2: Two American newsmen badly beaten: Mr. Allan Nairn and Miss Amy Goodman.
Amy Goodman: The Indonesian army converged in two places.
Allan Nairn: Hundreds and hundreds of troops coming straight at the Timorese.
Amy Goodman: When they came, they opened fire on the people.
President George H.W. Bush: We pride ourselves, and I think properly so, in standing up for human rights.
Richard Boucher: Military assistance programs expose the trainees to democratic ideas and humanitarian standards.
President Bill Clinton: I'm very concerned about what's happened in East Timor. We have ignored it so far in ways that I think are unconscionable.
Amy Goodman: Massacre: The Story of East Timor. I'm Amy Goodman.
James Baker: Big countries with powerful military machines should not be permitted to invade, occupy and brutalize their peaceful neighbors.
Amy Goodman: With these words, former Secretary of State James Baker explained why the United States was going to war against Iraq. Yet, 16 years earlier, another big country, Indonesia, invaded a much smaller one, East Timor, with the support of the United States. What followed was one of the greatest genocides of the 20th century. It is estimated that up to one-third of the Timorese population has been killed through a policy of army massacre and enforced starvation.
Many of those who are left have been imprisoned and tortured by a military armed and trained by the United States.
East Timor, a quiet farming nation on a mountainous island about 300 miles north of Australia, had been a Portuguese colony until 1974, when there was a democratic revolution in Portugal and the new government decided to disband its empire. Neighboring Indonesia, a military dictatorship more than 200 times East Timor's size, began attacking Timor in an effort to prevent the island nation from completing its move toward independence. On December 7, 1975, Indonesia launched a full invasion. Timorese shortwave radio, monitored by reporters in Australia, was heard putting out desperate calls for help.
Timorese shortwave radio: A lot of people are being killed -- I repeat -- indiscriminately. More than a thousand troops have been there.
Amy Goodman: The night before the invasion, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Ford were in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, toasting General Suharto, the Indonesian ruler.
President Gerald Ford: Our relationship involves a common concern for the right of every nation to pursue its destiny on its own independent and sovereign course. On behalf of Mrs. Ford and myself, I raise my glass and propose a toast.
Amy Goodman: Joao Carrascalao, the brother of the former governor of East Timor and himself a political leader now in exile, was working for the Indonesians at the time.
Joao Carrascalao: I arrived at Jakarta one hour before President Ford and Henry Kissinger landed in Jakarta. And on the same night, I was informed by Colonel Suyanto -- he was a top officer in the Jakarta administration -- that America had given the green light for Indonesia to invade Timor.
Amy Goodman: The United States, Suharto's main backer, supplied 90% of Indonesia's arms. The story of East Timor is a story few know about, except those who have lived through it. Six foreign journalists who were there as Indonesia attacked were executed by the Indonesian military. Australian TV correspondent, Greg Shackleton sent this report the night before the frontier town where he was visiting was seized by the Indonesian troops.
Greg Shackleton: Why, they ask, are the Indonesians invading us? Why, they ask, if the Indonesians believe that Fretilin is communist, do they not send a delegation to Dili to find out? Why, they ask, are the Australians not helping us? When the Japanese invaded, they did help us. Why, they ask, are the Portuguese not helping us? We're still a Portuguese colony. Who, they ask, will pay for the terrible damage to our homes? My main answer was that Australia would not send forces here. That's impossible. However, I said, we could ask that Australia raise this fighting at the United Nations. That was possible. At that, the second in charge rose to his feet, exclaimed, "Camerado journalist!," shook my hand, the rest shook my hand, and we were applauded, because we are Australians. That's all they want: for the United Nations to care about what is happening here.
Amy Goodman: The following day, Indonesian troops moved in and executed Shackleton and his crew.
Though the government of Australia ended up siding with Indonesia, the UN Security Council denounced the invasion of East Timor and passed two resolutions like those later passed against Iraq, calling on Indonesia to withdraw its troops without delay, but United States lobbying prevented any UN action, and as Indonesia began to execute the Timorese en masse, Washington doubled its military aid.
Journalist Allan Nairn and I returned to East Timor for a historic event. A special delegation from the United Nations and Portugal was due to visit East Timor. The Timorese hoped the visit would finally lead to UN action and enforcement of the Security Council resolutions calling on Indonesia to withdraw from East Timor.
Allan Nairn: We were told in place after place that the army had been holding neighborhood and village meetings to warn the Timorese that if they tried to speak to the UN Portuguese delegation, they and their families would be killed. And Bishop Belo, the bishop of East Timor, told us that the threat was: 'We will kill your family to the seventh generation.'
Amy Goodman: But despite the threats and a dramatic increase in disappearances, torture and deaths, Timorese had prepared to speak out. They had met in secret, making banners and petitions for the delegation. When the army tried to hunt them down, many had gone into hiding and sought refuge inside churches. But under pressure from the United States, the visit of the delegation had been called off. Three days later, with the world's spotlight removed, the army stormed the Moteal, Dili's main Catholic church, and killed a young man named Sebastiao Gomes, who had taken refuge there.
And then came the morning of November 12. The two-week commemoration of Sebastiao's funeral. A memorial mass and procession were planned to lay flowers on Sebastiao's grave. After the mass was held at the Moteal, people, young and old, came out into the street, and in a land where public speech and assembly had been forbidden over a decade, they started chanting. The Timorese then held up banners drawn on bed sheets. They had been prepared for the delegation that never came.
The banners called on Indonesia to leave East Timor and said things like "Why the Indonesian army shoot our church?" The Timorese were facing a gauntlet of troops that stretched the length of Dili. It was the boldest act of public protest occupied Timor had ever seen.
Allan Nairn: More and more Timorese joined the procession. They came from huts and schools and offices along the way. And there was this building feeling of exhilaration, as well as fear, among the Timorese. And when they reached the cemetery, the crowd had swelled to maybe 5,000 people. Some went inside to lay flowers on Sebastiao's grave. Most of the crowd was still outside, and then suddenly, someone looked up, and we saw that marching up along the same route that the Timorese had come came a long column of Indonesian troops, dressed in brown, holding M-16s in front of them, marching in a very slow, deliberate fashion; hundreds and hundreds of troops, coming straight at the Timorese.
Amy Goodman: Allan suggested we walk to the front of the crowd between the soldiers and the Timorese, because although we knew that the army had committed many massacres, we hoped that we, as a foreign journalists, could serve as a shield for the Timorese. Standing with headphones on and microphone and camera out in full view, we went and stood in the middle of the road, looking straight at the approaching troops. Behind us, the crowd was hushed as some Timorese tried to turn away, but they were hemmed in by cemetery walls.
Allan Nairn: The soldiers marched straight up to us. They never broke their stride. We were enveloped by the troops, and when they got a few yards past us, within a dozen yards of the Timorese, they raised their rifles to their shoulders all at once, and they opened fire. The Timorese, in an instant, were down, just torn apart by the bullets. The street was covered with bodies covered with blood. And the soldiers just kept on coming. They poured in, one rank after another. They leaped over the bodies of those who were down. They were aiming and shooting people in the back. I could see their limbs being torn, their bodies exploding. There was blood spurting out into the air. The pop of the bullets, everywhere. And it was very organized, very systematic. The soldiers did not stop. They just kept on shooting until no one was left standing.
Amy Goodman: A group of soldiers grabbed my microphone and threw me to the ground, kicking and punching me. At that point, Allan threw himself on top of me, protecting me from further injury. The soldiers then used their rifle butts like baseball bats, beating Allan until they fractured his skull. As we sat on the ground, Allan, covered in blood, a group of soldiers lined up and pointed their M-16s at our heads. They had stripped us of all of our equipment. We just kept shouting, "We're from America!" In the end, they decided not to execute us.
Allan Nairn: The soldiers beat us, but we actually had received privileged treatment. We were still alive. They kept on firing into the Timorese. We were able to get onto a passing civilian truck, went into hiding, but the Timorese, who had been with us there on the cemetery road, most of them were dead.
Amy Goodman: Inside the cemetery walls, Max Stahl, a filmmaker on assignment with Yorkshire TV, had had his video camera running.
Max Stahl: The soldiers began at that point to encircle the entire cemetery. I saw the soldiers as they gradually moved towards the middle, picking out people who were wounded or taking refuge between the tombstones, and when they got to them, they beat them and assembled them in the back of the cemetery. People were stripped to their waists. They had their thumbs tied behind their backs, and they were made to look at the ground. And if they looked up, they were immediately beaten, usually with a rifle butt.
Amy Goodman: Max Stahl was filming near a crypt in the middle of the cemetery. Some of the wounded and those too scared to run were huddled inside praying. As Stahl filmed, he buried his videocassettes in a fresh grave. Then he was arrested by the troops.
Max Stahl: Whilst I was being interrogated, I observed these trucks driving by with more people in them. These people were clearly in a kind of paralysis of fear. They were not able to move. Some of them, at least in the cemetery and, indeed, even in the trucks, when I saw them going by, were barely breathing. And people were that terrified. It's quite often difficult to tell if they're dead or alive.
Amy Goodman: After nine hours in custody, Stahl went back to the cemetery under cover of night, dug up his videocassettes and had them smuggled out of the country. Allan Nairn and I had managed to leave East Timor a few hours after the massacre. From a hospital on Guam, we reported what had happened to dozens of newspapers, radio and television outlets around the world.
Pacifica Report: From Washington, this is the Pacifica report for Tuesday, November 12, 1991. A massacre in East Timor. Among those injured were two journalists, including a news editor of Pacifica station WBAI in New York.
Amy Goodman: They beat me and dragged me over and started slamming me with rifle butts, and kicks and punches, and then Allan jumped on top of me, and they beat him very badly. But that was the least of what they did. They opened fire on the people, and these were truly defenseless --
Montage of world news footage: When Indonesian troops opened fire on a crowd -- This is CBC Radio -- The massacre of a hundred unarmed Timorese by the Indonesian military -- Photographs of the bloody massacre during the fight for freedom -- This is the CBS Evening News.
Amy Goodman: An excerpt of the documentary, Massacre: The Story of East Timor, produced with journalist Allan Nairn, as we turn now to the report that has been released by the East Timorese commission of inquiry into human rights abuses that occurred between 1975 and 1999. The Indonesian invasion of Timor 30 years ago today.
Last week, the East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao gave the commission's report to the Timorese parliament, but wanted it withheld from the public. Opposition politicians and human rights activists have called for the documents to be made public. We're joined from Baltimore by Brad Simpson, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Research Assistant to the National Security Archive. We are also joined in our New York studio by Jose Luis Guterres. He is the East Timorese Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!
Brad Simpson: Thank you, Amy.
Jose Luis Guterres: Thank you.
Amy Goodman: Well, this day, very significant, Ambassador. Thirty years ago today, Indonesia invaded Timor. You celebrated your freedom, your independence, three years ago. What are your thoughts on this day? Where were you December 7, 1975?
Jose Luis Guterres: Well, I was still a student in Lisbon, and it was the saddest day of our life; as Timorese, we have lost over the years one-third of our population. At the same time, looking back, we had a privilege of having many friends. You and Allan did a very important -- played a very important role during the 1991 massacre in Santa Cruz in East Timor, and help that we had also in the US, many of our friends in Congress, that all over the years, the grassroots movement that were able to maintain alive the struggle for self-determination, independence and freedom in my country.
And today we can say that the country is stable with democratic institutions, and one of the most important days for us also was in 1990 when we had to vote in that referendum where the people chose to be independent. After that, you remember that some Indonesian troops in the militia, they destroyed 85% of the country and killed so many Timorese at that time. And also, it was important also to remember that by the time -- it was during the President Clinton administration and it was very, very important for East Timor that President Clinton, Tony Blair and other leaders, they played very important role in sending the UN troops to East Timor in order to end the violence and massacring in East Timor.
So, looking back, in history, some struggles are still going on, happily that in East Timor after many years of sacrifice and many people died, we are able today to be free, have an independent country, be a member of the United Nations, and be here and talk to you in a free country. And so, I'm very happy to be here on this program.
Amy Goodman: What about, Ambassador, the issue of accountability? The East Timorese commission of inquiry hands in a report, makes recommendations about accountability, and the President, Xanana Gusmao, refuses to make it public.
Jose Luis Guterres: Well, I think that it is a question of time. Right now, the Parliament is analyzing the documents and the report. And I believe that after that, it will -- most probably that they will publicize it, because this is really a history -- it's part of history of the Timorese people, and I don't think that the President or any other government will not give these documents to the public.
Amy Goodman: Brad Simpson, what are your concerns? You have applied under the Freedom of Information Act for a lot of the documents that the commission of inquiry is basing its information on right now. Can you talk about what they say and what you feel needs to be done?
Brad Simpson: Yes. These documents lay out a 25-year pattern of deceit by successive US administrations. Keeping the details of Indonesia's planned invasion of East Timor from the American public and from the international community, systematically suppressing or discounting credible reports of massacres taking place in East Timor through the mid-1980s, and working to circumvent possible congressional bans on military systems to keep the pipeline of weapons flowing. We gave the East Timorese Truth Commission more than 4,000 pages of documents, and the most important conclusions that they reached so far that we know are that the United States, Britain and other Western powers which supported Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor should be required to pay reparations to the people of East Timor, and that, furthermore, western arms manufacturers, who supplied weapons to Indonesia should also be required to pay reparations to the people of East Timor.
These were extraordinarily damning recommendations -- extraordinarily damning conclusions that these documents contributed to, which the East Timorese Truth Commission has put forth. And I think it's incumbent upon us, not just as Americans, but also as members of the international community, which for so long supported Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor, to really study these conclusions and face up to our own country's history of support for one of the great massacres of modern history.
And I think that President Gusmao's concern is a real one. East Timor is small. It's weak; it's surrounded by larger neighbors who either invaded it or supported the invasion and occupation of their country, and they understand the concern of East Timorese leaders, that calls for genuine justice and accountability might not play well in Washington, might not play well in Jakarta and other world capitals.
But not a single high-ranking Indonesian official has been ever been held accountable for more than 25 years of systematic atrocities. Not a single US administration has ever been held accountable, has ever apologized for US support for the invasion and occupation of East Timor.
This process of truth and accountability is not just needed in East Timor, it's also needed in Jakarta, and as an American, I would say it's also needed here in the United States, as well.
Amy Goodman: Ambassador, your response? Why not release the documents now?
Jose Luis Guterres: I don't have an immediate response or answer on this. But from what I know, I firmly believe that the government and the President will release the documents for public knowledge. At the same time, it's -- the report contains public information. There is no secret, and even the recommendation is already known by Timorese public. So I don't see any reason for not to publicize these documents.
Amy Goodman: So is there a rift in your government? Are you, as the ambassador from Timor to the United States, disagreeing with the President and the foreign ministers?
Jose Luis Guterres: Well, the only problem is -- the only question is that I haven't seen any official directive from the government to inform us that, you know, this paper will not be published. It is a public information.
Recommendation also is known, so I really don't see why it will not -- I'm sure that it will be published in the near future. But I would like to say also that we share the idea that crimes cannot go unpunished. Justice is very important for any country having freedom, democracy, institutions and freedom to be sustained, you have really to respect human rights and justice.
And at the same time many Timorese families, as you know, lost at least one of their family, their relatives. Certainly, that -- on the diplomatic side in the international relations with neighboring countries, East Timor is small and vulnerable, but at the same time, the state of East Timor cannot deny to their own citizens the possibility for them to defend in our interests and search for justice for the loved ones that died during these years.
Officially, we know that it is true that the government of East Timor is not seeking any compensation. We had the Portuguese occupy East Timor for 400 years, the Japanese during the Second World War, and later, Indonesia for -- since 1975 up to 1999. And the official policy is that we prefer to look into the future and try to establish the best relation as possible with our neighbors and with the international community, and we -- indeed, we are very happy, including the United States, to have today very good relations.
President Xanana was in visit the US many times. He met with President Bush, I believe, three times already, and during that meeting, we feel that there is a strong interest and support from the US present Bush administration to East Timor.
And at the same time, it is a small and vulnerable nation living in a very close to Indonesia. Indonesia that is not yet -- we know that the military still have a lot of power in Indonesia. We are all working towards to having a more democratic Indonesia where the military can play their own role without interfering in the political affairs. So these are the main, how do you say, picture that we are looking for.
Amy Goodman: Brad Simpson, final comment?
Brad Simpson: This process of accountability is important, not just for East Timor and the United States, but also for the process of democratization in Indonesia itself. The Indonesian military is still an unrepentant, unreformed institution, and I think it's very important to again recall that not a single Indonesian official has been held accountable for any of these atrocities. While the United States is overseeing the trial of Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity in Baghdad, the Bush administration has just lifted conditions on the provision of military assistance to Indonesia.
And I think that this is a real test case of the Bush administration's commitment to the rule of law, to accountability. If the United States is going to assert that Saddam Hussein should be held accountable for crimes committed 20 years ago in Iraq, I'm hard-pressed to believe why Indonesian officials and American officials should not be held accountable for similar crimes against humanity that have taken place in East Timor over the last 25 years.
And this is a process which is still ongoing, and I think one of the reasons why President Gusmao is reluctant to release this report is that its conclusions largely echo those of the United Nations commission of experts which called for the convening of an international tribunal to hold Indonesian officials accountable for the crimes of 1999 and the crimes that have taken place over the last 24 years. And I think that it's really important for activists in the United States and elsewhere who have long supported the East Timorese to try and put pressure on the US Congress, to try and put pressure on the Bush administration to guarantee that we will not maintain and improve or provide military assistance to Indonesia, unless they demonstrate the same sort of accountability, which we are now demanding of Saddam Hussein and others who commit these kinds of atrocities in other countries.
Amy Goodman: We'll have to leave it there, Brad Simpson of the University of Maryland and the National Security Archive. And we'll link to the documents that the National Security Archive has on its website, those declassified documents. And Ambassador Jose Luis Guterres, I want to thank you for being with us, ambassador from East Timor to the United States and the United Nations.
New Matilda - December 7, 2005
Carmela Baranowska -- Thirty years ago today, on 7 December 1975, nine US-supplied C-130 aircraft took off from Madiun in East Java, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Suakadirul. It was five minutes past midnight. Suakadirul's operation was highly secretive and he'd only had two days to prepare his crew and aircraft.
At two minutes after sunrise, Suakadirul flew over Dili. He could see that the lights in the city were extinguished, and suspected that this was deliberate. The East Timorese had been preparing for an invasion for months.
The architects of the invasion of East Timor had realised the significance of this date. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour had also taken place on a Sunday.
The first sortie lasted less than a minute. Six hundred and forty-eight paratroopers quickly landed on the three designated drop points: the Hotel Turismo, the Governor's Palace and the old airport. One of Suakadirul's wingmen who had been flying on the left hand side of the formation, closer to the Fretilin stronghold of Taibese, was killed immediately. According to James Dunn's account in Timor: A People Betrayed, this plane veered off-course and nearly 30 paratroopers drowned in Dili harbour.
Suakadirul smelt munitions burning. Two bullets had hit his aircraft, striking both his cockpit and the back part close to the elevator and stabiliser. He was surprised to discover that he was covered in a brown liquid. He thought he had been wounded; his crew manoeuvred to take over. 'But it was only my early morning coffee,' Suakadirul laughed, remembering the bullet that had become his caffeine-hit.
There had been little coordination between the air and amphibious assaults. Suakadirul explained that on the second sortie this had led to 'friendly fire' incidents between the marines and paratroopers. The third sortie was cancelled.
The invasion had been a fiasco, although Suakadirul was too polite or blinded by patriotism to ever describe it in this way.
While Suakadirul and I talked in early 2001, C-130s still flew overhead, interrupting our conversation. The Hercules must have been leaving for operations in West Papua and Aceh. Suakadirul now lived in a nice house with a well-kept garden, complete with chirping parrot, near Halim Air Force Base in Jakarta.
He had joined the Air Force in 1958, serving in the West Irian campaign in the early 1960s and studied at the US Air Command School in 1973-4. He climbed the ranks and retired as an Air Vice-Marshal. Suakadirul had been recognised as a loyal and outstanding leader and was well looked after.
In 2001, East Timor was edging towards independence after the trauma and violence of the 1999 UN referendum and 24 years of Indonesian occupation. Suakadirul was unhappy that East Timor no longer wanted to be a part of Indonesia.
'How many people died there?' he asked me rhetorically. It was an interesting question and I urged him to answer it. 'About 11,000,' he replied. It went without saying that his figures only included the number of Indonesian military killed. Suakadirul's explanation for what he described as the Indonesian 'operation' in East Timor mirrored that of the Indonesian Government: the East Timorese were 'brothers' and some had asked, as a brother would, to be free of the colonialism of the Portuguese era.
This explanation may appear illogical and twisted to us, but for the Indonesian military, government and its most loyal collaborator, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the political fiction was straightforward. East Timor wanted integration with Indonesia, indeed they had even 'asked for it.'
The recently declassified documents from the independent Washington-based think-tank the National Security Archives (NSA) reveal the American and British contribution to this sad and sorry saga of collaboration and collusion. As far back as 1963 the US State Department had prepared a paper describing the inevitability of an Indonesian attack on East Timor. 'Indonesia has no legal basis for a claim on the territory,' it noted.
But East Timor became a victim of international acquiescence and complicity. By March 1975 the US National Security Council (NSC) recommended a 'policy of silence.'
Following cross-border Indonesian military incursions in October 1975, a staff member told Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: 'It looks like the Indonesians have begun the attack on Timor.' The documents reveal Kissinger's response: 'I'm assuming you're really going to keep your mouth shut on this subject.'
After the invasion, the NSC prepared a detailed inventory of the US military hardware used. The US Congress, aware that the military weapons were being used illegally, called for an end to further sales to Indonesia. This uncharacteristic moment of clear-headed behaviour was quickly quashed from inside the US Administration.
The stage-managed integration, the aerial bombardments and the massacres were all documented by successive US Administrations.
Nearly one week after the invasion a 'Top Secret' intelligence document recommended East Timor's 'isolation' as a way to 'facilitate the efforts the Indonesians are sure to make to keep info on Timor dissidents from reaching the outside world.'
