Yemris Fointuna President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who led the 774/Satya Yudha Bakti (SYB) infantry battalion from 1986 to 1988, appeared moved when he briefed some 1,000 soldiers packing the battalion's hall in Atambua, East Nusa Tenggara.
He allowed himself time to relish the recollection of two of his former subordinates who he said were able to capture a Fretilin separatist group leader named Julio Sarmento during an ambush in Maubesi subdistrict, Ainaro district, East Timor, now Timor Leste.
Yudhoyono introduced to the troops to Alfonso Tielman, one of the soldiers who carried Sarmento up a steep ravine that day.
"I was informed that the enemy had not died, but sustained serious wounds. I ordered my men to save his life. I also arranged for a helicopter to airlift the captive to Dili to receive treatment, but the weather was bad and the fog was thick. That night we stayed alert until morning. We created a formation to anticipate retaliation from the enemy," Yudhoyono recalled.
He said he ordered his men to keep the detainee alive. "It was the first time soldiers on duty in Timor Leste caught a detainee alive. Sarmento was eventually flown to Jakarta and his life was saved. Why should we kill a powerless detainee," he added.
According to the President, soldiers must abide by the law and ethics during war. "If you respect the law, no Indonesian Military (TNI) soldier would be involved in human rights violations, because the military must also comply with the law," he said.
After the independence of Timor Leste in 1999, the battalion's base moved to Atambua.
The Atambua visit was part of the President's four-day trip to the province. Yudhoyono left Atambua for Kupang through the Atapupu Port on board the KRI Slamet Riyadi-352 naval vessel.
During the voyage, Yudhoyono was scheduled to observe Batek Island, once claimed by Timor Leste, which is situated precisely at the border between Kupang regency and the Timor Leste enclave of Oecusi.
Jakarta Twenty five families or 67 people of Indonesian citizens from East Timor who had lived in East Nusa Tenggara for 11 years had left for Timor Leste under the repatriation program.
"They returned to their hometown on their own will without any force," said head of the Tilomar district, Kovalima, Timor Leste, John Amaral, on Tuesday in Atambua, Tuesday, as quoted by tempointeraktif.com.
He said that Timor Leste would warmly welcome any Indonesian citizen from East Timor who would return to Timor Leste.
Many ex-East Timor residents had moved to East Nusa Tenggara since 1999, following the referendum that led to the independence of East Timor, now Timor Leste.
Their return to Timor Leste was facilitated by the Women and Children Care Forum (FPPA) Atambua and Center for Internally Displaced Person Service (CIS) Timor Atambua, who accompanied them until the West Crossing Gate of Motamasin, Kobalima Timur district, Belu regency.
Seventy one people were listed for the repatriation process, but only 67 who actually joined it. Four of them canceled their participation because they changed their mind or had been sick or dead.
United Nations The UN Security Council on Thursday called on East Timor to take action to strengthen the "credibility" of its police force as it extended the stay of the UN mission in the fledgling Asian nation.
The United Nations wants to end its peacekeeping mission in East Timor but is wary of fallout from the 2006 unrest that led to the creation of the international force which is now about 1,500 strong. East Timor is also to hold a presidential election in 2012.
More than 50 officers in the East Timorese police, the PNTL, face criminal or disciplinary charges but have still been allowed into the new post- independence force.
Concerns were raised by a UN envoy and some of East Timor's main aid partners at a UN Security Council debate this week attended by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
"I trust the government will find no reason to exempt the 52 officers who face serious disciplinary and criminal charges," said Tsuneo Nishida, the UN ambassador for Japan, a key donor to East Timor.
Gusmao, one of the leaders of East Timor's fight for independence from Indonesia, acknowledged the concerns which have also been raised by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
A UN Security Council resolution passed on Thursday "emphasizes the importance of taking all measures necessary to ensure the credibility and integrity of the PNTL, including resolving any outstanding disciplinary and criminal charges faced by PNTL officers."
The resolution recognised political progress since the 2006 unrest but said East Timor "still faces many challenges in areas related to the underlying factors of the 2006 crisis."
On top of concerns about security and the judiciary, international observers have also raised concerns about East Timor's economy.
The Japanese envoy noted that East Timor's budget now exceeds one billion dollars and its population is now above one million and called for greater emphasis on job creation.
"While we commend the work of the government, it is worrisome to note that many young people remain unemployed and large numbers of youth are joining the labor market every year with limited opportunities for employment," said Nishida.
The Security Council resolution also highlighted the need for "sustainable growth".
Drew Ambrose, Dili The United Nations has said it will extend its mandate for peacekeepers in East Timor for another year.
Since gaining independence from Indonesia more than a decade ago, the fledgling country has struggled to look after its own security.
The Security Council said on Thursday the tiny nation needs to take action to strengthen the "credibility" of its police force as it extended the stay of the UN mission.
The UN wants to end its peacekeeping mission in East Timor but is wary of fallout from the 2006 unrest that led to the creation of the international force which is now about 1,500 strong. East Timor also plans to hold a presidential election in 2012.
More than 50 officers from the PNTL, the East Timorese police force, face criminal or disciplinary charges but have still been allowed into the new post-independence force.
Concerns were raised by a UN envoy and some of East Timor's main aid partners at a Security Council debate this week attended by Xanana Gusmao, the prime minister.
"I trust the government will find no reason to exempt the 52 officers who face serious disciplinary and criminal charges," Tsuneo Nishida, the UN ambassador for Japan, said.
Japan is one of East Timor's biggest donors.
Gusmao, one of the leaders of East Timor's fight for independence from Indonesia, acknowledged the concerns which have also been raised by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.
A UN Security Council resolution passed on Thursday "emphasises the importance of taking all measures necessary to ensure the credibility and integrity of the PNTL, including resolving any outstanding disciplinary and criminal charges faced by PNTL officers".
The resolution recognised political progress since the 2006 unrest but said East Timor "still faces many challenges in areas related to the underlying factors of the 2006 crisis".
On top of concerns about security and the judiciary, international observers have also raised concerns about East Timor's economy.
The Japanese envoy noted that East Timor's budget now exceeds $1bn and its population is now above one million and called for greater emphasis on job creation.
Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin The United Nations Security Council has urged East Timor to stop granting impunity for serious crimes as it extended the stay of the UN mission in the country.
The council also called on East Timor to strengthen the "credibility" of its police force following its collapse amid violence in 2006.
It extended the mandate of the 1440 international police and more than 1200 civilian staff and volunteers to remain in the country for at least another 12 months.
In a unanimous resolution, the council recognised political progress in Dili but said East Timor "still faces many challenges in areas related to the underlying factors of the 2006 crisis".
Timorese leaders, including the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, have signalled they want the mission as well as 400 Australian and New Zealand troops serving in an Australian-led stabilisation force to leave the country after scheduled elections next year.
East Timor has recently looked further than Australia to help build its security forces, signing a co-operation agreement with its former colonial ruler, Portugal, and buying two navy patrol boats from China.
During an address to the Security Council before it approved the extension of the $US200-million-a-year mission on Thursday Mr Gusmao acknowledged the concerns about the police force, which has 52 serving officers who face serious disciplinary and criminal charges.
The UN police will provide support and training for