However, this policy failed spectacularly. From the earliest days there were eyewitness testimonies of East Timorese exiles and refugees who had fled to Portugal and Australia, and the work of David Scott, James Dunn, Noam Chomsky, Jill Jolliffe, Shirley Shackleton and the families of the Balibs Five, who kept asking questions -- and demanding answers.
There was also the contribution of the crazy-brave activists Rob Wesley-Smith and Dennis Freney and the great untold story of the clandestine radio network operating inside the Northern Territory scrub to communicate with the East Timorese resistance.
The unclassified documents were initially released by the NSA to East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) in its quest for information -- and justice, which has so far proven elusive. Even President Xanana Gusmao has suppressed the Commission's findings and its recommendation that reparations be paid by the major perpetrators of human rights abuses during the Indonesian occupation. John Martinkus, journalist and author of A Dirty Little War and Indonesia's Secret War in Aceh, has called this 'institutionalised impunity.'
For every retired Indonesian officer in Jakarta there is a row of crosses in a forgotten corner of East Timor, West Papua and Aceh. 'The only way the military can control the country is by killing people,' Martinkus writes in Indonesia's Secret War in Aceh. 'And the less information recorded about the killings, the longer they can continue to do it.'
December 7, 1975. Lest we forget.
[Carmela Baranowska is a Walkley Award-winning journalist and filmmaker who has been working in East Timor since March 1999. For more information about her films visit www.talibancountry.com.]
Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - December 7, 2005
Keith Suter -- Thirty years ago, one of last century's most brutal conflicts began when Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor.
About 10 per cent of the East Timorese people were killed. Their resistance lasted until 1999, when Indonesia finally packed up and left. Much of Timor's history is a story of invasion.
Archaeological evidence suggests the original inhabitants may have arrived 120,000 years ago but successive settlers and invaders probably eradicated all trace of these earliest Timorese.
The island was settled by Melanesian peoples at some period, possibly during the last ice age when land bridges connected many islands of the Malay Archipelago. The Melanesians were eventually marginalised by more advanced peoples from what is today Indonesia and who arrived in boats.
By the time the Portuguese arrived in about 1520, the country was known mostly for its sandalwood products. The Portuguese initially only established trade with the Timorese but after the Dutch established themselves on the west of the island in 1613, the Portuguese consolidated their interests in the north and east. The Netherlands and Portugal agreed to set boundaries to their holdings in Timor under treaties in the 19th century.
The island remained in Dutch and Portuguese hands up to World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Dutch allowed Allied troops to be sent to the island in case of Japanese attack.
In February, 1942, Japan invaded. Many Allied troops were captured but some launched guerilla operations with the help of the local people. After the war, East Timor remained in Portuguese hands.
Portugal was the last European country to hold an overseas empire. In 1974, its military rebelled because it was exhausted from fighting colonial wars in Africa.
Following the break-up and subsequent chaos in the Portuguese global empire in the mid-1970s, the leftist Fretilin group won a brief civil war in East Timor and then declared independence in 1975. Indonesia quickly invaded.
The Indonesians did not want an unstable, leftist country on its doorstep, fearing the Timor experience would encourage separatist movements elsewhere in Indonesia.
The UN Security Council called on Indonesia to withdraw but Indonesia ignored the demand. Australia, contrary to international law, recognised Indonesia's occupation.
But the East Timorese fought for their independence. About 200,000 people were killed. On a per capita basis, this was one of the most violent wars of the 20th century. Indonesia was militarily assisted by the US, Britain and Australia.
It seemed to Canberra it would be better for Indonesia to run East Timor. Successive Australian Governments stuck to the policy.
Australia's support for Jakarta was controversial. The East Timorese had been allies of Australia in World War II. There was a debt of blood. "We will never forget you", said leaflets dropped by the departing Australian forces.
A chance for independence arose in 1998, after the Indonesians overthrew President Suharto, who had been in control of the country since a violent coup in 1965. There was economic chaos at home and the incoming president was anxious to reduce the country's liabilities.
A referendum was held in September 1999 to ask the East Timorese whether they wished to stay in Indonesia or become independent. Independence won the vote. There was then a reign of terror in which about 1500 people were killed by Indonesian-backed militia.
In September 1999, the Australian Government was forced by outraged domestic opinion to act to stop the violence. An interim Australian military force was deployed, while the UN Secretary- General gathered an international peacekeeping force together. The UN Mission of Support for East Timor (UNMISET), which began in 2000, ended its role in May 2005.
Along with the country's deep poverty, it had many basic issues to sort out. For example, what should be the national language? Portuguese was spoken by the ruling elite in colonial days, while the local people spoke a variety of local languages. After 1975, Indonesian became the language of the ruling elite. Should the country revert to Portuguese or opt for English, the international language? The government has gone for Portuguese.
Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, the foreign minister, has said that "the most fragile sector of the administration... is the judiciary. We have very few trained judges, prosecutors, lawyers. Most foreign business would not trust our judiciary.
"Small-time offenders languish in jail without trial. And there are no short-term solutions. We are committed to create a strong and independent judiciary -- but this is many years off."
One foreign problem comes from Indonesia. There has been a remarkable change since the overthrow of Suharto. Timor-Leste, as the East Timorese call their country, shares a common land border with West Timor and there are constant fears the militia will again attack. The militia also still hold captive some East Timorese kidnapped in 1999.
In August 2005, the UN released a report on the prosecution of serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. Its Commission of Experts recommends further steps be taken to ensure those responsible are held to account. The experts have recommended if Indonesia does not do better within the next six months, then the UN Security Council should create an ad hoc criminal tribunal.
Finally, during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Australia (contrary to the UN Security Council) negotiated an agreement with Indonesia to divide up oil and natural gas in the seabed south of East Timor. Now Timor-Leste is independent Australia has had to negotiate a new treaty. But the Indonesians gave generous amounts of territory to Australia and Timor-Leste has been unwilling to do so.
Last week it was reported a deal had been made dividing up the seabed. A formal agreement will be signed next month. But any short-term financial gain may be a loss for Australia. An economically failed state may require another Australian military intervention -- or risk another Indonesian one.
The Australian - December 30, 2005
Mark Dodd -- Notorious former East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres is to return home with a personal guarantee for his safety by the country's President, despite a UN war crimes panel indicting him for murders committed in 1999.
East Timor resistance hero turned President Xanana Gusmao invited Guterres to return during a visit to Kupang, the provincial capital of Indonesian West Timor.
On April 17, 1999, Guterres, a former commander of the Dili-based Aitarak (Thorn) militia, ordered scores of armed followers to attack the Dili house of pro-independence leader Manuel Carrascalao -- an assault that led to the death of 12 unarmed people, including Mr Carrascalao's son Manuelito.
More than 1500 pro-independence Timorese died in the bloody mayhem that followed the UN-brokered independence ballot later that year.
Guterres and his followers slipped across the border into West Timor days before the arrival of an Australia-led peacekeeping force.
In his first-ever meeting with Mr Gusmao, a former rival Falintil guerilla commander, he promised to work towards reconciliation, saying he would bring with him 26 other former militia leaders when he returned home next month.
But East Timor's main human rights body, Yayasan-HAK, says it is horrified at the prospect of Guterres returning to Dili. HAK spokesman Jose Oliveira feared that once news began to circulate about the decision it could lead to violence from angry Aitarak victims.
"This decision is very bad for East Timor and will make many common people angry because they have no justice," he said.
Agence France Presse - December 27, 2005
Kupang -- East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has said some 16,000 refugees from his country living in Indonesia's neighbouring West Timor province would be welcome to return home.
"It is up to the people to make the best decision. The doors of Timor Leste (East Timor) will always be opened, we will always accept them," Gusmao told West Timor officials during a one-day visit to the impoverished province.
Gusmao's call came just four days before the United Nations refugee agency closes its humanitarian mission in the province after four years.
An estimated 250,000 people fled or were forcibly transported by militia gangs across the border to West Timor during the violence that surrounded East Timor's August 1999 UN-sponsored referendum.
East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia despite intimidation by pro-Jakarta militias.
The majority of refugees have since returned to East Timor but around 16,000 opted to remain in Indonesia. Some were members of the militias that went on an arson and killing spree before and after the 1999 ballot.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees deputy regional representative, Henrik Nordentoft, said earlier this month that "special circumstances demonstrating an ongoing need for international protection and assistance for refugees no longer exists."
West Timor governor Piet Tallo, speaking after talks with Gusmao, said Indonesia remained committed to help the refugees since their plight was a "humanitarian problem that needs to be properly handled."
The United Nations has said the militia gangs were recruited and directed by Indonesia's military. They killed about 1,400 independence supporters and laid waste to much of the infrastructure in East Timor, which had been invaded by Indonesia in 1975.
Later Monday Gusmao was due to hold talks here with about 100 ex-militiamen, including their former boss Eurico Guterres.
Guterres remains free while appealing his conviction for crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 10 years by a Jakarta human rights court but that ruling was slashed to five years last year on appeal.
Guterres headed the notorious Aitarak or Thorn militia which terrorized residents of the East Timor capital, Dili, and its suburbs before and after the referendum.
East Timor gained full independence in May 2002 after more than two years of UN stewardship.
Kyodo News - December 27, 2005
East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao and former pro-Jakarta militia leader Eurico Guterres agreed Tuesday to work toward reconciliation in the first meeting of the two former arch-foes.
"None has won, none has lost, because we both lost our fighters, so reconciliation is the best way for us," Guterres told reporters after the meeting.
The meeting took place in Kupang, the main town in Indonesia's West Timor bordering East Timor.
Gusmao also invited Guterres to visit East Timor. Guterres accepted the invitation and said he plans to go in early January, bringing with him 26 former militia leaders.
Gusmao said he will guarantee Guterres' safety during the visit, saying he will not be arrested over human rights abuses he and his men committed before, during and after a 1999 UN-organized referendum in which East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia.
The vote triggered a deadly rampage by pro-Indonesian militias that were armed and organized by Indonesia's military.
The governments of East Timor and Indonesia set up the Commission of Truth and Friendship, carrying a one-year mandate to reveal the truth behind human right abuses in 1999.
Antara - December 23, 2005
Mataram -- Inhabitants of Belu and Timor Tengah Utara (TTU) districts located in the border area shared by East Nusa Tenggara and Timor Leste urgently need the government's help to get out from their misery.
"We urge the Government to increase its budget for the development of the districts and the welfare of their inhabitants living near the border area of East Nusa Tenggara and Timor Leste," said Harun Al Rasyid, a member of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), said here Friday.
Harun and his colleagues just returned from a visit to the border region shared by Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and Timor Leste to see how the inhabitants are living, and to inspect security check-points in the border area.
The DPD delegation found out that the living condition of the local people and military personnel on duty in the border area cause for concern.
Most of the security check-points were in a deplorable condition as more than the total of 50 security posts have piles of dried leaves still on their roofs, which have to be removed.
Such a poor condition would disturb the performance of the military officers because the roofs were leaking when it rained, Harun said.
Harun, who had a dialogue with those officers, said he was amazed by the fact that despite being in such a deplorable situation, the military officers still looked happy.
He stated that the local people and the military officers in the area must not be ignored and needed prompt attention. The Government must increase the budget to improve their condition, he said.
The DPD and the House of Representatives (DPR) would urge the Government to give attention to improve welfare of the inhabitants in the border area, said Harun, former governor of West Nusa Tenggara Province for the 1998-2004 period.
"Those military officers have been separated from their wives and children. They have to live in very poor living conditions in a remote area, and yet each officer get only Rp18,000 (less than two US dollars) per day," he said.
Jakarta Post - December 20, 2005
Yemris Fointuna, Kupang -- Hundreds of displaced persons from East Timor taking refuge in East Nusa Tenggara province demanded on Monday that the central government compensate them with Rp 263 billion (US$26.3 million) for the assets they left behind in East Timor following the 1999 autonomy plebiscite.
The displaced persons of East Nusa Tenggara origin raised their demands in a protest outside the provincial council building on Monday ahead of the ending of their status as displaced persons as of Dec. 31 of this year.
In their statements, read by Imanuel Ndun, the coordinator handling displaced persons' assets in East Timor, now known as Timor Leste, the protesters called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono not to forget his campaign promises, including not to abandon displaced persons from Timor Leste or their possessions.
"At that time (of the election), he said that if he was elected the President, he would pay attention to our assets like houses, land, vehicles and important documents, but he hasn't," he said. Some 14,000 families of East Nusa Tenggara origin are now living in the province as displaced persons.
According to Imanuel, the total amount of assets left behind during the period of communal violence that followed the UN- sponsored plebiscite in September 1999 was more than Rp 1.62 trillion. This estimate, he added, was made on the basis that all the assets had been destroyed by fire, plus what remained after the plebiscite.
Head of East Nusa Tenggara provincial administration's social services office, Frans Salem, said the administration has worked to meet the demands of the displaced persons but was hampered by foreign diplomacy problems.
"Governor Piet A. Tallo has conveyed the compensation matter to the central government," he said, adding that all policies related to displaced persons fell under the authority of the central government, not the provincial administration.
Southeast Asian Press Alliance - December 14, 2005
The Southeast Asian Press Alliance has expressed alarm over the media situation in East Timor after Prime Minister Mari Altakiri signed an executive decree approving a penal code that criminalises defamation.
On 6 December, Government Spokesman Rui Flores issued a statement saying the penal code, drafted by Ministry of Justice was already signed by the Prime Minister and would enter into force at the start of 2006. In September 2005, the East Timorese parliament voted to give the Prime Minister executive powers to enact the law.
This despite strong resistance from Timorese journalists and legal experts, who had also pushed for parliamentary debate and public consultations on the matter.
SEAPA said it was "regrettable" that calls for consultations went unheeded. The alliance, Southeast Asia's leading advocate for press freedom, also said it is "dismayed that a country so new, so young, and so full of idealism and hope would lay such foundations that would compromise its own vision for a genuinely free society."
The penal code sets unlimited fines and for defamation sanctions. Under Article 173, of the new penal code, meanwhile, journalists can face three-year imprisonment for publishing statements deemed to defame public officials. Legal experts in Dili have voiced concern that the law fails to provide protection to defamation for "reasonable" publication of facts. They also note that the penal code gives more protection to leaders and public officials than to ordinary citizens.
"The new laws will dissuade journalists from speaking up on good governance and transparency in the conduct of the state affairs," SEAPA warned. "It will also stifle the freedom of expression the East Timorese need to participate in and advance their hard-won democracy."
SEAPA noted that East Timor is scheduled to hold its next presidential and national elections in 2007. "The new penal code will go against the education and right of the public to be informed about their current and aspiring leaders," said SEAPA.
SEAPA also shared concerns expressed by the country's legal experts that provisions for criminal defamation are especially dangerous in a country where the judiciary is still weak and immature. "Criminal defamation provisions could be misapplied or broadly interpreted, to the detriment of freedom of expression," the Alliance warned.
Starting in 2002, media advocates in East Timor saw a rise in threats of defamation and verbal harassment from leaders and individual government members, as the new nation's journalists moved beyond routine reporting to practicing a more critical brand of journalism.
|News & issues|
Antara - December 23, 2005
Ahkmad Kusaeni, Jakarta -- A decision made during an emergency situation could make a history. If Xanana Gusmao who was arrested in 1992 were executed, East Timor might never secede from Indonesia and the leader of the security disturbance group, Fretilin, would not become an East Timorese president.
A book -- I have written along with my colleague Benny S Butarbutar and was launched only early this week -- revealed what has been a mystery on the arrest of Xanana Gusmao in the morning of November 20, 1992, at a location in Dili, the capital of East Timor.
It turned out that the then chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI)'s operational command in East Timor (when it was still Indonesia's province) Brig.Gen. Theo Syafei (now retired) once proposed that Xanana be 'finished'. "Pak Try, I have arrested Xanana. Should I finish him, sir?" Theo said.
It was never disclosed before that when Xanana was only arrested, the chief of the operational command in East Timor immediately reported it to the then Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) chief Gen. Try Sutrisno (now retired) and asked for directives for further measures.
That time, the operational command chief once asked Try Sutrisno if Xanana Gusmao could be finished'. But Try Sutrisno said Xanana should not be killed but remain alive for trial.
The historical fact is among others revealed in the book entitled "TIDAR" standing for Bhakti Tiada Akhir (endless services), which is a note reflecting 40 years of services of the 1965 graduates of the National Military Academy whose leading figures included Theo Syafei who played a significant role in the arrest of Xanana who is now the president of the neighbouring country, a former Portuguese colony.
When the writer of the book asked Theo Syafei in July, 2005, about the plan to execute Xanana, Theo who is a figure of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) confirmed it.
"It is likely the time for me to reveal the truth about Xanana," said Theo who is a former Udayana military command whose jurisdiction included Bali province.
Theo then talked much about Xanana's arrest. The story began with the fall of Bank Summa including its branch in East Timor in 1992. There was a policy then that Bank Summa's branch in East Timor was only able to return a maximum of Rp10 million to each customer.
Meanwhile, a university student whose deposit was more than Rp11 million demanded that the bank return Rp11 million to him, but the head of Bank Suma's branch office said the bank was only able to give Rp10 million back to the student. "I am a student. I want to return to Bali," the student said.
The chief of the operational command that time happened to visit Bank Suma. The student then asked for recommendation. Theo asked the student why he asked for the money totalling Rp11 million, and the student answered that he wanted to go to Bali.
"Then, I asked based on my sense of intelligence, 'whose son are you actually? If he was not a son of a district head or a high ranking official, he must not have such a lot of money," Theo said.
It turned out that the student was a son of a farmer in the poorest area in East Timor. When he named the area, Theo was increasingly curious as to the best of his knowledge, the total amount of all farmers' money in the area would not even reach Rp100,000.
Eventually, the student's house was raided, and money in US and Australian dollars as well as Japanese yen was found there. When he was questioned about sources from which he received the money, it was revealed that he was a broker for Xanana.
"Any foreign journalist from Australia or other countries have to pay 2,000 dollars for meeting with Xanana," according to Theo who said that he forgot the student's name.
From the student, Theo looked into the presence of Xanana. "In Dili, Xanana was frequently found in three areas. I Asked, 'where is Xanana now?' The student said, 'here'", Theo said.
That time (November 19, 1992) at 7.30 pm, an operation to arrest Xanana was planned. The intelligence detachment command immediately deployed personnel and proposed that Xanana be arrested that evening.
Theo said Xanana could not be arrested that evening, and he (Theo) ordered that the raid must be conducted the following day in the morning. Why? Because his neighbour was a policeman, Corporal Augusto, who married a widow of a Fretilin member.
As a policeman, Augusto used to go to work at 5 am to manage the traffic. "If I raided him (Xanana) that evening, he would defend himself. And if Xanana was there, he could move to the next room and could then flee," Theo said.
The operation to arrest Xanana was then conducted on Friday morning, November 20, 1992. When it was found that Augusto had already left his house, the raid started. When the operation was taking place, Xanana was with a girl who was a senior high school student found to be a step-child of Augusto. "That's what Xanana liked. For Xanana, he must be with a woman wherever he was," Theo said.
When he was raided, Xanana surrendered himself without defence as he was that time unarmed. Being handcuffed, Xanana wearing a jacket and a short was then taken to Theo's official house in Dili.
"On his arrival, I ordered to put off Xanana's handcuff and I shook his hand. And my wife offered Xanana a drink -- coffee, tea, milk or chocolate. We treated him well," Theo said telling the event 13 years ago.
Of the same rank
Theo said that he and Xanana were of the same rank as commander. The risk was that it was Theo or Xanana who would win. The important thing for them as commanders was that anything done by their men was the responsibility of the commanders.
"Agree? He agreed. Hence, whatever questions to him including those on the setting villages on fire there and raids here were answered that he was responsible for the problems," he said.
Theo reported Xanana's arrest to the then Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) chief, Try Sutrisno, by phone. "Pak Try, I have arrested Xanana. Should I finish him, sir?" Theo said.
The ABRI chief did not immediately answer the question. Seconds of silence had elapsed. Then unclear voice was heard on the phone. "Wait a minute.... I'll call you back," Try said.
That time, Xanana was still at Theo's house. If ordered, the operational command chief was ready to execute Xanana. However, the phone call from the ABRI chief did not ring. Ten minutes had elapsed, and even there was no sign after 20 minutes.
While waiting for the call from the ABRI chief, Theo decided to chat with Xanana. Theo began the chat by saluting Xanana as a commander but the latter could not do the same as he was handcuffed, but then Theo oredered the intelligence team to put off Xanana's handcuff and then he saluted Theo. Theo wanted to remind Xanana that he uphold leadership values especially as a commander who must be responsible for what have been done by his men.
"I am a commander here and you are Fretilin's commander, so we have the same responsibility," Theo said and Xanana agreed with Theo's remark. This then made Xanana's trial easy as the Fretilin leader admitted he was responsible for all he had done. Eventually, Theo could meet all his expectations including that on an effort to move Xanana to Jakarta.
Following the conversation between the two commanders, there was no telephone call from the ABRI chief until Theo decided to send Xanana to the operational command post and the former did physical exercises.
"In the afternoon, the ABRI chief and a big group arrived in Dili," Theo said. On his arrival, the ABRI chief immediately called up Xanana to the former's official residence. Then, the ABRI chief had a dialog with Xanana in the presence of all the chief's group members including the then East Timor's governor, Abilio Soares.
It was finally decided that Xanana was not detained by the military but the Dili police as he was considered only as a criminal. In addition, the decision was made in order that Xanana could be tried under the Criminal Code, not the law on subversion.
"Law on subversion covers violations against the ways to live a national and state life, while the Criminal Code deals with criminal acts. This is the image that I created," Theo said.
In the process of investigation for trial, like what was said by Lt.Gen. (ret) Johny Lumintang who was that time chief of the Dili military command, Xanana once went on hunger strike. Theo then asked the chief of the Dili police Col.Nugroho Djajoesman about the police's preparations in response to Xanana's hunger strike. An ambulance was then prepared, and then Theo ordered to take a coffin from the Dili military command.
The dialog between Theo and the Dili police chief was learned by Xanana making him (Xanana) ask for coffee and meals. It seemed that Xanana was also afraid of death.
Theo's measure was understandable as Xanana who was cooperative before turned to be contrariwise following the arrival of the UN secretary general's special envoy, Waco. Since the beginning, Theo disagreed with foreign intervention, and therefore Theo took a stiff measure.
However, preasures from many parties made Xanana go out of Dili. For legal process, Xanana was then brought to Jakarta where he was visited by officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on December 7, 1992.
"I said (Xanana) should not be brought to the Cipinang jail in Jakarta. For the time being, he was moved to Semarang (Central Java). For fear of disappearing in Semarang, Xanana was moved again to Cipinang where he met other political prisoners," Theo said.
The Dili district court on May 20, 1993, sentenced Xanana to life imprisonment. On August 17 (Indonesian Independence Day), 1993, Xanana who served his jail term in Cipinang received clemency from then president Soeharto making him only sentenced to 20 years in jail.
On August 30, 1999, the East Timorese people conducted popular consultations under the auspices of the United Nations. On September 3, 1999, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced the result of the popular consultations in Dili. 78.5 percent of 451,79 voters rejected autonomy. Only 21.5 percent accepted autonomy. It means that the pro-independence group won and the pro-integration group lost.
The East Timorese people have then rejected the special atonomy and shown their willing to start a transitional process towards independence, Annan said at the UN headquarters in New York.
Several days after the announcement of the popular consultations, the history changed quickly. Xanana was released from the Cipinang jail.
On May 20, 2002, the UN officially declared East Timor as an independent state and then Xanana Gusmao came out as East Timorese presisent. That is Xanana's life history.
West Australian (Perth) - December 22, 2005
Ainslie Chandler -- Despite its war-ravaged past, East Timor has all the hallmarks of a tropical paradise. Swaying palm trees, pristine beaches, coral reefs, misty mountains, hot springs and stunning architecture are dotted around the chaotic landscape that is the world's newest nation.
Decades of war and neglect have taken a great toll on the former Portuguese colony, razed when the Indonesians left after 25 years of occupation in 1999. Most people still live in poverty but the nation is slowly being rebuilt. Many are optimistic that tourism could be the nation's saviour.
I arrived in Dili in five-star luxury, with about 75 other guests aboard the cruise ship Orion, the first cruise line to visit the country after it was declared independent in 2002. After a warm welcome by local dancers, we were herded on to a guided minibus tour of Dili, run by fledgling tour company Timor MegaTours.
Our first stop was the city's famous statue of Christ at Cape Fatucama, about 7km from the city centre.
The bumpy road to the statue winds around the coast, past stretches of ivory beach dotted with traditional fishing boats and dozens of restaurants, empty but for staff fighting a losing battle against the encroaching dust and sand. Pigs and goats scratch in the dirt by the roadside huts and stalls, scattering as cars and buses chug past.
Dili's towering monument to Christ, a present from the Indonesian government during the 1990s, stands with its arms outstretched to Jakarta. If you are relatively fit, climbing the hundreds of steps up to the statue affords fantastic views of the coastline and back over the city.
But our tight schedule did not allow time for the climb, so we jumped back on the bus and headed for the Santa Cruz Cemetery near Taibesi, the scene of one of the most enduring episodes in the country's recent history.
Footage of the massacre of more than 300 mourners by Indonesian soldiers within the walls of the cemetery opened the eyes of the world to the plight of the East Timorese in 1991. A walk through the cemetery also reveals the legacy of generations of war -- thousands of young families simply wiped out.
The site of President (and former resistance leader) Xanana Gusmao's new home was next on the agenda but we only got a fleeting glimpse of the construction site as we drove past -- suspicious looks from security guards enough to move us along. Gusmao is revered in East Timor and his likeness is a common sight on the side of buildings around Dili.
Driving through the CBD, we headed past the President's office and were told by our enthusiastic guides only the bottom floor is used because the upper level has no roof.
This is true of many of the city's buildings. Burnt-out shops and offices remain full of gaping holes where window panes and roofs once sat, with the impact of widespread looting and destruction by pro-Indonesian militia in the wake of 1999's vote for independence still apparent.
Shopping in Dili is limited -- most stock imported Indonesian goods, including cheap CDs and DVDs. The tais markets are reminiscent of Bali's market stalls, offering traditional brightly coloured tais fabric, jewellery and souvenirs at bargain prices.
One legacy of the thousands of United Nations staff and peacekeepers who lived in Dili from 1999 until this year are the hundreds of taxis that work the centre of the city.
The once-busy taxi drivers seem to patrol the city centre in plague numbers, tooting happily at tourists in a bid for business. Most will take you between any two points in the city centre for $US1 (the US dollar has been adopted as East Timor's currency and it is illegal to use anything else). Much of Dili's infrastructure is in need of repair. Open drains run alongside cracked footpaths, giving the air an unpleasant and pungent odour in some parts of town.
Road rules are non-existent, cars always have right of way and the drivers communicate by horn, making walking the CBD an interesting, if harrowing, experience.
After a night on board the Orion, we were dropped at the lush, green haven of Baucau, west of Dili, for day two of our Timor adventure.
Fishermen in traditional boats unloaded their catch on the sand as we were run to shore by the ship's zodiacs before embarking on another Timor MegaTour.
The dilapidated bus transported us up to the Baucau town centre, about 10 minutes inland on a winding road bordered by traditional homes and tropical greenery.
A favourite with tourists is the eerily grand -- and pink -- Pousada de Baucau, formerly the Hotel Flamboyant. The huge building was used as a torture chamber and military headquarters during the Indonesian occupation but is now a working hotel.
Another favourite is Baucau's Mercado Municipal market building, a massive Portuguese structure raised on stilts.
Unfortunately, our whirlwind tour of East Timor's second-biggest city did not permit us to explore the area, so it was up into the mountains to see the village of Venilale. Thatched-roof homes and smiling children lined the narrow road that winds up through the lush hills and valleys south of Baucau.
An impromptu stop at a weekend roadside market at Garivai caused a commotion among local children, who clamoured to have their photo taken, some of the more savvy ones asking for a dollar for the right to capture their image.
The contrast between the tourists -- clean, pale and pudgy with days of overfeeding -- and the impoverished locals buying and selling at the markets could not have been more stark.
Back on the bus, we headed farther into the mountains, passing countless traditional tiered fields being worked by Timor ponies.
A quick stop at roadside caves which served as ammunition stores for Japanese troops during World War II and it was on to our final destination, Venilale. The humble town is home to some spectacular Portuguese architecture and a big orphanage run by nuns, the result of decades of fighting in the area.
While Dili and Baucau are interesting places, visitors will find there is little to do once you have seen the major sights. Most East Timorese speak Tetum, which shares official language status with Portuguese.
The Government is developing museums and other historical attractions but for now most tourists hire a 4WD and head into the wilderness.
Hot springs near Morobo are popular and tacklling East Timor's highest peak, Mt Ramelau, is a must for climbers.
Another favourite is the island of Atauro, a two-hour ferry ride from Dili, home to some spectacular coral reefs and diving opportunities.
Despite its lack of infrastructure and a strong language barrier, East Timor has much to offer the intrepid tourist. Diving enthusiasts have already discovered the coral reefs and hundreds of Portuguese tourists come back each year.
If you don't mind hot weather, some unsavoury smells and having to hunt for a Western toilet, the sunsets are spectacular, the people are friendly and the stunning scenery untouched by developers is a rare treat.
The Australian - December 19, 2005
Mark Dodd -- At his war crimes trial in Dili in 2001, East Timorese militia leader Joni Marques, facing 13 counts of murder, assault, kidnapping and torture including the cold-blooded killing of a nun, fingered Australian SAS and Indonesian Kopassus special forces as his former trainers.
In an admission that stunned the Dili court, the then 37-year-old Team Alpha militiaman said he had been recruited and trained by Kopassus, Indonesia's special forces, in exercises that also involved Australian troops.
Asked by his lawyer how the training was conducted, Marques replied: "It was guerilla warfare. We trained together."
Lawyer: "In the exercise, what was the Australian army's role?"
Marques: "The Australian troops tried to catch me."
A Defence Department spokesman said later it was a matter of record that the Australian Defence Force trained Indonesian army personnel at the time. It is also a matter of record that so did the Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment specialists in the art of hostage rescue, counter-insurgency, long-range surveillance and clandestine operations.
East Timor's most prominent and respected human rights group, Yayasan HAK, last week cited the Marques case as a good example of why Canberra should reconsider its decision to resume joint training with Indonesia's most capable but also most feared army unit.
HAK spokesman Jose Oliveira says in April 1999 he witnessed Kopassus special forces directing pro-Jakarta militia in a massacre in the Catholic church at Liquica, which left 52 unarmed civilians dead and dozens injured. "Kopassus were involved right across East Timor, directly and indirectly. They operated intelligence gathering, supervised beatings and torture and supported the militia with training. I saw what happened with Kopassus and the militia in Liquica when I went to organise humanitarian assistance. I saw the Kopassus directing the Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron) militia."
Oliveira says the extent of Kopassus's accountability in the violence that swept East Timor in 1999 is still unresolved. On July 24, 2000, New Zealand soldier Leonard Manning became the UN's first combat fatality during a security sweep in East Timor's rugged border region; he was shot dead in an ambush, said at the time to have been led by well-trained militia.
A follow-up operation by Kiwi troops scouring the area of the ambush recovered several items of military paraphernalia including a special forces first-aid kit and a discarded Kopassus tunic.
While UN military spin doctors in Dili singled out "the militia", senior New Zealand army intelligence officers were in no doubt Manning's death involved Kopassus.
Peace has returned to East Timor but it is not hard to find legacies of the Kopassus deployment to the former Portuguese colony rebelling against its annexation by Indonesia.
A visitor taking any bush road winding up into the country's picturesque mountains will come across long-deserted buildings marked with fading red paint saying 'Kopassandha' (special forces). The name is stencilled on dozens of deserted outposts littering former hot spots across the territory.
While no Kopassus personnel have ever been prosecuted successfully for East Timor war crimes, evidence of its handiwork is filed in extensive records held by the now disbanded UN Serious Crimes Panel.
But neither East Timor nor Australia is keen to pursue prosecution of Indonesian military personnel for war crimes committed during 25 years of brutal occupation. Both Dili and Canberra believe the greater interest is served by mending relations with Indonesia.
Now a new security imperative, the global and regional war on terror, means the UN's SCP records are unlikely to see the light of day.
Australia did suspend military co-operation with Kopassus in 1999 over the murky role played by the Indonesian military, including its special forces, in organising, training and arming the deadly pro-Jakarta militias in East Timor. But counter-terrorism exercises between the Perth-based SASR and Kopassus will resume early next year, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced earlier this month.
"In this era of heightened terrorist threats, it is in Australia's interests to engage with regional special forces, such as Kopassus, to safeguard the lives of Australians and Australian interests abroad.
"The bombings in Bali in October 2005 further highlighted the need for regional countries to work together in combating this common threat. Kopassus Unit 81 has the most effective capability to respond to a counter hijack or hostage recovery threat in Indonesia," Hill said.
Senior Jakarta-based defence sources say informal contact between the SASR and Kopassus has been occurring for the past 18 months. Kopassus Unit 81, the specialised counter-terrorism unit that will train with the SAS, did deploy to East Timor in 1999 under the command of then Colonel Pramono Edhie Wibowo. He is the son of the late Lieutenant-General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, a Kopassus founder and close ally of disgraced former dictator General Suharto.
There is no evidence any human rights abuses were committed by Pramono or his group in East Timor. But it's believed his Kopassus unit was deployed to Dili on September 5, the day of an attack on the Catholic diocese office. Several hundred Timorese had sought protection at the office, which was torched by militia just a day before Bishop Carlos Belo's house was razed. At least 12 people died in the diocese inferno.
Brigadier-General Pramono is now the deputy commander of Kopassus and his sister, Kristiana Herawati, is Indonesia's first lady.
Indonesia's most elite army formation, the "red beret" Kopassus comprises a 5000-strong force trained in covert warfare. Kopassus troops have high morale and esprit de corps, rare qualities among Indonesia's numerous territorial defence units. Like their Australian special forces counterparts, Kopassus soldiers get the best equipment and weapons.
The unit's inception dates to the 1980s when the head of Indonesia's Army Strategic Intelligence Office (BAIS) formed a new Detachment 81, named after an international hijacking of a Garuda DC-9 at Bangkok Airport on March 31, 1981.Troops who rescued the plane and its passengers were the first members of what was later to be called Detachment 81.
William Wise is associate director of Southeast Asian studies at Washington's Johns Hopkins University and an internationally acknowledged authority on Kopassus, Wise's 30-year military career includes serving as deputy national security adviser to US Pacific Command. In his book Indonesia's War on Terror he says Unit 81 training focuses on hostage rescue in both urban and jungle environments. Its facilities are equipped for anti- hijacking scenarios involving buses and aircraft.
Wise cites a senior Kopassus officer as saying Unit 81 has had to become virtually self-sufficient in training after joint exercises were curtailed with Australia, the US, Britain, France and South Korea, but not with Thailand and Singapore. In addition to Unit 81, the TNI (Indonesian military) has 10 "raider" battalions trained by Kopassus for counter-terrorism operations, he says.
According to Wise there is no co-ordinated program of co- operation between Kopassus and Indonesia's national police paramilitary force, Brimob. Brimob (Brigade Mobil) is organised into large military-style formations, designed to conduct internal security operations across the archipelago.
David Bourchier, chair of Asian Studies at the University of Western Australia, says Kopassus has a long history of involvement in human rights abuses in Aceh, Papua and East Timor. "The main argument against getting involved with Kopassus is their track record of operations on the fringes of legality. They commonly involve an element of deniability. They were certainly involved in the murder of [Papuan independence leader] Theys Eluay," he says.
In line with recent moves by Washington, Bourchier says the Howard Government is now seeking to improve its defence co- operation with Indonesia. "The problem is, there are very few controls on what they do."
Anatomy of a well-armed, ruthless elite
Kopassus is an Indonesian acronym taken from the name of the country's elite special forces group, Komando Pasukan Khusus.
Kopassus was founded in 1952 using the experience gained from fighting Maluku-based insurgents. It gained valuable experience from Dutch army defector Major Rokus Bernandus Visser, who was also a former special forces operative.
It has headquarters in Jakarta and Bandung and its troop strength is estimated at 5000 soldiers -- the most highly trained in the Indonesian military (TNI) -- divided into five groups.
Groups one and two are strike formations, three is a training group, four intelligence and five (Unit 81) is counter-terror. Its role involves special missions, sabotage, hostage rescue, covert warfare, counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering.
Kopassus is the best equipped Indonesian military unit. Weapons include variants of the MP5 submachine gun, Czech-made CZScorpion and Israeli Uzi. Assault rifles include the Indonesian-made FN copy, the 5.56mm SS1, M16A1, AK-47, Steyr, and FNFAL. Tactical shotguns are also used and recoilless rifles, including the 84mm Carl Gustav.
Known operations: Hijacking of Garuda flight GA 206 on March 28, 1981. The DC-9 "Woyla" was hijacked on route from Palembang to Medan and ordered to fly to Sri Lanka. Low on fuel, the jet proceeded to Bangkok where newly trained Kopassus commandos stormed the aircraft and freed all hostages.
Kopassus has been accused of involvement in numerous human rights abuses stemming from operations in Aceh, Maluku, West Papua and East Timor.
Lusa - December 15, 2005
Dili -- President Xanana Gusmco Thursday criticized the East Timorese government's decision to begin paying benefits to former guerrilla freedom fighters as premature and destined to provoke "more confusion".
Gusmco, speaking in parliament, said the government's move and the debate under way in the legislature on a veterans' benefit bill would "contribute to instability and more confusion".
He questioned the government's "criteria" and procedures in identifying the first group of independence war veterans that is to begin getting benefits this month.
The president, who commanded East Timor's anti-Indonesian fighters for many years before being captured and imprisoned in Jakarta, noted that one political party based on disaffected former guerrillas had already surfaced.
Other parties of the same sort could emerge, he cautioned, if the benefits issue was not dealt with properly.
The government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri announced last month that the first 37 former fighters had been identified and would begin receiving veterans' benefits in December.
Parliament Speaker Francisco Guterres and Alkatiri were also scheduled to address parliament on the issue before a vote is taken.
Australian Associated Press - December 21, 2005
Sydney -- The sister of one of the Balibo Five journalists shot dead in East Timor 30 years ago wants their remains exhumed for examination.
Maureen Tolfree, sister of Brian Peters, whose death is the subject of a NSW coronial inquest, believes the remains may hold clues about the manner and cause of the men's deaths.
The remains, which have never been properly examined, are believed to be buried in a Jakarta cemetery.
Ms Tolfree lodged an application for an inquest in June 2004 and NSW State Coroner John Abernethy agreed to hear the case earlier this year.
Mr Peters, a British national, was one of five Australia-based journalists killed during an attack by Indonesian special forces troops on the Timorese border town of Balibo in October 1975.
Official reports say the men Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Malcolm Rennie and Mr Peters were killed in crossfire between Indonesian troops and Timorese militia, but their families insist they were murdered.
At Glebe Coroners Court today, Ms Tolfree's solicitor Rodney Lewis said an examination of the remains is vital to determine the facts surrounding the deaths.
"It is wholly within your power and your jurisdiction to make a request to anyone either in this country or another to have the bodies exhumed," Mr Lewis told Mr Abernethy.
But Mr Abernethy said an exhumation may not fall within his jurisdiction. Ms Tolfree has also asked the coroner to compel former prime minister Gough Whitlam, who was in office when the shootings took place to give evidence before the inquest. Mr Abernethy will rule on both matters this afternoon.
Prensa Latina - December 12, 2005
Havana -- Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri, praised Cuba's development and breakthroughs in its health system and its successful cooperation program with other nations.
At the end of his visit to the Pando Ferrer Ophthalmology Institute, the distinguished guest told Prensa Latina that his country was far from having such institutions, but it was a pleasure that a friendly nation was a point of reference in the field.
He said he was very impressed by the professionalism of the staff, the high-technology of the equipment and, above all, the noble purpose of Operation Miracle, through which 170,000 patients from Latin America and the Caribbean have recovered their vision so far.
Regarding cooperation links with the Island, Amude Alkatiri highlighted the presence of 65 Cuban physicians in East Timor, which opens bright prospects in a priority sector within the revolutionary process in the Southeast Asian nation.
He said this visit is also aimed at exploring possibilities in other sectors as, despite the US blockade, Cuba has developed great capabilities as it responds to significant challenges.
The East Timor prime minister started his agenda by laying a wreath before the Jose Marti Monument at the Revolution Square.
He is accompanied by Health Minister Rui Maria de Araujo and other high-ranking officials and figures of the East Timor government.
This visit will contribute to strengthening political, cooperation, and solidarity ties between Cuba and East Timor, which have reached an excellent level since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2002.
Australian Associated Press - December 9, 2005
Adam Gartrell -- The sister of one of the Balibo Five journalists, shot dead in East Timor 30 years ago, wants former prime minister Gough Whitlam and several other high profile witnesses to front an inquest into his death.
But the New South Wales Government is moving to quash the subpoena applications, saying the evidence Mr Whitlam and others might provide is not directly related to the 1975 death of Channel Nine cameraman Brian Peters. The matter will be argued in court on December 21.
Peters' sister, Maureen Tolfree, lodged an application for an inquest in June 2004 and NSW State Coroner John Abernethy agreed to hear the case earlier this year.
Peters, a British national, was one of five Australia-based journalists killed during an attack involving Indonesian special forces troops on the Timorese border town of Balibo in October 1975.
Official reports say the men -- Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Malcolm Rennie and Mr Peters -- were killed in crossfire between Indonesian troops and Timorese militia, but their families insist there was a cover-up and they were murdered.
Ms Tolfree has asked the coroner to subpoena Mr Whitlam, who was prime minister when the shootings took place.
In a written submission to the Glebe Coroners Court, counsel assisting Ms Tolfree, Richard Lewis, said Mr Whitlam could give evidence about warnings he conveyed to Mr Shackleton before the journalist left for East Timor.
He also could give evidence about the information the Australian government received concerning the Balibo Five either before or after they were killed, Mr Lewis wrote.
Ms Tolfree also wants to subpoena other officials in office at the time, including ambassador to Indonesia Richard Woolcott, foreign minister Don Willesee and defence minister Bill Morrison.
East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta and former Channel Nine executive Gerald Stone also could be called to give evidence.
All "could throw light on the issues" relevant to the inquest, Mr Lewis wrote.
But in a written submission tendered in the court today, Crown Advocate Richard Cogswell SC said the subpoenas should not be issued. "Findings as to manner and cause of death must be limited to the direct manner and cause of death," he wrote.
The state coroner should not interview the witnesses unless Ms Tolfree's representatives could give convincing arguments about the relevance of their evidence, he wrote.
Mr Abernethy has previously said he will not consider any political events surrounding Mr Peters' death, but would look at whether the cameraman "was in fact murdered and, if so, by whom".
Australian Associated Press - December 1, 2005
Sydney -- The widow of one of five Australia-based journalists shot dead in East Timor in 1975 says she is not surprised by new documents revealing the Australian and British governments colluded to cover up the killings.
Five television journalists -- Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart of the Seven Network, and Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters of the Nine Network -- were killed while covering Indonesia's invasion of East Timor.
Official reports say the men, known as the Balibo Five, were killed in crossfire. However, an inquest in Australia to begin next year will examine the long-held theory they were deliberately gunned down by Indonesian forces.
The deaths also sparked controversy about how much the Australian government knew about the incident and when.
British Foreign Office documents were this week obtained by relatives of the newsmen, two of whom were British, and published in The Times in London. The diplomatic cables show the British and Australian governments knew what happened to the men and moved to cover up the killings.
Greg Shackleton's widow Shirley today said she was not at all surprised by the contents of the cables. "No, I'm not surprised, because I'm just a normal intelligent human being, and putting two and two together was not that hard," Mrs Shackleton said.
She said it had always been obvious the two governments had refused to reveal the truth about what happened to the men. Ms Shackleton said the cables strengthened calls for a full judicial inquiry into the deaths.
"The pain of the loss for all the families has been trebled because of the actions of the Australian and British governments," she said. "Now, with the accumulated evidence, it's about time for (Prime Minister John) Howard to bite the bullet and hold a full judicial inquiry."
The families of the Balibo Five are pushing to have more Foreign Office documents released for the Australian inquiry, which is due to begin early next year.
Granma - December 14, 2005
Havana -- President Fidel Castro has confirmed that Cuba is prepared to receive another 400 young people from Timor Leste for medical training, and to extend the new literacy method Yo sm puedo (Yes, I can do it) to that country.
Accompanied by Prime Minister Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri, Fidel met with the 199 medical students who are taking a preparatory course at the Cojmmar Social Work College.
He also announced that a group of 300 doctors are to travel to Timor Leste to offer aid services and contribute to the training of health professionals, and that a few days ago Cuban professors helped to open a Faculty of Medicine in Dili, the country's capital.
He explained the goal of reaching one doctor per thousand inhabitants, in hopes of reducing as much as possible, the high indices of infant and maternal mortality, terrible diseases and epidemics inherited from colonialism.
Fidel said that his conversations with Mari Bim Amude Alkatari were very interesting and that they gave him a deeper understanding of the history of these valiant people, their resistance and desire for independence in the face of Portuguese colonialism, and the many attempts to destroy their sovereignty.
He not only detailed some of the consequences left by colonialism in Third World nations, but the hegemonic pretensions of US imperialism, which is not content with invading countries like Iraq, but also has to impose its ideology and culture on them.
Fidel explained that in official talks with the Timorese Premier, they spoke of Cuba's cooperation with Africa -- where many combatants gave up their lives fighting apartheid -- of medical assistance to Pakistan and Guatemala, and of plans to train health professionals.
He stated that there are 12,000 students in the Latin American School of Medicine and in the next three months there will be 20,000 youth from the region, and he emphasized that 60 Cuban physicians are now working in Timor Leste.
Fidel also announced that two technical experts have gone to Dili to establish the use of the new literacy method that will allow the rapid teaching of reading and writing in Portuguese, in a country where 50% of the population is illiterate.
Regarding the progress of Operation Miracle, he said that this year more than 200,000 people will have been undergone operations on the island, among them 156,000 Venezuelans, 15,000 Caribbeans and 35,000 Cubans, and announced that it is hoped to extend the program to help the people of Timor Leste.
In the Tetum language, Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri gave thanks for Cuban assistance in the areas of health and education, with its new literacy method, and asked the medical students to be diligent, given that their country awaits them and has placed great hope in them.
He expressed what a privilege it is to be able to train as medical professionals in a country whose education level is comparable to that of developed countries, and demonstrating what can be accomplished despite having few natural resources.
The prime minister explained that Timor Leste is poor even though it has oil and gas because, as a consequence of illiteracy inherited from colonialism, it has no human capital.
During his stay in Cuba, Alkatiri visited the Pando Ferrer National Ophthalmology Institute, accompanied by the Minister of Public Health Josi R. Balaguer. This institution has carried out more than 50,000 of the 170,000-plus operations that have been performed throughout Cuba as part of Operation Miracle.
The premier also visited the 19th of April Polyclinic in the Havana municipality of Plaza de la Revolucisn and the historical quarter of Old Havana.
Before leaving for his country, Alkatiri expressed his great satisfaction over the success of the visit, which exceeded all his expectations.
A small country of more than 770,000 inhabitants, the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste is located in South East Asia and covers the eastern half of Timor Island, the neighboring islands of Atauro and Jaco, as well as Oecussi-Ambeno, a political enclave of East Timor situated on the western side of the island. Formerly called Portuguese Timor, after a complex process and a UN sponsored referendum for self-determination, it gained its independence on May 20, 2002 and has confronted great challenges in the reconstruction of its infrastructure and the consolidation of a youthful governmental administration.
|Daily media reviews|
UNOTIL - December 1-30, 2005
Guterres: Reconciliation the main alternative
Former Aitarak Commander Eurico Guterres has said that solving the Timor-Leste problem through reconciliation is the best alternative.
Speaking to journalists after meeting with President Xanana Gusmao, Guterres said that he hopes for everlasting peace for Timorese. He said that in the meeting the President told him that he would like to build a large monument to reconciliation that would have inscribed the names of all heroes, both pro- independence and pro-integration, including the names of Indonesian military officers who had died in Timor-Leste. He added that he believes reconciliation requires a long process, and that it is normal that there are for and against opinions regarding his impending visit to Timor-Leste. (Suara Timor Lorosae)
TL Consulate a communications centre
President Xanana Gusmao has said that the Timor-Leste Consulate- General in Kupang, West Timor, will become a communications centre for the government and people of the two regions that will tighten the bonds between the two communities and their governments. "The Timor-Leste Consulate-General in Kupang represents a step forward?it will facilitate communication between these two neighbouring governments", said President Xanana, speaking at the inauguration of the Consulate. He said that he hopes that problems concerning Timor-Leste citizens living in West Timor, including visiting home, will be able to be handled by the Consulate. (Suara Timor Lorosae)
Deportation of Ong by immigration police is illegal MP Antonio Ximenes told media that the decision taken by immigration police to deport the owner of Timor Block Building Industry is illegal because the unauthorized action took place without any court process. He argued that article 64 states that the act of deportation is only executed through the court. It was also mentioned that only the court can decide whether to deport some one or not and the police or immigration police only have the right to arrest but not to deport. MP Ximenes added that the immigration police act already sets an example to foreign investors that the law in this country does not allow freedom of movement and that it is just a curtain. (Timor Post)
Heavy rain: Two lives lost and a disappearance
Diario Tempo quoted PNTL Superintendent Paulo Martins as saying that three hours of heavy rain on December 27 in Timor-Leste led to the deaths of Gioavni Cristoven, a two and a half year old boy who passed away in Aimutin, Comoro, and Joana de Fatima Borges, a 16 year old girl who passed away at the National Hospital after she was drawn into a water canal for more than an hour. Meanwhile, another child was reported missing after being seen for the last time playing with friends a couple of hours before the heavy downpour. (Diario Tempo)
Defamation article limits people to convey their aspiration
The President of Lawyers' Association, Benevides Correia Barros, told media that the articles on penal code process 172, 173 and 174 regarding defamation which the government recently approved through the council of ministers would only limit people's freedom to express their aspirations. The above three penal codes would only create problem and limit democracy within civil society. He added that when the law is implemented in 2006, anyone who criticizes the government of Timor-Leste would certainly be arrested based on the three referred penal codes since it would be considered a criminal rather than a civilian case. He then reminded that it would be a main concern for Timor-Leste's lawyer association and civil society to tackle. (Timor Post)
December 29, 2006
MP reactions on Guterres' January visit to Timor
There have been a variety of reactions to the possibility of a January visit from ex-Aitarak militia leader Eurico Guterres to Timor-Leste.
Some Members of Parliament including from the KOTA, ASDT and PD benches are pleased with Guterres' willingness to come to Timor- Leste in the framework of reconciliation. Minister for the Council of Ministers Antoninho Bianco on Wednesday told reporters that he is pleased that the door to this nation is open to all to visit, including Eurico Guterres, saying that the government of Timor-Leste does not have any enemies in the world, only friends. He emphasized that in particular it is enshrined in the Constitution that Timorese living in other countries have the right to visit their own country. Various Members of Parliament voiced their support for the visit, saying that the road to reconciliation being pursued by President Xanana Gusmco will assist in creating peace among Timorese. (TP)
Editorial: Controversial invitation
President Xanana Gusmco's recent visit to the former refugees in West Timor demonstrated the President's strong commitment to reconciliation.
The President's invitation to Eurico Guterres to visit Timor- Leste is a very serious matter, and one that people will question, as to whether it is a normal visit or a political one. Because like it or not, Guterres is a former central Militia Commander who was very much involved in the post-referendum destruction in 1999. If the visit does materialize, then President Xanana will be creating new history, one that will magnify the wounds of the victims, as happened with the CAVR and now the TFC, and which will give rise to a strong debate of pro and con. The visit should first be clearly defined, as to whether it will be a normal visit for immigration purposes, or a political one, and the President himself must determine this. (TP)
MP Menezes on Molotov bomb in UIR HQ
MP from the Democratic Party (PD) faction Rui Menezes has said that the recent throwing of a Molotov bomb at the UIR HQ in Baucau last Friday was engineered by certain groups wishing to threaten the people in the lead-up to the 2007 general elections and, in the process, testing the extent of their power. Speaking in the National Parliament on Tuesday, Menezes said that while the government may work hard to attract investment to this country, with continual incidents such as this, no one would invest their capital here. (TP)
The need to draft a bill for foreign heroes
Responding to media regarding recognition of foreign activists, MP Mariano Sabino stated that a draft bill should be prepared, particularly considering Indonesian activists or Pe Yohanes Baptista Mangun Wijaya. He mentioned that Wijaya's contribution to Timorese students' organisations, IMPETTU and RENETIL, were holding their underground movement in Indonesia.
Apart from the above name, MP Sabino also mentioned other people who assisted them when they were being blocked by Indonesian military during some demonstrations. He ended his statement by stating that Wijaya was the one who contributed the most to the issue of Timor-Leste at that time by lobbying Indonesian intellectuals such as Aming Rais, Gus Dur. (TP)
Horta on a centre for street children and passports
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jose Ramos Horta told media that the government is considering how to establish a centre for homeless or street children. He also confirmed that he had spoken to Prime Minister Alkatiri to provide a location that Dom Bosco Youth Communication Forum can use as a centre, which would then enable the forum to provide the children with better care or attention. Meanwhile, the Director of Dom Bosco Youth Communication Forum, Cipriano Pereira told media that currently the forum is looking after 370 homeless or street children. He added that these children are divided into groups of children who eat and sleep in the street daily and a group of children who are currently in the school, but are engaged in some form of activity such as selling goods or metal.
Currently, the centre, which is based in Kintal Boot, provides 30 beds of which 21 are occupied. When asked about the little celebration held with Minister Horta, Cipriano confirmed that it is the programme of the Foreign Affairs Minister, which then offers certain quantity of food and other items for the children at the centre annually. (TP)
December 28, 2005
Lobato's case and government authority: Observation
The actions of Minister of Interior Rogirio Lobato in taking things into his own hands regarding a traffic accident in Delta Comoro two months ago is possibly the first time that this occurred in Timor-Leste. To date there has been no finalization of this case, but we would hope that a criminal case involving a Minister would be processed via the appropriate legal channels. This would demonstrate to the people that the law does not differentiate based on social class.
Speaking on Tuesday to the students about to leave for Cuba, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said that he has not yet been requested to grant immunity from the law for this case, as immunity is not required during the investigations stage, but only at the trial stage. In saying such, Alkatiri has given the impression that he is prepared to grant such immunity, and he has even previously stated that he understands Minister Lobato's actions, as he himself is sometimes forced to take action against citizens who are not following established procedures. However, he said that such action should not include assault.
Related to the same case, Vice-Minister of Interior Alcino Barris has said that any investigation of the case must first be authorized by Alkatiri.
Speaking to journalists last Friday, Barris said that the police must first be authorized by the Prime Minister to carry out an investigation. (STL)
PM Alkatiri's statements on future Timor-Leste health system and T-L & USA bilateral ties due to Timorese students studying medicine in Cuba Speaking to the media yesterday, PM Mari Alkatiri said that Timor-Leste is expecting to implement a free health care system similar to Cuba's since it is an important sector that should serve the population.
Therefore, he appealed to the over 200 Timorese students departing for Cuba to be elite doctors when returning from Cuba. He added that Cuba has the best health care system in the world because apart from the advanced medical equipment, poor peasants can be treated equally as rich persons because the health care system is free. A free health care system is one which the government dreams of putting in place, reported the journal.
When asked about the impact of Timor-Leste and Cuba bilateral ties on the country's bilateral ties with the United States of America, PM Alkatiri stated that Timor-Leste's cooperation in the health sector with Cuba will not affect its bilateral ties with USA because the country is willing to cooperate with anybody, and Cuba happens to have the best health system in the world. Therefore, Timor-Leste wants to learn from Cuba's health care system in order to implement it in Timor-Leste. PM Alkatiri also explained that there are things that the country can share with US position but there are also issues that the country views independently on whether to vote for or against with USA or other countries. But, the whole point that the current government is trying to do is to get the best for its future generation, particularly by having a couple of thousand Timorese doctors by 2015 based on the target set for Timor-Leste's health sector.
The report further mentioned that apart from sending up to 627 students to study in Cuba, Timor-Leste National University has also started a medicine programme in 2005. The other impacting progress from the cooperation between Cuba and Timor-Leste's government has been the current presence of 65 Cuban doctors in Timor-Leste and 300 doctors pledged by Cuba. (JND)
Indonesia authorizes Timor to open consulate in West Timor
Speaking to media after he was questioned regarding the opening of a Timor-Leste consulate in West Timor, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Jose Ramos Horta confirmed that Indonesia has authorised Timor-Leste to establish a consulate in West Timor. He further explained that despite the authorization, a consulate has not functioned officially since it has not received any letter from the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs as to whether the consulate is to be opened today or not.
Minister Horta further confirmed it is expected that Timor-Leste will also establish its consulates in Surabaya and Bali. (JND)
December 24 & 27, 2005
Government name not used when assisting Lay to buy sandalwood
Bonifisio Magno, who according to businessman Pedro Lay has been involved in negotiations on the sale of sandalwood, has said that the assistance he provided to Lay in these negotiations was not in the government's name, but his own. Not willing to disclose the nature of his work, Magno told TP that if Lay takes the case to court, he will defend his actions with the claim that his assistance to Lay was in a private and not official capacity. He claimed that without his assistance Lay would not have been able to carry out these negotiations, enabling him to export three containers of sandalwood. According to Magno, without his assistance Lay would not have been able to export anything. He said that if Lay has anything against him he should present his case in court, also accusing Lay of defaming him. "Its best if we answer for our actions in court", stated Magno. (TP, DT)
President Gusmco visits Aceh and Kupang
President Xanana Gusmao on Saturday left Dili on official visits to Aceh and Kupang, where he will remain until 29 December. A press release from the Office of the President last week said that the President's visit is in response to an official invitation from the Indonesian President to participate in the one-year memorial of the Aceh Tsunami, from where he will then continue his visit with a special program of reconciliation and reunion with former Timor-Leste citizens in West Timor. The visit to the refugee camps in West Timor will receive financial assistance from businesses and embassies in Timor-Leste, in the form of consumables. (TP)
Police return journalist's camera
The camera confiscated from Timor Post journalist Sisto Freitas at the Timor Block Building Industry last Friday was yesterday returned to TP. As reported previously, the journalist had his camera confiscated by the police when filming the arrest of lawyer Angelo Neves at the Timor Block Building Industry. (TP)
Molotov bomb thrown at UIR HQ in Baucau
Another Molotov bomb was thrown at the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) Headquarters in Baucau last Friday evening, with reports that one police officer was injured in the leg. Reports of who is responsible for the bomb and the reason behind the bomb are unclear. (TP, TVTL)
December 23, 2005
Defamation code needed due to lack of maturity and responsibility
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has said that the new defamation code, to be implemented from January, is necessary as civil society is irresponsible and lacking in maturity. Civil society has expressed its concerns that the defamation law will impact negatively on press freedom as enshrined in the Constitution.
Alkatiri said that the kind of social control that civil society exercises should not be about conveying the incorrect information, saying that this demonstrates their immaturity and irresponsibility. He said that the defamation law and the penal code, which also contains some articles related to defamation, are not as strong as defamation provisions in other countries, including Portugal, Spain, Germany and other long-term democracies. Meantime, Diario Tempo runs a separate article on the PM Alkatiri's statement regarding defamation code that it applies to everybody and that it does not apply only to the journalists. (STL, TP, DT)
Fernandes: Tenders only for Fretilin
Ex-Falintil Commander for Region IV Ernesto Fernandes has said that all projects implemented during the 2005 Financial Year have been for Fretilin's benefit, while the opposition parties have been sidelined. Speaking to STL in Gleno last Monday, Fernandes said that this 'inclusive' tendency often occurs when there are project tenders. "If someone has a background as a Fretilin militant, he will automatically be prioritised, even though his capital does not reach the required amount. While those who are not Fretilin cannot hope to win a tender", said Fernandes, expressing his hope that this discrimination will not continue into 2006, as it is only planting the seed for future trouble. (STL) Celebrate Xmas by looking forward to 2006
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has asked all Timorese to celebrate Christmas 2005 by looking to the future, and concentrating on how to make 2006 a year for development. Upon a visit to the Presidential Palace on Thursday accompanied by his ministers to convey Christmas and New Year wishes to the President, Alkatiri said that Timor-Leste must extend efforts made in 2005, and that Timorese must strengthen their belief in God in order to confront any difficulties that arise next year. (TP)
Government and parliament acknowledge church role in resistance
Speaking during the reintegration of Clandestine network into Fretilin Political party on Tuesday (20/12), Francisco Guterres alias Lu Olo told participants that it would be complicated to include church as a religious institution in the clandestine leadership. But the Government and the National Parliament have acknowledge the role the church played during the 24 years of resistance against the occupation of Indonesia, reported Diario Tempo on Friday. He added that the direct participation of priests and nuns and their political statement has been recognised by the constitutions, and a law would be created to legally acknowledge the church's role. (DT)
December 22, 2005
Defamation law will impact journalists' profession
The defamation law which will begin to be implemented from January 2006 has incited a serious debate among civil society in particular the media, who feel that they will be greatly impacted by the law. The opposition factions in the National Parliament have also expressed their dissatisfaction, concerned that the law will kill democracy in this country. With these concerns, the Timor-Leste Journalists Association (AJTL) on Wednesday held a one-day workshop where a range of speakers who aired their concerns on the law. Fr. Martinho Gusmco said that the law insults the journalism profession, and that psychologically it will have an impact on journalists' work because it will create fear in reporting. (TP, DT, JND)
Indonesian Ambassador counters visa concerns
Indonesian Ambassador to Timor-Leste Ahmed Bey Sofwan says that he has not heard of any Timorese students using tourist visas to study in Indonesia. Responding to queries on the matter after meeting with President Gusmco on Wednesday, Ambassador Sofwan said that there are currently approximately 2,000 to 3,000 Timorese students studying in Indonesia. He said that possibly these students first entered Indonesia on tourist visas, but that it is not difficult for them to then get student visas, once the student has registered at an educational institution. (TP) Three ambassadors present credentials to president
President Gusmco on Wednesday received Letters of Credentials from the Ambassadors to three countries, Poland, Singapore and New Zealand.
The President welcomed the credentials, praising the three Ambassadors and their respective countries. He expressed his faith in the development of good relations between Poland and Timor-Leste, praised Singapore's commitment to bilateral assistance for Timor-Leste's development, and expressed his appreciation for New Zealand's assistance in providing scholarships to Timorese students. (STL, TP, DT)
President of Commission D threatened to resign
It is reported that President of Commission D of National Parliament responsible for Agriculture, Fishery and Environment, Flavio da Silva, threatened to resign partly due to the regret and unsatisfactory gesture from his part over the hidden and one-sided decision of the Parliament's Administration Department to cancel the visit of the Commission to Oecussi District.
The official visit of the Commission to Oecussi, planned for 13 December, had been officially agreed by the plenary session and received official permission from the President of National Parliament Francisco Guterres "Lu-Olo" in accordance with the internal regiment. In yesterday's plenary session, da Silva angrily expressed his anger in a written note addressed to the President of Parliament, demanding him to immediately look into the matter and find an alternative solution for it.
"If the case is not dealt with soon, then there will be no solution. If in the future the condition continues as it is now, I will be ready to resign from the post," da Silva said. In response to the protest launched by his fellow parliamentarian, President Lu-olo said that he appreciated the fact that Mr. da Silva openly and strongly expressed his protest over the work of Parliament's Administration Department. According to Lu-Olo, such protest will be able to improve the work-plan of the visits of the Commissions, adding that as parliamentarians, they have the obligation to strengthen the legislative institution in order to function better and effectively in the future. (STL)
Lu-Olo appealed to MPs to consider TFC seriously and sincerely President of National Parliament Francisco Guterres "Lu-Olo" appealed to all MPs to consider the policy of Truth and Friendship Commission in a serious and sincere manner. It is reported that the appeal was made in relation to the political statement presented officially by the President of Timor's People Party (PPT), Jacob Xavier in yesterday's plenary session.
PPT's statement stated that those who demand that the United Nations establish an international tribunal, means that they wish to have war again with Indonesia, adding that if justice is put aside, then Timor-Leste wants to create friendship with Indonesia in order to live in prosperity in the future. "For us, as the people's representatives, it is important that we analyse TFC's policy from various perspectives, " Lu-Olo said. In addition, Lu-Olo said that since it is democracy, it will be much better to create space for civil societies to express their opinions on CTF. "Let them speak. Then, we will look into the matter and consider how to make decisions in favour of the people's interests." (STL)
Martins: Police intervene Timor Block Building due to security
PNTL Commander Paulo Fatima Martins said the police intervened against lawyer Angelo Neves of NGO Advokasaun Tane Timor because of mobilising people to enter a residential/property area without authorisation.
Martins said the tranquility of those living in the area was disrupted by the workers and added that the detention of the lawyer was legal. "First the police ordered the lawyer to leave the area, but he reacted against the police, they thus had to take other measures to defend themselves," the PNTL commander said. (STL)
PNTL to establish 15 more border posts and recruit in January
Speaking after his meeting with the Commission B of the National Parliament, Vice Minister of Interior, Alcino Barris, told media that as of January 2006 PNTL will start a new recruitment process of police officers in order to enhance the requirement of police personnel at the border areas. It was also reported that apart from Vice Minister Alcino Barros, the General Commandant of PNTL and the Director of Immigration also attended the meeting. Meanwhile, TP reports Vice Minister Barris as confirming that PNTL will also try to establish 15 border posts in the regions of Suai, Maliana and Oecussi districts. (STL, TP)
December 21, 2005
Protest against dissolving clandestine network
The signing of an Accord by the Fretilin Central Committee (CCF) to dissolve the clandestine network has provoked strong protest from representatives of the Baucau District network. When the representatives from each district were called to the front of the meeting held at CCF headquarters on Tuesday, to sign the Accord which would formally hand over the network to the CCF and dissolve the clandestine organization, the Baucau District representative refused to sign, with the reason that the clandestine network, which participated strongly in the movement for national liberation, has not received any formal acknowledgement of its contribution from the Fretilin leadership.
The Baucau representative threatened to withdraw from his position as Vice-President of the Veterans Association, if the Fretilin leadership do not respond to this concern.
Fretilin Secretary General Mari Alkatiri and Fretilin President Francisco Guterres eventually accepted two of the demands put forward, that is to formally recognize the clandestine network affiliated to Fretilin, and to create a mechanism to collect remnants of the war that some members of the network are still storing at home. (STL) President Gusmco plans 2006 workshop with victims
President Xanana Gusmco has said that in 2006 he will hold a workshop with victims to discuss the CAVR report, as well as related government policy. At a symbolic ceremony to hand over the CAVR keys to the CAVR Technical Administration on Tuesday, the President stated that the government is very pleased with the work of CAVR, and that its recommendations will be considered for implementation. He emphasized that the government is abiding by its policy that the CAVR report be transparent, and that nothing in the report be covered up. (STL)
Goodbye to democracy and human rights if penal code applied
Once the new Penal Code is applied, it will be goodbye to democracy and human rights due to the large impact that the Code will have on the media, according to President of the Lawyers Association of Timor-Leste, Benevides Correia Barros. Barros is concerned that Articles 172-175 that relate to defamation will impact negatively on press freedom, as journalists will feel that they must exercise caution in reporting. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the process of the drafting and approval of the law, which did not involve any kind of public hearing, and of which the final version is written in Portuguese with no translation. He questioned whether the law was developed by and in the interests of Timor-Leste itself, or whether it has been copied from elsewhere. (STL)
Jacob Xavier: Many MP's want justice
Many Timorese, including Members of Parliament, want to see justice applied to Indonesian generals, according to PPT MP Jacob Xavier. In PPT's policy declaration in Tuesday's plenary session in Parliament, Xavier said that either Timor-Leste or the United Nations must make efforts to have these generals arrested. (STL)
PM Alkatiri: First Justify history then former combatants
Speaking during a public audience on the proposed bill for former combatants of national liberation at the Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri was quoted as saying that there is a need to have the courage to provide justice first to history before providing it to the combatants. Moreover, Alkatiri said that people should know well who started the national liberation struggle and how it was started, and that was considered as history, then there would be a clear identification and criteria for those who should actually be recognized for his or her contribution for the nation by the State.
In addition, Alkatiri argued that when FRETILIN turned into a political party, some people started saying that it was not FRETILIN that started the resistance. Responding to the Alkatiri's statement, MP Clementino Amaral of KOTA party stated that in order to write the history on the combatants, it is better for the young generation to do so, adding that it will not be so good if it is written by the current generation because of political interests [in the whole matter]. Besides, Prime Minister Alkatiri stated that if the law on combatants of national liberation is not clearly clarified, it will be the government that will have problems in implementing it. Therefore, he said, some articles of the proposed bill should be well worded before it is approved. (Timor Post)
Castro: Suspicion of illegal trading of Sandalwood
Cases of bribery involving trading of sandalwood raised by businessman Pedro Lay can have a bad impact for investors wishing to invest in Timor-Leste. Rui Castro said concerns of indications of corruption within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries pointed out by Lay will have a negative impact of Timor-Leste from other countries. Castro who is the President of Timor-Leste Trading Centre said if Pedro Lay passed this information on to other businessmen it could stop them from coming and investing in Timor-Leste. Castro pointed that in order to identify bribery, the Ministry of Forest and Fisheries has the competency to hold a clear investigation in order to clear its bad image as accused by Pedro Lay in the Australian media. He said the investigation must look into why Pedro Lay's contract to buy sandalwood was cancelled and to whom the contract was given as the sandalwood Pedro Lay bought is the result of illegal cutting by farmers and is being stored in the warehouse as State resources. (Timor Post)
Former Militia presence aggravate border situation
MP Clementino Amaral (KOTA) told the media on Monday, that according to the Parliament's Commission B, (in charge of foreign affairs and security) observance during a visit to the border that former militia currently living in West Timor are responsible for aggravating the situation. Amaral who is the vice-president of the commission noted the overall situation in Oecussi remains normal apart from problems from some militia still living in West Timor. He reportedly told the media that F- FDTL is required on the borders in order to guarantee security to the population, as they still do not fully trust the police. The MP added that the commission's report had been presented and that by January 2006 they will meet with the Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs and present their proposal to allocate the defence force on the borders.
In the meantime MP Francisco Branco (FRETILIN) is of the opinion that the presence of PNTL on the borders is sufficient. According to Diario Tempo the people on the borders of Oecussi, Suai and Maliana constantly demand that the State station F-FDTL officers to provide security because they feel that PNTL's BPU and URP do not have the capacity to act upon former militia infiltration from Indonesia who carry automatic weapons, citing the incident in Atabae where the police units acted too late. (DT)
Gusmco to implement CAVR's recommendations
Speaking at the dissolution of CAVR, President Gusmco confirmed to media that he would implement CAVR's recommendations in a transparent manner and that nothing from the report would be closed. He stressed that people should be curious about the report since the commission itself is now officially closed. TP mentioned that President Gusmco shed a tear when making an appeal to the youth of Timor-Leste to ensure that the dark and bloody history would not be repeated in the future. He further expressed his sincere appreciation of the work CAVR has completed, and particularly thanked those who worked in CAVR. President Gusmco stated that after 20 December 2005, it is his responsibility to further the work that CAVR had presented to him/CAVR's recommendations or requests. (Timor Post)
December 20, 2005
Gusmco comments on the veteran's bill
President Xanana Gusmco does not agree with the article in the Veteran's Bill that states that the former combatants will be recognised from 15 August 1975, because this is the date of the insurrection by Fretilin against UDT. For this reason, the President has asked the National Parliament to change the date to between 20 August 1975 and 20 September 1999. Speaking to journalists on Monday, President of Commission A, Vicente Guterres, said that the President does not agree with that date because it is not a date which recognises national liberation, but instead is a date of a coup between political parties. He explained that President Xanana also did not agree with the criteria determined for veterans to receive a pension, requesting that eight years as a combatant be changed to 15 in order to be able to receive a pension. He said that the President also suggested that family members of former combatants who have since passed away may receive the pension, taking into account their economic situation, and that those who surrendered to Indonesia, or political groups who provoked the surrender of large groups of people, should not be recognised as former combatants. Speaking in the National Parliament last Thursday, the President said that according to the data collected, there are a total of 3,150 Falintil veterans, 1,926 of whom have died, and 1,334 still alive. (TP, DT)
Council of ministers approve penal code
The approval of the penal code is a significant step for Timor- Leste, which can now stand alone with its three important legal pillars, the Penal Code Law, the Penal Processes Code, and the Civil Processes Code.
According to the Minister for Justice Domingos Sarmento, the Council of Ministers approved the Code on 6 December, which means that Timor-Leste can now cease using the Indonesian Penal Code. (DT)
NP strongly protests camera confiscation
The most recent camera confiscation by police Inspector Eugenio Pereira during the arrest of Lawyer Angelo Neves and Mario Lay has provoked strong protest from members of the National Parliament in particular from the PDC, PD, Fretilin and KOTA factions. MP Antonio Ximenes from PDC said that such an attitude does not accord journalist's their rightful freedom to record information that is in the interest of the public. He said that the behaviour of police inspector Pereira would bring down the name of the government and in particular Fretilin. He said that if there is no freedom of press, then the people also would not have a voice. (TP)
TFC will study the status of Wiranto
Speaking to the press after the meeting of the Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC) in Jakarta on Friday, 16 December, Co-Chairman of the Commission from Indonesia, Benjamin Mankoedilaga was quoted as saying that the Commission would use the standard recommendations of the Commission of Investigation for Violations of Human Rights in Timor-Leste (KPP-HAM) as the reference to study and propose recommendations. Therefore, he said, the status of former Indonesian Military Commander Wiranto will be studied by the Truth Commission. According to Benjamin, the recommendations of KPP-HAM, established by the Indonesian National Commission of Human Rights in 1999 and all the decisions issued which have legal power, related to the incidents before and after the 1999 popular consultation, will still be used by the Truth Commission. As it was reported that the KPP-HAM recommended that former General Wiranto, as an entity that needed to ask for his accountability related to the gross violation of human rights after the 1999 referendum. Wiranto, as the Indonesian Military Commander at the time, was seen as the military top official who let the violation of human rights take place, and did nothing to stop it. (STL)
Provedor's Office to hold consultative conference
The Office of the Provedor for Justice and Human Rights is holding a consultative seminar in Dili, Hotel Timor on Wednesday, December 21, with the aim of focusing on strategies to combat corruption. Provedor Sebastico Ximenes told the media on Friday that an expert who has been working against corruption cases in Hong Kong in the past 20 years would also participate. William Bercham Erthan, an international consultant will provide orientation and share his experiences on the fight against corruption. This is the third time he will visit Timor-Leste. The last time Erthan participated in a workshop on the Integrity of the State.
Members of the National Parliament, government and civil society have been invited to participate in the workshop. (TP)
Police encourage the practice of the abuse of power
Speaking at the headquarters of PNTL yesterday, Natercia Barbosa, a Right Foundation/Yayasan Hak's lawyer told media that the arrest of the director of Advocacy Tane Liman, Angelo Neves and his vice Mario de Sousa Lay at Timor Block Building Industry on 17 December is an abuse of power.
Natercia Barbosa, who was present at PNTL headquarters confirmed that most of the lawyers who were there to provide moral support to their colleagues.
She also confirmed that their two colleagues did not deserve to be detained particularly without any arrest warrants from the court and that it is against the constitution of the country. TP also reported on the clarification given by PNTL Investigation Commandant, Marcus Siquira A Nunes regarding the chronology of the complicated case involving the arrest of the two lawyers from Advocacy Tane Liman. (TP)
MPs urge Minister Lobato to improve BPU's conditions
Speaking during the National Parliament plenary session yesterday, MPs urged the Minister of Interior, Rogerio Lobato to make use of the existing funds (US $75, 000) to improve the working conditions of the BPU police, STL reported. Members of Parliament, Joco Goncalves, Liandro Isaac, Clementino dos Reis Amaral, Alexandre Corte-real and Antonio Cardoso stressed on the above matter following the National Parliament Commission B's recent visit to the border region. STL also reported on Commission B's report regarding the difficulties faced by the local border community and vital concerns that UPF/BPU is facing particularly in transport and communication radios, and UPF out of condition posts. MP Goncalves told the plenary that he urged the Minister Lobato to address the difficulties faced by UPF/BPU. MP Isaac and dos Reis demanded Minister Lobato's clarification on the whereabouts of the approved budget. (STL)
December 17/19, 2005
International Tribunal: Timorese chasing each other like cat and mouse
The issue of an International Tribunal could give rise to instability, with the pursuit of justice causing Timorese to chase each other like cat and mouse. Speaking to STL on Friday in relation to the conflicting views of civil society, the Church and the Government on the Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC), President of the Socialist Party of Timor Pedro da Costa said that even though the demand for an International Tribunal is reasonable, the reality for Timor-Leste is that it is not financially capable of funding such a Tribunal at the current time. He said that the government policy on the TFC aims to contribute to the creation of regional and national stability. He said that even though he is defending the government's policy, it does not mean that he has forgotten the importance of justice, but just that it is national stability that is important for the future. He added that sooner or later justice would eventually be realised. (STL)
Police confiscate journalist's camera
There has been another case of camera confiscation, in which a Timor Post journalist filming the arrest of lawyer Angelo Neves had his digital camera confiscated by Dili District Police Commander Inspector Eugenio Pereira. It is reported that after seizing the camera, the Commander requested the journalist's identification card, and then ordered him to leave the site, the Timor Block Building Industry in Comoro. It is as yet not known when the camera will be returned. (STL)
Alkatiri: Criticise me and not just Xanana
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has asked civil society and the Church to not just criticize President Xanana, as he (PM) also signed the TFC Accord, and if he had not signed, then the Commission would not be going ahead.
Speaking at a press conference at the International Airport on Saturday upon return from his visit to Cuba, the Prime Minister emphasized his involvement in the establishment of the Commission, saying that if the President had been the only signatory then it would not have been possible for the Commission to be established. He also told civil society and the Church that if they do not properly understand the work of the Commission, he is prepared to hold a discussion with them. (STL, JND)
NTT Police and PNTL Cooperate in the Fight of Terrorism
It is reported that Director of Police Intelligence for NTT Region (Indonesia), Mohammad Irawan arrived in Dili yesterday to discuss cooperation with PNTL in the fight against terrorism. Speaking to the press upon the arrival of his Indonesian guest, PNTL's General Commander Paulo Fatima Martins reportedly explained that it was true that the visit of Commander Irawan to Timor-Leste is to establish coordination and cooperation in facing the threat of terrorism. "NTT Police finds it important and necessary to establish relations with PNTL because currently Indonesian becomes the target of terrorists groups", Martins said.
Moreover, Martins said that as a new institution in a newly independent country, it is very necessary for PNTL to establish cooperation with Indonesian Police in order to tackle the terrorist groups, adding that through such cooperation, PNTL will have the chance to enhance its capacity. For this purpose, Martins said, PNTL has sent a number of its officers to Indonesia for training in the area of terrorism. (STL)
PM Alkatiri and MP on TL Bilateral Ties with Cuba
Speaking to the media upon his return to Dili from an official visit to Cuba Prime Minister Alkatiri said the visit was positive. The Prime Minister visited the Timorese currently studying in Cuba and reportedly said that by 2010 or 2012 Timor- Leste would have around 800 to 1,000 doctors and hopefully another 170 more Timorese would leave this month to join the others in that country. Mari Alkatiri said that during the visit Timor-Leste officials also learned the system used in Cuba to develop its education sector and before the end of December a delegation from Cuba on illiteracy would visit the country. On remarks that the Prime Minister was making propaganda on Cuba and whether the visit would have an impact on ties between Timor- Leste and the United States of America, the Prime Minister said he was speaking the truth and stressed that Timor-Leste does not have enemies rather only friends and that "because we want to develop faster the two areas [medicine and education], the USA would better understand that than anyone else". He added that currently the United States is facing shortages with doctors therefore it would be hard for America to send 300 doctors to Timor-Leste and on top who would be responsible for their salaries, noting that the salary of one USA doctor can pay 30 Cuban doctors.
In Saturday's edition, Timor Post reported MP Rui Menezes (PD) as reportedly stating that by sending Timorese to study in Cuba, Prime Minister Alkatiri is trying to turn Timor-Leste into a Cuba in the Asian region. "The politics which the government is choosing, in sending Timorese to Cuba with the aim of transforming Timor into Cuba, with the argument that Cuba is one of the most important foreign countries to the government," Menezes reportedly said.
MP Riak Leman (PSD) said Timor-Leste must be open to other nations that want to provide support to Timorese to study in their countries and not concentrate mainly in Cuba. "Every year Timorese are sent to Cuba. This can create a negative impact from other nations that have committed themselves to the liberation of Timor-Leste's struggle. I think Timor-Leste must be open to other nations that want to support us, we should not incline only to one nation," Leman stressed. (STL, TP) 150 Timorese Student Are Likely Illegally in West Timor
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Josi Ramos-Horta informed TP that in 2004 about 150 Timorese students in Kupang, West Timor did not have student visas. Ramos-Horta said in August 2004 he personally met with the students and learned that they were using tourist visas to be able to study there. "Many of our students are illegal in Kupang. Ask them what visa they are using in Kupang. I met some of them in Kupang, and they went with a tourist visa, about 150 of them," he told the media last week, noting that the procedures does not comply with Timor-Leste and Indonesia legislation saying it would make it harder for them to try and get a new student visa in Indonesia. The Foreign Minister has instructed Timor-Leste's embassy and consulate not to support these students in case they have problems. They can only provide support to those who have visas. "My instructions are to not support them.
If they want they should return to Timor-Leste and follow the right procedures. The embassy should not be concerned with those not abiding by the laws in TL and Indonesia, and then question and pester the embassy," Ramos-Horta said adding, "those with correct student visas, the embassy will try and help according to its competencies. The embassy's competencies are according to their legal situation and if there were any problems the embassy and consul would try and help them and not those who are entering Indonesia illegally. (TP)
Government should pay attention to Timorese at Bayu Udan
Deputy Chief of Commission F of the National Parliament, Antonio Ximenes appealed to the government of Timor-Leste to take measures to protect Timorese workers, who are experiencing discrimination by Conoco Philips and PEA on Bayu Undan, Timor Sea exploration, reported Timor Post. MP Ximenes made the above appeal in relation to the statement by a Timorese worker, Joco Paulo Adito Perreira, who expressed his dissatisfaction related to the working system that put a lot of pressure and discrimination against Timorese workers at Bayu Undan. He added that he is concerned with the few Timorese workers who are currently working in Timor Sea exploration since there are currently many workers from Indonesia, America and other countries, such as, the Philippines. He also expects that MP Jose Lobato, who will be visiting the site of exploration, would be able to address any existing concerns. He also stated that if the discrimination takes place due to laziness, then it would be better to replace those Timorese with others who are capable. In response to this, the Prime Minister reports in DT that the salaries offered to the Timorese is based on the national salary scale, and this indicates why there is a difference in their salaries. (TP, DT)
December 15, 2005
Horta: Government not critical of Church's position
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos Horta has said that the government is not critical of the Church for writing a letter to the UN Secretary-General regarding an International Tribunal. However it is the government that has the right to implement its policy regarding this issue. In a special interview on Wednesday, Minister Horta reiterated to TP that the government does not support the establishment of an International Tribunal, as the government does not believe that only an International Tribunal can provide justice, and it has seen that such tribunals in other parts of the world have spent a lot of money, but not achieved anything. He said that the letter from the Timor-Leste Catholic Church to the UN Secretary-General does not impact upon the government's policy regarding the TFC. Asked whether the government plans on disseminating the Terms of Reference of the Commission to the general community so that they may understand it better, Horta replied that the TFC Commissioners plan to conduct a programme of dissemination in Dili and Suai in January 2006, in which it is planned will also involve the Indonesian TFC Commissioners. He also said that the Commissioners are not receiving a salary but an honorary payment, as they are not in permanent positions so the payments that they are receiving cannot be considered a salary. When asked his opinion on complaints that the government is spending a lot of money on the Commission but does not care to assist the people themselves in their everyday lives, Horta replied that those people should first find out the facts of the amount of money that the government is spending on the Commission (US $500 000), before saying such things. (TP)
No reconciliation without acknowledgement of wrongdoing
Director of the Peace and Justice Commission for the Baucau Diocese, Father Martinho Gusmao, has questioned whom reconciliation is supposed to be conducted with, because as Indonesia refuses to recognise its wrongdoing, reconciliation and peace is impossible. He said that Fretilin is more concerned with defending the TFC than defending the truth, and that it is not possible for there to be forgiveness or pardon if Indonesia refuses to recognise its wrongdoing. (TP)
Establishment of TFC a political decision
The decision to establish the Truth and Friendship Commission is a political decision reached by the Timor-Leste government, National Parliament and President. Speaking to TP on Wednesday, political and military analyst Julio Tomas Pinto said that in any newly established country there is bound to be some discrepancy between government policy and the aspirations of society. He also said that many people are still confused about the function of the CAVR, as its findings and recommendations have not yet been published. (TP)
Abuse of authority has undermined image of judiciary
Leader of the KOTA faction in the National Parliament Clementino dos Reis Amaral has said that the case of abuse of authority involving the Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro has undermined the image of the Prosecution in the eyes of the community. "The Dili District Prosecution must be accountable for goods seized and returned to the rightful owner in accordance with the decision of the Court of Appeal", Amaral told journalists on Wednesday. He expressed his disappointment in the actions of the Prosecution in deliberately and in an organised fashion seizing another's property. (STL)
Horta Concerns with 2007 Elections
In an interview with Diario Tempo the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and the President of Peace and Democracy Foundation, Josi Ramos-Horta said he is concerned with the upcoming elections in 2007. "I think there would be tensions in the 2007 elections due to many factors, therefore the foundation's concern starting today with the voting in the sub- districts, is to avoid tensions that might lead to violence," Ramos-Horta said, noting that if any violence occurs it would damage Timor-Leste's good reputation built since 1999 to date. "This is a small organisation and it cannot perform miracles to solve all the problems but would count with all its members in Timor-Leste who have received mediation training to help resolve any conflict within their community," Ramos-Horta added. The Minister emphasised that the Timorese people lived for decades under violence and oppression and only found freedom through the 1999 voting. Ramos-Horta said, "the roots of peace in Timor-Leste are still not secure, it still is fragile. Although the roots are long, in reality it has shown that peace is already embedded among us". The Peace and Democracy Foundation held a three-day mediation workshop for its members in Dili from 8-11 December. He appealed to the foundation to work harder and closer with communities, civil society and the church to help the Government promote a culture of peace and democracy in Timor-Leste and not violence. (Diario Tempo)
40 members of OSNACO were arrested
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Deputy Commander of PNTL in charge of Operations Inspector Ismail Babo had been reportedly confirming that at least 40 OSNACO members, including its leader, Marcus Ruin Falur were arrested on Tuesday by PNTL during a joint operation, adding that the arrest was conducted because their presence is considered to have created unrest for the local population in Turiscai, Ainaro District. According to Babo, the joint operation involved Ainaro Police Task Force, Police Reserve Unit, national intelligence unit and some units from PNTL Headquarters. "The operation conducted was also based on the information that the OSNACO group owns fire arms. We then carried out the house search", Babo said.
However, he said that the result of the search showed that no firearms were found. It is reported that those 40 OSNACO members including its leader are currently detained in PNTL's cell for investigation, and they will be later brought to court. OSNACO is a mass organisation, founded after Timor-Leste was separated from Indonesia through 30 August 1999 referendum. From the very beginning, the activities of the group were seen as worrying with regards to the security and stability of the country. (STL, RTTL)
Horta's statement represents dictatorship and anti-democracy
Reports of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Ramos Horta's public statement declaring that members of Timor-Leste civil society who do not agree with the Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC) have the right to their opinions but do not have any moral authority to criticize President Xanana Gusmco has received pros and cons from various levels of community members, Timor Post reported. MP Francisco Branco and Leandro Isaac told media that as a democratic country, everyone has the right, as written in the constitution, to intervene and criticise anybody in the country. MP Isaac further added that "if President Gusmco should be not criticised because of CTF/TFC it would mean that there is a will to create dictatorship in Timor-Leste." Meanwhile, MP Lucia Lobato of PSD told Timor Post that Minister Horta's statement is an anti-democracy statement because it scares the population to criticise Timor-Leste leadership whenever there is a wrong doing committed by the leadership in this country." When asked about President Gusmco's contribution to the Independence of Timor-Leste, Ms Lobato responded by saying, "It's an irrational comparison", and argued that civil society also contributed to the independence of Timor-Leste by supporting President Gusmco's fight for independence, otherwise independence would never have been reached. Another Timor-Leste's daily quoted MP Lobato as saying, "President Gusmco is not GOD to conduct everything correctly, and that he should be adored everyday". She added that it is normal in any democratic country for people to criticise President (Xanana Gusmco), Prime Minister (Mari Alkatiri), Minister of Foreign Affairs (Jose Ramos Horta) or members of parliament. (TP, STL, 1)
24 years former combatants will receive USD100-USD123
Government of Timor-Leste through the Ministry of Labour and Community Reinsertion has prepared a plan to provide subsidies to 36 former combatants/veterans for 24 years in the range of USD100 to USD123, equal to government employees at levels II and III, reported Jornal Nacional Diario. According to an interview with Minister Arsenio Bano, it was confirmed that the Council Minister has approved a bill on veterans called subsidy of valorisation of veterans on December 6.
Minister Bano also confirmed that his ministry has cooperated with F-FDTL Chief of Staff, and Colonel Lere Annan's Timor office to acquire data on the referred veterans. When asked about the length of the programme, Minister Bano confirmed that the programme would be running for a year with a total budget of USD51,267.84 for the first phase of the programme which started on November 1st. When asked about the specification of the amount one deserves, it was clarified that those who served as commanders will receive a subsidy USD123 while ordinary soldiers will be given USD100. (JND)
December 14, 2005
Horta on Civil Society's Moral Authority to Criticize Xanana
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos Horta has said that members of Timor-Leste civil society who do not agree with the Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC) have the right to their opinions but do not have any moral authority to criticize President Xanana Gusmco.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday after participating in the World Bank/Government Consultative Meeting at the Government Palace, Horta declared that President Gusmco's contribution to the independence of this country is more meaningful than all of Timor-Leste civil society. He said that civil society is arrogant, believing that only their opinion is correct, and that the government's is incorrect, adding that civil society must realize that the President has been elected by the people. Regarding the letter sent by the Catholic Church to the UN Secretary General recommending the establishment of an International Tribunal, Horta said that it is not the Secretary General himself who will deal with the matter, but the Security Council, and that if such a court were to be established the Church and Civil Society must then be prepared to accept the consequences, such as an impact on relations with Indonesia and other countries in the region. (STL)
World Bank Proud of Developments in Timor-Leste
The World Bank is proud of Timor-Leste's development in the past three years, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos Horta. Speaking after the first Consultative Meeting held between the World Bank and the Government, Horta said that the Bank told the Government that it is very pleased that even though it has only been three years, Timor-Leste continues to demonstrate progress. "The World Bank Chief who has come here said that he has been to many countries, but has never seen an experience like Timor-Leste's, where in three years Timor-Leste has made significant progress", related Horta. He said that as such the Timor-Leste government is also very proud to receive such recognition from the World Bank. (TP, STL)
MP Gongalves: CAVR Work Pertinent
Member of the PSD bench in the National Parliament, Joao Mendes Goncalves has said that the CAVR recommendations are pertinent and justified, considering the extensive contact that the CAVR had with victims and the public hearings that they held. He said that he thinks some of the recommendations can be accepted and implemented immediately, while others will be difficult to implement. Speaking to journalists at the National Parliament yesterday in relation to the President's statement that the CAVR report is imaginary, Goncalves said that the President has the right to express his opinion, but this does not mean that everyone must agree with him, and indeed some people will disagree. He said that the President's statement shows that he is more concerned with the security and stability of the state, but that in his (Goncalves') opinion, while this and good relations with Indonesia are important, it is also important not to forget the demands of the victims for justice and the truth. (TP)
President criticizes Indonesian NGOs
President Xanana Gusmco has criticized some Indonesian NGOs who insist on talking about the 1999 violence in Timor-Leste, but who do not look to incidents in their own country such as the 1984 Tanjung Priok massacre, among others. Speaking at the airport on Monday on his return from Malaysia, in response to Hendardi's (from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute) comments that the establishment of the TFC has saved Indonesia from having to bring the masterminds of the 1999 violence to justice, the President said that although he does not wish to offend friends in Indonesia, it is not just Timor-Leste that owes democratic society in Indonesia for helping to bring down Soeharto, but that each owes the other, as they also used the war in Timor-Leste to bring down Soeharto. (TP, STL)
CAQR will present Report to Gusmco in late December
It is reported that the Commission for Resistance Cadres Affairs (CAQR) will present its final report to President Xanana Gusmco on 31 December.
Speaking to Timor Post on Monday, the Coordinator for the Commission Vasco Gama a.k.a Criado stated that the report to be presented to President Gusmco covers the activities of the Commission, including its structure, as well as the database on the total number of resistance members who have died, those who are still alive and those who have not been listed.
Moreover, he said that a total number of the resistance members who have been listed is around 39,800 people, adding that the list of these people will be shown publicly both at national and district level in order to anticipate any claims from the community on its legitimacy. (TP)
MP Santos: The Church Is Against the Principle of Truth When Sending letter to UN Secretary General on Truth and Friendship Commission
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, MP Joaquim Santos of the ruling party, Fretilin had been quoted as arguing that Timor-Leste's Church sending a letter to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, urging him not to support the Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC) shows that the Church is against the principle of truth, which it has been defending so far. "I am not saying that the Church is now involved in practical politics, and in principle the Church wishes to seek for truth, and now the Church questions the existence of TFC which is mandated to seek truth which the Church has been defending" said dos Santos. Moreover, dos Santos argued that the Church and the religious institutions of Timor- Leste should have supported the establishment of TFC since TFC's mandate is to seek for truth and create friendship among the people of the two nations. "We respect the freedom of expression of individuals, institutions and organizations with regards to the policy of TFC, and all people can mark their position as Timorese. However, we should bear in mind that the establishment of TFC is to clarify the truth on the process of war for the last 24 years. In the past Timorese and foreigners have testified for CAVR except the Indonesians, and that is the problem," dos Santos argued. In addition, dos Santos argued, "I am not sure which one is the truth; the one which is taught by the Church or the one that was initiated by the two countries? The religion teaches us to forgive each other, and the state takes the position to reconcile so that the people can accept each other, but the Church considers it to be wrong." (STL)
Victims confused due to the lack of information on CTF/TFC
Domingas Maria, a victim of human rights violation told media that the national dialogue held at Dom Bosco Comoro hall sponsored by the church entitled, "Placing Justice in its right place" brought much confusion to the victims of human rights violation because they were not aware of the Commission of Truth and Friendship/Truth and Friendship Commission (CTF/TFC), reported Diario Tempo. She argued that the above situation occurred due to lack of information from CTF/TFC to the public, particularly the victims of human rights. Responding to the above concerns, the President of Timor-Leste's CTF/TFC commissioner, Dionisio Babo told media that the public or the victims of the human rights violations are confused about the nature of CTF/TFC due to the lack of access to information regarding CTT/TFC. He added the concern of the public or victims of human rights violations over the clarification is another aspect of the commission's work -- to spread information as well as to provide clarification to the public in Timor-Leste over their concerns.
Babo further stated that CTF/TFC was created based on Timor-Leste government's policy which is based on social, political, economic and cultural constraints that Timor-Leste is facing. He also stressed that CTF/TFC is established to reveal the truth together with Indonesia's government but not to take people to court. Meanwhile, the President of ASDT, Francisco Xavier do Amaral stated at the National Parliament that "justice would always be sought in whichever country. But, making Indonesia face the International Tribunal is a suicide for Timor-Leste. He added that Timor-Leste should play a justice that would save its current and future generations or otherwise the Independence the country has now means nothing at all. (DT)
December 10-12, 2005
NGO signs accord with Government on credit for women
The Minister for Labour and Community Reinsertion, the Microfinance Institution, Training Centres from four regions and other organizations on Friday signed an accord regarding credit assistance for Timor-Leste women's groups. The NGO Tuba Rai Metin, which runs microfinance programmes for women in several districts, will work together with the Ministry of Labour and Community Reinsertion and the ILO in Timor-Leste to strengthen Timorese women's capacity for the future. Speaking after signing the accord, Tuba Rai Metin Executive Director Jose Adriano Gusmao explained that the micro-credit programme is important in enabling women to work on their own in establishing their every day livelihoods. (TP)
Debate over reason for Koni Santana's death
Resistance leader Nino Koni Santana died because he was ill, according to ex-Secretary of Region IV, Riak Leman. Speaking in the National Parliament on Friday, Leman said that Santana was not killed, but died due to an illness. He said that many people are now interested in knowing the cause of death of some of the former resistance leaders.
Speaking at the Resistance Museum after its inauguration by President Gusmao last Wednesday, former Region Secretary Jose Agostinho Sequeira, also known as Somoco, said that a discussion on the reason for Santana's death should not be made public, as it could cause a civil war. He said that such a discussion was best left to leaders like President Xanana Gusmao. (DT, STL)
MP Paixco: Veterans' bill should be socialized
Speaking to the press last Tuesday, MP Maria Paixco of the Social Democratic Party had been reportedly quoted as saying that the Veterans' bill should be socialized among the communities in the districts, adding that this is due to the fact many community members are not aware of the information on the bill, and arguing that her party does not want any bad precedent from the resistance members to happen because they feel that there are so many items that are not incorporated in the bill. "I find it pertinent to have public hearings in the districts on the bill. This will show that we really uphold our democratic principles," Paixco said. (TP)
MP Buras: No will to solve the problem of former public servants
Speaking to the media last Friday, MP Josi Buras of Democratic Party noted that both Timor-Leste and Indonesian governments have no good political will to solve the problem of former Timorese public servants who had been abandoned after the 30 August 1999 referendum. Moreover, Buras argued that the two governments should have resolved the matter because the former public servants are part of the Timorese community who still have the working relationship with Indonesian government, adding that during the Indonesian period they had served the Indonesian government. Therefore, he said, the Indonesian government should have had the great desire to keep paying the salaries of its former employees even though now they are no longer Indonesian citizens. In addition, Buras said that if both governments manage to solve the problems of refugees and the former public servants, Timorese citizens who are now in West Timor will come back to Timor-Leste, and they will not become the burden for the people and the government of Indonesia. (STL, DT)
December 9, 2005
Resistance Archive Museum Important for Timor: Gusmco
President Gusmco inaugurated the Resistance Archive Museum in Dili on Wednesday, 7th December and appealed to the Timorese people still holding documents and anything pertaining to the resistance to archive in the museum rather than keeping it at home.
Gusmco appealed to the elder generation to take their children to visit the museum in order for them to know about the history of Timor-Leste, adding that the programme for the archives are not yet complete. Dozens of former combatants, diplomatic corps, members of parliament, government representatives witnessed the inauguration of the Arquivo e Museu da Reistjncia Timorense (AMRT) described by the Portuguese historian Josi Mattoso in the "lulik" context (meaning "sacred" in Tetum). A total of 12,000 documents, about half of the existing documents, have been transformed to digital format. The process of collecting the documents began in 2002 when archives belonging to commandant [Nino] Konis Santana were discovered in Mirtuto, Ermera District. Foundations Xanana Gusmco, Mario Soares and Oriente, Caixa Geral de Depositos, Ensul, Instituto Camoes, Timor Telecom, Veterans and Resistance Association and Lusa News agency have sponsored the project. (TP, Lusa, STL, DN)
7th of December Commemorated with Demonstration 7 December is the date that Indonesia invaded Timor-Leste in 1975. On that day this year, Timorese and in particular Timorese youth in Dili commemorated the anniversary with a range of activities, including a demonstration, a speaker's podium, and scattering of flowers at the port, the site of many Timorese deaths in the past. Spokesperson for the Timor-Leste Students Front, Sisto dos Santos said that the objective of the speaker's podium was to put forward a range of perspectives on the struggle for justice, and to demonstrate to the public and the United Nations that the Timorese people are very concerned with the struggle for justice. He said that the Timorese people and in particular the students believe that justice is not just represented in self- determination but that the perpetrators of the crimes must be taken to an international tribunal. He added that justice should not be a political compromise but that it must be something based on the law. (TP)
HIV/AIDS Congress Important Step: Arazjo
The HIV/AIDS Congress is an important step for the development of activities to counter the HIV/AIDS virus in Timor-Leste. According to Minister of Health Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo, speaking on Tuesday at the two-day Congress, the Congress is a positive step for the Ministry of Health in countering the virus. In the closing session of the Congress, the Minister reminded participants that the Congress had arrived at ten important points to follow in the campaign, as well as in relation to the projects that they have implemented in the past three years. (TP)
TFC Closes Eye to RDTL Constitution (DN)
The organizing committee for the national dialogue, Fr. Martinho G da Silva Gusmco reportedly said, according to him there are manipulations in interpreting the Constitution and legislation of Timor-Leste, which would become worst to the legal system citing as an example the TFC neglect of the article 160. Fr.
Gusmco said that to date the National Parliament has not ratified the CVA and that the commission has not mentioned the possibilities of establishing a formal justice in order to realise substantial justice. He noted that CVA has only put their interest on politics and into one group and are only interested in the truth and friendship between the peoples, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. "We see a political arrogance from TFC to write about the truth as a new paradigm of which they are the only ones that want and trust. Fr. Martinho Gusmco said the social impact upon the people is that TFC want to forget and close the victims and their families wounded hearts relating to 1999 and the commission is not looking to the victims interest about the "truth". He said the "establishing of the National Committee is to focus on the political of discourse to find and open a better process and political communication with conditions for compassion between those in the TFC and the victims and their families and all the people who has goodwill to speak correctly and from the heart".
December 7, 2005
Lu Olo: 7 December has significant meaning for Timor-Leste
President of the National Parliament, Francisco Guterres or Lu Olo and MP Clementino Amaral reportedly told the media that December 7th is a significant day for Timor-Leste since it is the day when suffering began and many lives were lost after the Indonesian invasion in 1975. Lu Olo added that despite the loss, the December 7th invasion also brought courage to the Timorese people, who then stood up to defend Timor-Leste's independence which was declared on 28 November 1975. He further appealed to honour December 7 as a day of remembrance. (TP, STL)
Alkatiri: Not yet time for private sector to manage power supply
Considering the current situation where many people are still not paying for electricity, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has said it is necessary for the government to continue to invest in the power sector, as no investors are willing to do so, faced with the reality that many people are consuming power without paying.
Speaking after participating in a seminar about the power sector held at the World Bank, Alkatiri reportedly said that only the government has the capacity to support this function. He said that the workshop was very important because Timor-Leste needs to develop an energy policy that will create appropriate electricity conditions to encourage foreign investors to invest in Timor- Leste. (TP)
Horta: Atabae shooting not involving militia
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Josi Ramos-Horta has said that the recent Atabae shooting was not between police and militia but between the police themselves, and that the female police officer who was injured was not shot by militia but by a fellow police officer. Speaking to journalists on Tuesday at the inauguration of the East Timor Development Agency's (ETDA) new offices in Comoro, Minister Horta said that he has heard that there were some ex-militia in the concerned area, but that they were not carrying guns as such, only air rifles for shooting birds. He said that he did not believe this incident would affect Timor-Leste-Indonesia relations. (TP, STL)
CAVR President: Timorese will accept CAVR report with maturity
Based on CAVR's experience while carrying out public meetings around the country, the Timorese people will accept the CAVR report with maturity, according to CAVR President Aniceto Guterres Lopes. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Guterres Lopes said that it is normal that there will be some people who will not be happy with the report, but he emphasised that, "this report has come from all people involved in the CAVR process, and the important thing is that the report is now going back to all the Timorese people". He said that it is now up to the President to disseminate the report to the community, and until that time the report will remain confidential. (TP) 30 People are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS
Based on the data released by the Ministry of Health, there are now 30 people who have tested positive for HIV ? the virus that causes AIDS.
Secretary of the Health Ministry Feliciano da C. A. Pinto revealed to journalists during the opening of the national congress on HIV/AIDS prevention. "In order to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Timor-Leste, the Ministry of Health is now organizing a national congress on HIV/AIDS prevention where civil society, local and international NGOs are invited to disseminate factual information on HIV/AIDS to communities. These communities still do not know what HIV/AIDS is and how dangerous it can be," Feliciano Pinto said. (JNC)
December 8, 2005
Guterres: Gusmco's statement on CAVR's report creates conflict
Speaking at a Press Conference at the office of CAVR, Aniceto Guterres Lopes told media that President Gusmco's statement about CAVR's report is only creating conflict, Diario Tempo reported. He added that in order to better understand the report, its context and reasons, it is better for those who are not satisfied with the CAVR report to read it thoroughly in order to understand the mandate given to CAVR. By saying this, Mr Lopes does not mean to imply that President Gusmco has not read the report because President Gusmco's view is a political one. But, he reminded others (including the public) not to just read the report bit by bit before drawing a conclusion. He added that CAVR's mandate itself is a political one that is called reconciliation and accountability. Therefore, what CAVR has been doing is collecting facts regarding violation of human rights, the factors of the violation, such as internal factors which relate to the immaturity of the Timorese during those time of the conflict, and external factors, which relate to Indonesia's invasion of Timor- Leste.
Aniceto Guterres Lopes stated that since CAVR's work is about accountability, there should be justice for the perpetrators of human rights. In relation to the report of CAVR, Diario Tempo quoted the director of Yayasan HAK (human rights foundation), Jose Luis who stated that truth and justice could only be realised if there is justice otherwise conflict may still arise. When asked about the circulating statement that reconciliation is more important than anything, Jose Luis replied that, "If there is reconciliation then there should be justice as well". He added that CAVR's report which President Gusmco presented to the government should not be treated silently like a project report but it should be made public otherwise it would affect those who were affected by their loss and experiences. When asked about President Gusmco's dissatisfaction on CAVR's report, Jose Luis stated that he understands President Gusmco's position on the national interest but it is such an abstract thing and Timor- Leste itself does not have a clear definition on the matter yet. (DT)
December 6, 2005
Babo: CTF to hold dialogue with public
Speaking to the media following his meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Horta, the President of the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), Dionisio Babo told media that the organisation would hold a dialogue on Saturday, 10th December, with the victims and civil society in Dili to discuss the work of CTF, Timor Post reported. He clarified that in the dialogue, which will be held at the Don Bosco Meeting Hall in Comoro, Dili, the commissioners will explain the mandate and work of CTF to the civil society and victims. Mr Babo also hopes that the dialogue would clarify the various perspectives on CTF. He further confirmed that as of January 2006, the Indonesian team of CTF would visit Timor-Leste as the place of the 1999 mayhem. The report also mentioned that Mr Babo would also talk to the government officials regarding the space or site needed as an office for CTF, and has requested the use of the former CAVR office. (TP) -
Minister Bano: Indonesia asks for more time to compensate former civil servants in Timor-Leste
Minister of Labour and Solidarity, Arsenio Bano told media on 05/12 that the Indonesian government has asked for more time in order to finalise the on-going preparations to pay former civil servants, police, military in Timor-Leste, reported Timor Post. The paper reports that based on the request by Timor-Leste government, the payments were supposed to be processed in December. The Minister added that his department has received information from the Indonesian Embassy that the Indonesia government is asking for an extension until January and February of 2006 from the Timor-Leste government. The reason for the extension is because the government of Indonesia is still studying documents of the ex-civil servants of Indonesia. Bano stated that the total of ex-civil servants in Timor Leste is about 17,300 people. (TP p1, TVTL)
Gusmco Opens Medicine Faculty at National University
President Gusmco officially opened the Faculty of Medicine at Timor-Leste's National University on Monday. The faculty has been established with the support of the Cuban government. President Gusmco expressed his gratitude for the support by stating "I would also like to thank the cooperation from Cuba and a big hug to commandant Fidel Castro who has been giving his support by providing doctors to attend to the health of the Timorese people". 60 medical students will participate in the courses taught mainly by Cuban doctors. In a separate article, Timor Post reported that in order to better the health system of Timor- Leste, 1,500 Timorese doctors are required according to plans of the Ministry of Health for the future into the year 2020. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri who also attended the opening of the faculty reportedly said that he is happy because in five years time the health conditions in Timor-Leste would be improved adding, "I'm happy because this is a big challenge. It is not easy to establish a faculty of medicine; therefore like I said today, we managed to open it today due to the tremendous support from Cuba in sending doctors, to assist in establishing this medicine faculty. (TP)
Prosecutor's Office Should Be More Effective
On Monday, President Gusmao reportedly conveyed a message to the Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro to improve upon the services currently provided by the prosecutor's office. According to Timor Post, the message was transmitted during an introduction meeting between an international prosecutor and Monteiro on Monday. Monteiro added that he took the opportunity to also explain to the President the overall work of the prosecutor. (TP)
Steele: Public Figures Should be Criticised Speaking during a one-day discussion with the heads of Timorese media on Monday, Janet Steele, Journalism Professor from Washington University as well as the teaching staff for Jakarta-based Journalism Institution Dr.
Soetomo, had been reportedly quoted as saying that public figures should be criticised but he or she should not bring the media to court.
Moreover, Steele said that in a democratic country, media plays an important role in providing information to the public, adding that the slogan 'the press is free but it should be responsible' should not be used [by anyone] to limit the freedom of press. It is reported that the discussion, facilitated by the Timor-Leste Media Development Centre, produced some agreements, among others, which emphasised that the media of Timor-Leste should collectively refuse any regulation that tends to limit the freedom of press. For the future, Steele expects that the authorities of Timor-Leste should really understand the freedom of press because any criticism launched by the media towards the Government [and other institutions] is part of the freedom of press that needs to be guaranteed. (STL) PNTL officers receive certificates on Basic Forensic Investigation
It is reported that 30 PNTL officers successfully completed a five-week training course of Basic Forensic Investigation, conducted under the Timor-Leste Police Development Programme. The programme is a cooperation between Timor-Leste and both Australia and British governments in developing the capacity of PNTL. Speaking during the speech of the graduation ceremony for the 30 officers last Friday, Vice Minister of Interior, Alcino Barris stated that such training was very important for the police in order to uncover cases related to forensics. "I am proud of the fact that you finally managed to complete the training with success," said Barris, adding that with the completion of the training he hopes the officers who are in charge of forensic units should be ready any time when they are needed to carry out their functions. (STL)
December 3-5, 2005
Gusmao on political parties and seats and political/civic education to the community
Speaking at the international seminar regarding the role of political parties to consolidate peace at ex-UNAMET Headquarters, President GusmC#o said that the leaders of political parties prefer to have seats at the National Parliament and pass criticism rather than upholding their responsibility to politically educate the community according to the policy of the parties, Diario Tempo reports. He added that political education is a basic fundamental of political parties with the interest of upholding democracy and peace within Timor-Leste where tolerance and respect of human rights are upheld. He further reminded the existing political parties (and the leaders) not to just approach the community when it is about campaign and election time. (TP, STL)
Ambassador Sofwan on militia infiltration
The local media reported on 05 Dec that in relation to the recent reports on the infiltration by former Halilintar militia members in Atabae sub-district of Bobonaro, Indonesian Ambassador Ahmed Bey Sofwan, confirmed there was no exchange of fire during the arrest of the three-militia members in aldeia Mota Rubu of Atabae sub-district. Meantime, the head of political and information unit, Leroy Siagian shared the statement of Ambassador Sofwan by confirming the report by the Indonesia security agencies saying that there was no gun contact during the arrest of the former three militia members. Siagian added that the three were arrested while visiting and eating with their family, STL reported. Ambassador Sofwan further added that the Indonesian government has been trying to cooperate with Timor-Leste; but "it is Timor- Leste who always claim various issues such that he does not know what Timor-Leste wants". Minister Jose Ramos Horta confirmed on a separate occasion that the incident did happen but he does not know clearly whether it has any political and criminal motive behind it. Minister Horta further stated that since Timor-Leste has arrested three members of the infiltrated militia, he would try to confirm with Interior Minister Lobato and PNTL Commissioner, Paulo Martins, to find out who are the people behind the militia's activity. (STLP p1)
Horta on Great Sunrise Agreement with Australian government and militia infiltration
(STL p 1, TP 1) Speaking to the media TL's Minister of Foreign Affairs JosC(c) Ramos-Horta said although the negotiations on Timor Sea explorations have reached an agreement, Australia and Timor-Leste, continue to defend their maritime boundaries.
"Following a long and difficult process, the technical team from Timor-Leste and Australia in the last three days managed to resolve the negotiations on the explorations in the area of the 'Greater Sunrise' in the Timor Sea," Ramos-Horta told the media last Friday. He said that the agreement of 50:50 would be signed by the two countries' Foreign Ministers in January 2006, noting that the maritime boundary negotiations have been delayed for at least 50 years. On the issue of the international convention of human rights, he said, "it is not clear regarding the exclusive economic zone". The Minister rejects accusations that the government has sold the sovereignty of this country, on the contrary it continues to defend it therefore the maritime boundary is still unresolved. Ramos-Horta added that if the opposition parties are really patriotic and receive the trust of the population in the 2007 elections to govern, then they could undo the negotiations.
Aderito de Jesus: Diplomacy of pragmatic politics
The people of Timor-Leste and the public around the world want to know the truth, therefore there is no one that can limit the publication of the CAVR report, said the Aderito de Jesus of Sahe Institution for Liberations. De Jesus reportedly said that the State sovereign like the National Parliament and the President of the Republic is obligated to pass information to the public, if not it is a political manipulation regarding the truth. According to Aderito de Jesus the politics of Timor-Leste with Indonesia is a pragmatic one, regarding the treaties starting right from the beginning. Timor-Leste diplomacy has forgotten the fundamental principles that led Timor-Leste to achieve its independence. He said the political decision has almost been an insult to the victims and the people who have fought for the truth, noting that Timor-Leste is going through a critical phase, which is the phase of dignity. "We cannot stand as a nation in the international context. Because it is not only our people having the right but all people of the world, when we speak about serious crimes, crimes against humanity which is not alone our responsibility but one of the international community," said De Jesus. He added that if the report of CAVR is not made public it would be a manipulation on the facts, the truth from the people. (TP p 1)
Interior Minister Lobato Appeals to CPD-RDTL Should Register
Speaking to the media last Friday, Minister of Interior Rogerio Tiago Lobato urged CPD-RDTL under the leadership of Antonio Aitahan Matak to register itself in order to obtain an identity as citizens since Timor-Leste has become an independent nation. Moreoever, Lobato said that if CPD-RDTL members have no ID card [as Timorese citizens], there should be a good political will from the part of CPD-RDTL to deal with such matter, adding that if there is any activity considered as disturbing the public order, and the community's security, the police as an agent of upholding law and order should intervene.
Meanwhile, CPD-RDTL General Coordinator Antonio Aitahan Matak argued that the issue of obtaining ID card has something to do with the hand-over of power from the United Nations [to Timor- Leste] based on resolution 1599, and the restoration of independence of Timor-Leste with all of its components. Aitahan Matak further argued that CPD-RDTL considers the current registration cards used by Timorese citizens continue to have the UN logo even though all the power have been handed-over to Timor-Leste as a sovereign nation, adding that the cards should be no longer be valid and there is a need to issue a new one with RDTL logo. "If Timor-Leste is an independent nation, it should have its own ID card and not using UN card as our identity. We, therefore, will continue not to accept it," Aitahan Matak said. (TP)
Two militia members of the recent infiltration held in preventive detention
It is reported that Dili District Court decided last Thursday that two militia members of the recent infiltration would be held in preventive detention pending further investigation.
The legal defender of the two militia members, Agosto dos Santos Marques told the media that the two crossed the border with the intention to visit their family. One of the militia members with the initial (HM) stated that he had crossed the border, and entered Timor-Leste almost five times before, but he was never arrested by the Police, and he questioned why he was arrested this time. The two militia members also confessed that their entering Timor-Leste was not to threaten the population but their intention was to look for sandalwood and betel nut and bring them for sale in Atambua, West Timor.
Moreover, the two militia members admitted that they were indeed involved in militia (Halilintar group) activities in the past because they were forced to do so by the [pro-integration] leaders.
They also confessed that they killed one person in 1999 but they did not know his identity, adding that the killing was done against their will; they were ordered by the Halilintar Commander. (DT)
December 2, 2005
Saldanha: Investment law needs to be modified
Executive Director of Timor Institute of Development Studies, Joao Mariano Saldanha reportedly said the recent seminar on international investment was positive but the government must look into the infrastructure.
Saldanha believes that the investment law does not attract investors to Timor-Leste due to certain things like the lack of infrastructure, the structures of investment legislation, which is not liberal and has a negative impact on the future of Timor- Leste. (TP)
President Gusmco: Civil society has four roles
President Xanana Gusmco alerted that the role of the civil society in Timor-Leste is divided into four according to the situation of the country.
The President named them as the role of development partners, control of state institutions values and principles, intervention and initiative roles. He asked the civil society in Timor-Leste to be aware and contribute positively to democracy, peace, and development. President Gusmao said the civil society does not only mean that NGOs must be aware of the democracy and peace situation in Timor-Leste, which has just come out of a conflict, but foster the value of democracy and peace. Meanwhile Prime Minister Alkatiri said the role of the civil society in the consolidation for democracy and peace its very important but they must know their role, what it is according to the constitution. Speaking to the media following the seminar Alkatiri said civil society debate does not mean to go against each other but rather for everybody to better development. He said the seminar was an initiative from his office as it is important in the development phase of this nation. The Prime Minister added that to consolidate democracy and peace it starts with economy, social and cultural developments. The Prime Minister agrees with the President that if one person completes his/her study it should not end there but should have the capacity to use the knowledge and continue. (TP)
Aniceto Guterres: CAVR's Report is not to please certain people
Speaking to the media on Thursday in response to the criticism of President Xanana Gusmco saying that the recommendations of CAVR are "grandiose idealism", former Director of CAVR, Aniceto Guterres reportedly stated that it is an individual's right whether to accept it or not, including the President of the Republic, adding that as an independent institution, the work of CAVR was not to please or to please certain people.
What concerns him and other former Commissioners the most, Guterres said, is if the President of the Republic or the Government considers that CAVR, when carrying out its work so far, has derailed from what is required by CAVR's mandate. Moreover, Guterres said that CAVR considers the national interest of Timor-Leste, but he himself understands that any Truth Commission in the world should first consider the interest of the victims over any other interests. In addition, Guterres stated that CAVR has no power to conduct the prosecution but it only recommends, and it is the court that has the decision to do so. (TP, STL)
President of Republic handed over CAVR's report to the Government
It is reported that President of Republic Kay Rala Xanana Gusmco handed over CAVR's report to the Government during the Council of Ministers meeting on Thursday.
Speaking to the media after receiving the report, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri stated that according to the law the President of the Republic should first hand it over to the Parliament, then to the Government, and finally to the UN Secretary General.
Commenting on how to follow-up on the recommendations put forwarded by the Commission, Alkatiri said that it would not be the Government alone to deal with them but the Government should coordinate with other sovereign organs of State, particularly the Parliament to look into the matter.
Meanwhile, commenting further on the report, President of Parliament Francisco Guterres "Lu-Olo" stated that now that Timor-Leste has achieved independence, and it is important to uphold justice, and there is a need to verify who the victims are, bearing in mind that they were victimized because of defending human rights.
MP Lucia Lobato of PSD said that CAVR's report has become a basis for the State of Timor-Leste to consider and follow up its recommendations, [particularly the ones] dealing with those who committed crimes, adding that these are the things that the victims expect to happen.
According to MP Alexandre Corte Real of UDT, the recommendations of the Commission will not have a major impact on the relations between Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Furthermore, Corte Real argued that many Indonesian people also want the Generals who were involved in crimes to be brought to justice, adding that in so doing, they will be held accountable on what they had done in Timor-Leste in the past. (TP, DN)
Youth Observed World Aids Day:
World Aids Day was observed in Dili yesterday with various activities from the youth and students in the Democracy Field in Dili. According to the media, the day began with a mass in the capital cathedral organised by Caritas and the rest of the event organized by the NGO Fundasaun Timor Hari'i. Responsible for organising the event, Leticia Alves said the World Aids Day commemoration was to ask the youth to learn more about the risks involved in being infected with this disease. Alves said the mass was to convey to the youths and students on how to be closer with people infected with HIV/AIDS. Timor-Leste Red Cross also participated in the event and distributed information about HIV/AIDS. (TP, DN)
Next PNTL Recruits Will All Be Allocated At The Border: Martins
PNTL Commandant Paulo de Fatima Martins told the media on Thursday, following his participation the seminar on the Role of Civil Society in the Consolidation for Democracy and Peace, that the new police recruit in January 2006, would all be stationed at the border. He said the border is huge for the number of UPF to control it therefore the new police would all be allocated there. (TP)
Two Former Militias on Preventive Detention (TP, STL)
Two former militias captured by the Border Patrol Unit of PNTL on November 27 have been sentenced to preventive detention, and one was set free for being underage reported the media on Friday. The three were detained by police while spending time with relatives after picking leaves [to chew with beetle nuts]and sandalwood in Timor-Leste's territory. One of them has confessed that he killed a person in 1999 under the order of the former militia group Halilintar.
December 1, 2005
UIR Member Shot By Unknown Person
A member of the Rapid Response Unit of PNTL was shot by an unknown group of five people in Liquiga District on Monday (28/11). According to Diario Tempo the incident happened during the unilateral commemoration in that district and it is alleged that the group are former militias.
The policeman was shot in the hand causing a fracture and is now receiving treatment at Dili National Hospital. (DT)
TL and Norway Sign Cooperation Agreement
The government of Timor-Leste and Norway on Wednesday (30/11) signed an agreement on development cooperation in Dili. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos-Horta and Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia and Timor-Leste Bjorn Blokhus signed the document. According to Timor Post the accord emphasises development cooperation for the next three years in the areas of good governance, democracy, human rights and sustainable management for natural resources like oil and natural gas. Ramos-Horta said Norway has been a generous friend and a development partner right from the beginning in 1999 when it pledged $10 million to the development of peace and infrastructures of Timor-Leste. Meanwhile, the Norwegian Ambassador reportedly stated that he could not reveal the amount allocated for the cooperation but that he could only say that his government is happy to provide funds as well as support Timorese students wishing to study in the areas of natural gas and oil in Indonesia, if the government of Timor-Leste requests it.
In a separate article, Timor Post reported on a meeting between Prime Minister Alkatiri and the Ambassador of Nigeria to Indonesia and Timor-Leste, M Buba Ahmed [Wednesday 30/11]. According to this daily, Prime Minister Alkatiri and Ambassador Ahmed discussed areas of cooperation.
Speaking to the media following the meeting, Ambassador Ahmed said his country would like to provide assistance to the development of the new nation in areas such as security, training of police, training of the defence force as well as in the area of oil and natural gas management which Nigeria has experience in and can share with the Timorese. (TP)
NP Unanimously Approves Legislation on Former Combatants
The project legislation number 21/1/3 on the statues of the former combatants of the national liberation was generally approved on [Wednesday, 30/11] by 54 votes in favour, one against and one abstaining. MP Jacob Xavier who voted against, said the document does not have the data on the Movimento Nasional da Libertagco de Timor Dili (MNTLD). Xavier said MNTLD was an organisation of the resistance that lived overseas to provide support to Timor-Leste independence. Meanwhile, MP Alexandre Corte-Real of Commission A of the Parliament said his commission did not consider Jacob Xavier's ideas because the people in Timor-Leste hardly heard of MNTLD. (TP, STL)
December 4 Case Must be Investigated: Lu'Olo
The President of the National Parliament, Francisco Lu'Olo Guterres, has reportedly recommended to the Prosecutor General to conduct a profound investigation into the December 4, 2002 case which has now gone cold. "I cannot talk about it. Only the prosecutor's office and the public defender are entitled to speak. But as representative of the people in the National Parliament, we would like this case to be resolved properly," Lu'Olo said. He added that at the time the case was tabled to be resolved, it has since not been resolved and therefore he would like the case to be investigated.
The President of the Parliament said although the case occurred during UNTAET [UNMISET] period he personally does not condemn the UN because according to him the UN are all smart people therefore the UN must follow up in order to provide some references to the report to give courage to the defender and Prosecutor General of RDTL to proceed with the case. "I cannot say my expectancy for this case. Only UNOTIL and the Prosecutor General can speak better," Lu'Olo added. Questioned whether the case was abandoned because of interference from some leader, Guterres said that as far as he knew the case has been tabled to be resolved and he cannot say whether it has been impeded by UNOTIL or certain bodies. Some of the MPs are of the opinion that the case is the UN's responsibility. (STL)
Settlement of Timor Sea Boundary Will Take Long: President Menezes
Speaking to the media prior to his departure from Timor-Leste, President of Sao Tome and Principe, Fradique Menezes said if Timor-Leste decides to determine the maritime boundary first before exploration of the resources, it will take forever and will not resolve the joint exploration between Timor-Leste and Australia. In regard to this, the maritime boundary and exploration of oil, Timor-Leste has the same experience as Sao Tome with Nigeria. President Menezes pointed out that in 30 years both countries have not reached an agreement. Therefore he said his country decided to have other ideas and not the one of convincing each other of who is wrong and right but sit together with Nigeria to explore the natural resources of the sea between the two countries.
|Opinion & analysis|
Straits Times - December 22, 2005
John McBeth -- It was five years ago. Sitting at the kitchen table in a small, nondescript house on Dili's sun-baked foreshore, the soon-to-be president of Timor Leste was talking about the future.
'If you really want peace, if you really want stability, you have to put everything behind you,' said Mr Xanana Gusmao, who led the leftist Revolutionary Front of Independent Timor-Leste (Fretilin) resistance forces against Indonesian rule. 'If not you will live under a trauma, the ghosts of the past. You can't see the future.'
Mr Gusmao has known the pain of repression more than most. But in the face of criticism from human rights groups and thousands of his brutalised countrymen, he has stuck stubbornly to that creed of reconciliation.
That is why he has been reluctant so far to release the 2,500- page report of Timor Leste's independent Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) on crimes against humanity committed by all sides during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of then-East Timor.
Contrast that with CAVR chairman Aniceto Guterres Lopes, the quietly-spoken son of a former right-wing Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) member, whose forewarned family had moved safely across the border into West Timor at the time of the 1975 Indonesian invasion.
Mr Lopes, who earned his law degree at Bali's Udayana University, said that while he did not lose any family members to violence during those 24 years and was never physically abused himself, he still considered himself a 'victim of the right to self- determination'.
Still, it seems ironic somehow that while Mr Gusmao the guerilla fighter wants to bury the past and make up with his former enemy, the 38-year-old lawyer is intent on keeping faith with history and with those who suffered at the hands of the Indonesian military.
'The report was not made just for the current government or parliament,' he said in a recent interview with The Straits Times in Jakarta, where he was attending a meeting of the Indonesia- Timor Leste Truth and Friendship Commission (TFC). 'The report and everything in it was made to guarantee our future.'
The TFC is struggling to make itself relevant in the face of widespread scepticism that it is merely there to whitewash the past.
'There's no binding clause that requires the government to implement the recommendations,' he said, referring to provisions which call for everything from the extradition of Indonesian military officers to further international sanctions if justice is not served.
'It depends a lot on the way politics evolves. The important thing is to have the political will, otherwise the recommendations will remain nothing more than that -- just recommendations,' he pointed out.
Indeed, Mr Lopes appears to be as frustrated as anyone that Mr Gusmao continues to sit on the fruits of the commission's three years of work which, together with two roomfuls of supporting documents, is destined to become the country's historic record of a period most East Timorese are trying to forget, if not forgive. Mr Lopes is also dismissive of the president's public criticism of the report and its recommendations as being excessively idealistic.
'If the president thinks the report is idealistic or not realistic or beyond the government's capability to implement, then that is a political problem,' said Mr Lopes, a native of the border district of Bobonaro, where the Indonesian troops had made their initial thrust.
'But it is not impossible that the government following the next elections will decide to implement the recommendations. We did our job, we produced the report and we made those recommendations in our capacity as commissioners.
'We did not produce the report because of political motivations or in response to political dynamics. It was important that we had to think about how to manage the expectations of all concerned, in particular the victims. We didn't do this to please some people, but to keep faith with the mandate that was given to us. If some people find the recommendations too idealistic and impossible to implement, then perhaps they should just accept them first and then explain why they can't be implemented.'
By all accounts, the task of questioning Timorese and taking statements about their harrowing experiences has been a cathartic experience. I was given an insight into all this by the CAVR's legal adviser, Australian barrister Pat Burgess, when he gave me a guided tour last year of the same prison on the outskirts of Dili where political prisoners had been detained.
Much of what he told me then of their mistreatment is there in the report, though his job was mainly to help bring about reconciliation among the Timorese. The experiences under the harsh Indonesian regime were still fresh in many minds. But so too was the bitterness over the civil war which erupted between Fretilin and the UDT before the Indonesian invasion, tinged this time with guilt that went far beyond the senseless loss of 3,000 lives.
It was that conflict which gave the Indonesians the gilt-edged invitation to invade and prevent a supposedly nascent communist regime from taking root in the heart of a region already transformed by dramatic events in Indochina.
Mr Burgess, who formerly headed the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor's (Untaet) human rights unit, talked of the tears that flowed at village reconciliation sessions as people unburdened themselves of things they had not talked about in 25 years.
Mr Lopes and his panel were not immune to the same emotions. He said that when the 36 commissioners got down to reading some of the more stark chapters in the final draft of their report, 'we were all so traumatised that the meeting had to be adjourned temporarily because we were all crying'.
It was the same with the CAVR's 500-strong staff. 'Perhaps this can help explain the debate over the report's idealism,' said Mr Lopes, speaking in Indonesian.
'This doesn't mean the commissioners cannot be impartial. It just means they have feelings. But conscience is not the only consideration, there are other factors too, including political realities. So it is naive for people to think of us as unrealistic or inconsiderate of the national interest.
'The commission's two major objectives were the search for the truth and the effort at reconciliation. In the process of bringing families together, we obtained information from them. From that data, we crosschecked and analysed to produce a conclusion. I don't think there is any binding clause that requires the government to implement the recommendations. It depends a lot on the evolving politics.'
Mr Lopes added that it is difficult to gauge the degree of bitterness that the Timorese still feel towards the Indonesian military. 'The year 1999 and this year are quite different,' he noted. 'Likewise the events of the past.' Mr Gusmao, now the elder statesman, appears willing to let all that go in the interests of securing the country's future. But for Mr Lopes, it is simply a matter of listening to the voices.
'We had a mechanism in which everyone we interviewed was given the opportunity to convey their expectations -- and that is why we felt the need to make the recommendations we did.'
International Herald Tribune - December 20, 2005
Jeff Kingston -- The legacies of Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor from 1975 to 1999 -- when there were at least 102,800 conflict-related deaths -- remain divisive in this small, impoverished nation of 800,000 people.
When a referendum on independence was held in 1999 under UN auspices, the world belatedly paid attention. Despite widespread intimidation and violence, almost all East Timorese voted and overwhelmingly chose independence. As promised, Indonesian- sponsored militias unleashed a reign of beatings, rape and murder while forcibly relocating 250,000 Timorese to Indonesian- controlled West Timor.
A recently published report by East Timor's Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation concludes that there is extensive evidence that knowledge of this scorched-earth campaign extended to the highest echelons of the Indonesian military.
Bringing these officers and their goons to justice has been a frustrating process, largely because there has been insufficient political will in Indonesia. An ad hoc tribunal established by Jakarta did conduct trials, but all but one of its convictions have been overturned on appeal and the remaining defendant remains free while his appeal is pending.
East Timor's foreign minister, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Josi Ramos Horta, told me last week that the United Nations missed a chance to secure justice when it failed to establish an international tribunal in 1999, when there were 7,000 peacekeeping troops on the ground who could have arrested the perpetrators and when international indignation was high.
On Tuesday the truth and reconciliation commission dissolved amid controversy and recriminations -- not what was hoped for when this investigation into East Timor's nightmare was conceived in 2000. This attempt at promoting a healing process by broadcasting public hearings on radio and publishing a record of the testimony has backfired, largely because the president has not yet made the commission's report public. This delay is generating widespread dismay within East Timor and the international community.
In an interview last week, President Xanana Gusmao explained, "I accept the report from A to Z and will not change anything. I believe that the public has the right to be informed. We must disseminate it in the proper way, we are not a human rights organization. Everything will be done in the right way in the right time. At the end of January I will present the report to the secretary general in New York and will stop in Tokyo on my return to request financial assistance for a series of workshops aimed at disseminating and socializing it in 2006."
Gusmao publicly criticized the report for its "grandiose idealism" and suggested it was written from the perspective of human rights activists in London and New York rather than in terms of prevailing circumstances. Horta, for his part, bristles at overseas criticism, "It's great for the human rights activists to be heroic in Geneva and New York where they don't have to live with the consequences of their heroism. They say we don't care about the victims? We care -- the president and I have lost relatives, friends and comrades over the years. We know the cost of war, the value of peace and the necessity of reconciliation."
Closer to home, the opposition leader Mario Carrascalao termed the government quarantine of the report "a grave mistake," adding, "The government is worried about the impact on foreign relations. This is normal. But the report presents the voices of victims and their demand for justice and the government should respect this by releasing it."
The 2,500-page report assigns primary responsibility for the devastation to the Indonesian security forces. More controversially, the United States, Britain, Australia, Japan, France, China, the former Soviet Union, the Vatican and the United Nations, especially the Security Council, are charged with indifference and complicity in failing to stop Indonesian oppression and crimes against humanity over 24 years. The report suggests that reparations and judicial proceedings are in order.
Gusmao believes the way forward is based on getting at the truth of what happened, granting amnesty where appropriate and turning the page, while the church, civil society groups and many victims emphasize prosecuting those responsible for crimes.
The president defends an ongoing bilateral initiative with Indonesia called the Commission for Truth and Friendship, despite criticism that it has no judicial mandate while offering amnesty, thus preserving impunity for ranking perpetrators.
Whether or not this commission can deliver the truth in 2006, there appears to be little chance that public demands for justice will fade.
[Jeff Kingston is director of Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo.]
Straits Times - December 19, 2005
John McBeth -- The commission formed to investigate human rights abuses during Indonesia's bloody 25-year occupation of the former East Timor, now Timor Leste, has just issued its report. There are gory details aplenty, but it is interestingly circumspect about the role of theUS and Australia, as John McBeth discovers in an exclusive preview of the report in Jakarta
In a report that stands to become the historic record of a nation's bloody struggle for statehood, Timor Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) estimates that 18,600 non-combatant East Timorese were killed or disappeared and at least 84,000 more died as a direct result of displacement policies during Indonesia's brutal 24-year rule over the former Portuguese colony.
The report, which President Xanana Gusmao presented to the Timor Leste Parliament on Nov 28, has yet to be released publicly. But a copy of the executive summary, reviewed exclusively by The Straits Times, provides a detailed and often chilling account of human rights abuses committed by both Indonesian security forces and warring Timorese factions between 1974 and 1999.
The 36-strong independent commission, formed in 2002 and whose mandate expires today, also outlines a long list of recommendations -- many of them clearly unattainable -- that highlight the differences between a body anxious to keep faith with history and with Timor Leste's many victims, and a government with a firm eye on pragmatic politics.
Drawn from nearly 8,000 statements collected in Timor Leste's 13 districts and 65 sub-districts, and also from Timorese refugees across the Indonesian border in West Timor camps, the report -- entitled 'Chega!' in Portuguese, or 'Enough' -- runs through a litany of alleged crimes during the bloody years.
These range from mass executions to forced resettlements, sexual and other horrific forms of torture as well as abuse against children.
It is not just confined to Indonesian excesses. Large sections of the three-year work are devoted to executions and torture carried out by the left-wing Revolutionary Front of Independent Timor- Leste (Fretilin) and the rightist Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) in the civil war proceeding Indonesia's 1975 invasion, which left 3,000 people dead, and also in internal purges within Fretilin in the first years of Indonesian occupation.
On the events surrounding Timor Leste's August 1999 vote for independence, the report pulls no punches. It finds that the death and destruction was not the work of so-called rogue elements of the Indonesian Armed Forces, but was in fact the execution of a systematic plan that was approved, conducted and controlled by Indonesian military commanders up to the highest level.
'Members of the civil administration of Timor Leste and national-level government officials, including ministers, knew of the strategy being pursued on the ground, and rather than taking action to halt it, directly supported its implementation,' it says.
In a separate section, however, the report insists that the 1999 rampage should not be allowed to cloud what went on when the former East Timor was locked away for more than 13 years.
'Egregious as they were,' it says, 'the crimes committed in 1999 were far outweighed by those committed during the previous 24 years of occupation and cannot be properly understood or addressed without acknowledging the truth of the long conflict.'
The commission cites a number of specific incidents, among them the alleged September 1981 massacre of 160 Fretilin fighters and their families on the slopes of Mount Aitana on the Manatuto- Viqueque border, south-east of Dili. This followed the conclusion of what was known as Operation Kikis -- a two-month sweep-and- destroy mission which is said to have involved 60,000 shanghaied East Timorese civilians.
In each case, only military units are mentioned. The names of each perpetrator or perpetrators of human rights violations are identified through a coding system, which corresponds to a secret list held only by President Gusmao. It is not known how many people are on the list, but it is understood that in many incidents, the same perpetrators were allegedly involved.
Among the report's many recommendations:
The renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Special Crimes Unit to investigate and try human rights violations, including eight 'exemplary and critical' cases of massacres and executions perpetrated by both Fretilin resistance forces and the Indonesian military.
The establishment by the UN Security Council of an international tribunal 'should other measures be deemed to have failed to deliver a sufficient measure of justice and Indonesia persists in the obstruction of justice'.
The use of the Commission of Truth and Friendship, recently created between Indonesia and Timor Leste, to explore the possibility of further criminal trials and a policy of reparations to victims.
Reparations should be paid not just by Indonesia and, as a stop- gap measure, the Timor Leste government, but also by the permanent members of the UN Security Council -- China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States.
The commission also wants the Indonesian government to table the 2,500-page report in the country's House of Representatives, to revise official Indonesian accounts and education materials related to its presence in Timor Leste, as well as to provide the full documentation of all military operations which resulted in human rights violations -- demands which Jakarta is almost certain to reject.
Anxious to preserve relations with Indonesia, President Gusmao has been reluctant to release the commission's findings.
He told Timor Leste legislators last month that the report's recommendations could not be considered 'absurdly utopian, but are realistically very ambitious'. He added that 'the grandiose idealism they (the commissioners) possess is well-manifested to the point it goes beyond conventional political boundaries'.
Despite an outcry among human rights groups and Timorese victims over the climate of immunity in Indonesia that has allowed military officers to escape prosecution, President Gusmao also took issue with the commission's assertion that the absence of justice is a 'fundamental obstacle in the process of building a democratic society'.
He pointed to the considerable effort which Indonesia has invested in democratisation and said the Jakarta administration knows that the core obstacle to the building of a democratic society is how badly derailed the fundamentals of justice have become in society and what must be done to correct the situation.
The report says Indonesian security forces, including East Timorese militiamen, were responsible for 70 per cent of the killings, which reached a peak in the late 1970s as they tried all means to break the back of the resistance. During the same timeframe, an estimated 42,000 Timorese were arbitrarily detained, and 232 were convicted and sentenced to lengthy jail terms on subversion charges after sham political trials.
The commission says that, at a minimum, 84,200 people died of hunger and illness -- in excess of the peacetime baseline for these causes of death -- between 1977 and 1979, when people were being driven out of the mountains into tightly guarded resettlement camps.
Although it does not provide further evidence, it suggests the death toll could be as high as 183,000 -- conforming with the figure that Western humans rights groups have been using for years.
Interestingly, the executive summary is circumspect about the role of the United States and Australia in giving the green light to Indonesia's invasion. It only says that hopes for the smooth de-colonisation of Timor Leste were thwarted by 'Portuguese neglect, Indonesian interference supported by its key Western allies, the US and Australia, and the inexperience of the young leaders of the territory's newly formed parties'.
It says that while Australia was well-placed to influence policymaking on the issue, it 'cautioned against force, but led Indonesia to believe it would not oppose incorporation. It did not use its international influence to try and block the invasion and spare Timor Leste its predictable humanitarian consequences'.
Strangely, the Americans barely get a mention, despite new disclosures that then-US secretary of state Henry Kissinger gave then-president Suharto of Indonesia more than a wink and a nod.
The report does, however, point to the political context in 1975, when successive communist victories in Indochina were only compounding long-held fears of a domino effect throughout South- east Asia and the possibility of Timor Leste becoming an Asian Cuba.
Apart from its call for reparations, the commission does have one specific request for the international community: that UN member states deny visas to Indonesian military officers named in the report for either human rights abuses or command responsibility for troops accused of violations.
The independent commission outlines a long list of recommendations -- many of them clearly unattainable -- that highlight the differences between a body anxious to keep faith with history and with Timor Leste's many victims, and a government with a firm eye on pragmatic politics.
Jakarta Post - December 10, 2005
Adirito de Jesus Soares, Dili -- This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, with the people of East Timor organizing different activities to commemorate this historic moment. There was a public debate on justice for victims, a long march in the capital, the launching of a documentary film and the laying of wreaths and flowers around Dili harbor, where many innocent people were killed during the invasion.
Thirty years ago on Dec. 7, bombs, gunfire and troops rained down on this backwater capital of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. The Indonesian invasion led to untold casualties, killings, rapes and other atrocities over the next 24 years. The remains of many of the victims, beloved by their families, to this day have never been found.
The invasion and subsequent occupation was supported by Indonesia's powerful allies, mostly western countries, including Australia and Britain. Then US president Gerald Ford and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, signaled their approval while in Jakarta a day before the invasion.
Today, Saddam Hussein is on trial in Iraq and perpetrators of crimes against humanity in several countries have been brought before the UN's ad hoc tribunals. Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court are investigating the leaders of the Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army. Meanwhile, the Indonesian generals who organized and committed serious crimes against humanity in East Timor remain free. Why should there be such discrimination in the implementation of justice?
On Nov. 12, 1991, the world awakened to the plight of East Timor, when hundreds of unarmed East Timorese students were gunned down by the Indonesian military during a peaceful protest at Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. This was just one case among many in a long list of terrible atrocities committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor. Like the Santa Cruz massacre, many of the crimes committed by the Indonesia military during its occupation of East Timor are well-documented. A recent report by the UN Commission of Experts (COE) made a strong case for an international role in prosecuting the crimes against the people of East Timor. The COE report was released at a time when, unfortunately, the UN seems unwilling to take concerted action to bring to justice key perpetrators. It would be regrettable if the very robust recommendations of the COE -- including its call to establish an international tribunal if other efforts fail -- suffered the same fate as previous reports now gathering dust at the UN.
Meanwhile, the governments of East Timor and Indonesia have conspired to bypass the whole issue of justice. Their joint Truth and Friendship Commission has been strongly criticized as more likely to bury the issue and pave the way for impunity.
By contrast, East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), a body established by the UN three years ago, recently handed over its report. It contains strong recommendations pertaining to justice and reparations for victims. Faced with the CAVR report, the president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, first expressed his strong objection to the recommendations. The president is now arguing that the report, especially its recommendations, could harm the relationship with the Indonesian government. He has cited one recommendation, that the international community bring perpetrators to a credible court. The report also recommends that the Indonesian government pay reparations. This stance by East Timor's president shows the subservient attitude of the East Timor government toward its former colonizer. The government's attitude has also been roundly criticized by civil society, both within East Timor and internationally.
Progress toward justice lies squarely in the hands of the UN. But as it has shown repeatedly, the UN acts slowly in responding to crises of humanity, whether in attempting to prevent them or to punish people after the fact. However, fighting against impunity, as enshrined in its various international documents, remains one of the main goals of the UN. Why is it that Saddam Hussein can be tried, Milosevic can be tried, the International Criminal Court at the Hague is now indicting the leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army and perhaps other leaders who committed serious crimes, yet the Indonesian generals who were involved in one of the darkest chapters of human history walk free?
The UN must take prompt action to bring these Indonesian perpetrators to justice. Otherwise, the Indonesian government will face an insurmountable barrier in rebuilding the rule of law and establishing democracy in its own country. Continued impunity could also lead to border incursions into East Timor by rogue Indonesian military elements. Should East Timorese victims never see justice, the UN itself will become a victim of its own hollow rhetoric. It can avoid that fate by implementing the recommendations of its own Commission of Experts.
[The writer, a human rights lawyer, lecturer and former member of East Timor's National Parliament, is based in Dili, East Timor.]
Sydney Morning Herald - December 7, 2005
James Dunn -- The 30th anniversary of the invasion of Dili by a large Indonesian force, is a time for sober reflection in Australia as well as in East Timor. While the invasion began earlier with the Balibo attack, it was the assault on Dili that captured world attention, an operation that claimed an estimated 200,000 Timorese lives in the following years.
Remarkably, relations between East Timor and Indonesia have blossomed since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came to office last year, aided by the enthusiastic, even indulgent, efforts of the Timorese leaders. They have taken the extraordinary step of moving to bury the bloody events during those 24 nightmarish years of Indonesian occupation, a move helped by the bleak prospect of gaining international support for an appropriate tribunal.
A sensitive testing of the state of the relationship is the situation at East Timor's border, whose porous nature has for decades led to disputes. It traverses mountainous terrain, at times following river courses that can change after monsoonal rains. No less complex is the border around the enclave of Oecussi, the scene of a serious incident.
In April this year, to mark his visit to Dili, Yudhoyono signed an agreement which settled the demarcation of most of the border, but the installation of the necessary markers is still incomplete. Despite the new atmosphere of goodwill, border incidents, occasionally involving militia elements still active in West Timor, continue to occur, with some reports suggesting the new nation's security is at risk.
That is rather alarmist, but there are signs that this goodwill may not be fully endorsed by those TNI (Indonesian military) officers who harbour a brooding resentment at their humiliating and ignominious departure from East Timor in 1999. Some elements of the Indonesian military are apparently not averse to giving tacit support to militia remnants, mainly those loyal to Joao Tavares and Eurico Guterres.
The recent incidents are much rarer and less serious than the clashes during the UN mandate, but there have been several worrying incidents this year. While they have been relatively minor, and more to do with smuggling than militia intrusion, there is evidence of either TNI involvement, or at least tolerance of these incursions.
The four border incidents this year may have been minor, but they have provoked anxiety among the Timorese. The first occurred only three weeks after Yudhoyono signed the agreement in April. A TNI officer was accidentally wounded by Timorese guards during a pursuit of smugglers. The Indonesian military responded with outrage, temporarily suspending contacts. A more serious incident, however, occurred in October at Oecussi, when more than 100 Indonesians, allegedly encouraged by army troops, crossed the border and attacked Timorese police. It caused anger and apprehension in Dili, with calls for a Timorese withdrawal from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is yet to prove its worth.
As it turned out, tempers cooled quickly, thanks to prompt crisis management by the President of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, its Foreign Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, and Indonesian officials. Responses from the Indonesian military, on the other hand, have been less conciliatory. The posting to border areas of two units, notorious for their human rights abuses in 1999, was at best insensitive. The first, 744 Battalion, was formed back in 1976 by then Major Yunus Yosfiah, the officer who ordered the Balibo executions. The second, 745 Battalion, left a trail of murder and destruction when it withdrew in 1999. Placing its troops near Oecussi was a particularly insensitive action, because in 1999 its troops were responsible for a massacre at Passabe, where 85 unarmed, and randomly selected, young Timorese were murdered.
Although Yudhoyono's commitment to a full reconciliation with East Timor is not in question, what is uncertain is his capacity to prevent sections of a largely unreformed military from pursuing its own opportunistic agenda. With memories of those massive border violations 30 years ago, many East Timorese will not relax until the Indonesian military's brutal past in East Timor has been fully exposed, by whatever means, to Indonesia's new political establishment and the world.
[James Dunn is an East Timor and Indonesia specialist, and was a 2000-2001 UNTAET expert on crimes against humanity in East Timor.]
The Times (London) - December 5, 2005
Richard LLoyd Parry Blog -- It is a law of guerrilla wars that they are morally murky affairs, in which it is impossible to separate right from wrong or to sympathise unconditionally with either side. The British Army and the IRA in Northern Ireland; the Serbian state and the Kosovo Liberation Army; the US-Iraqi government against the Sunni insurgency -- wherever your sympathies lie, only a partisan or propagandist could fail to see cruelty and stupidity on both sides. I know of only one exception to this rule in my own experience: the 24-year struggle between the East Timorese guerrillas and the occupying army of Indonesia.
East Timor was that rare thing: a morally black-and-white conflict. Partly, this was because of the circumstances -- the Indonesian invasion of 1975, after the abandonment of the territory by colonial Portugal, was a straightforward case of international thuggery. Partly, it was because of the winking collusion of governments which should, and did, know better, including Britain, the United States, and Australia.
But it was also because of the discipline and restraint of the East Timorese resistance, the guerrilla army called Falintil. Before their skulking withdrawal in 1999, the Indonesians employed the nastiest tricks in the counter-insurgency manual: napalm, hamletting, the bombardment of civilians, mass deportation, torture, rape, and extra-judicial execution. Two hundred thousand people, by the commonest estimate, died of violence, disease and starvation. But, with the rarest of exceptions, the guerrillas met Indonesian brutality with outstanding decency and restraint.
Falintil was overwhelmed. It had a few old Portuguese rifles and no heavy weaponry. But it never resorted to the terror tactics of guerrillas elsewhere in the world. The victimisation of civilians, the lynching and knee-capping of informers, the bombing of Indonesian cities -- none of these were ever a feature of the war in East Timor. Even after the violence of September 1999, when the Indonesian army burned the country in retaliation for the country's vote for independence, there were no serious reprisals. Much of the credit for this lies with Xanana Gusmao, the guerrilla leader and former political prisoner, who is now the first president of his independent country.
But now I wonder whether Xanana's restraint is going too far.
Last week he submitted to the East Timorese parliament a report by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR), an independent organisation established by the East Timorese government. The report has taken more than three years to compile. It is 2500 pages long and draws on the testimony of 8000 witnesses. Its authors include a businesswoman, a Catholic priest, a Protestant clergyman, an aid worker, a human rights activist, a former political prisoner, and a former civil servant in the Indonesian administration who opposed independence -- as wide and balanced a cross section of experience and opinion as one could hope to find in a small, poor, new country. The CAVR report, in other words, it is the closest thing to a definitive account of East Timor's suffering as anyone has yet produced.
But President Gusmao has so far refused to publish it, for the simple reason that, having struggled against them for 24 years, he does not want to offend the Indonesians.
The report's recommendations, which I have seen, are strong and startling. They include the setting up of a reparations programme for victims of the conflict, to be funded not only by Indonesia, but also by the foreign governments, and their arms dealers, whose complicity allowed the invasion to run so smoothly.
The commissioners call for Indonesians suspected of crimes to be handed over to East Timor, and for criminal investigation of the entire period from the invasion in 1975, not only the end of the occupation in 1999.
Now these are grave diplomatic actions, not be undertaken lightly. Indonesia literally surrounds Timor. It is, and always will be, the country's greatest trading partner, and cultural and political influence. Having come to their senses in 1999, western governments are doing much to help East Timor.
"For me and for my president and my government as a whole, it is out of the question that we would even raise this issue with these countries," said Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's foreign minister and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. "We will not. It would be undiplomatic. It would not be fair. It would be showing lack of gratitude, lack of statesmanship, lack of maturity."
And yet the alternative is worse, and spelled out clearly in the CAVR report. "Impunity has become entrenched," it declares. "Those who planned, ordered, committed and are responsible for the most serious human rights violations have not been brought to account, and in many cases have seen their military and civil careers flourish as a result of their activities. Respect for the rule of law and the organs of the state responsible for its administration, a fundamental pillar of the democratic transition in Indonesia and nation building in Timor-Leste, will always be extremely fragile in this context."
"My reply to that," Xanana said in a bizarrely long-winded speech, as he reluctantly presented the still secret report to parliament last week, "would be 'not necessarily'."
Xanana Gusmao is the last person I have been able to think of without hesitation as a hero. I hesitate to question his sincerity, and in plenty of ways, East Timor has been lucky to have a leader so unconventional, decent, and forgiving. But how depressing to hear such a man speaking in the cant of the invaders he fought so long to drive away.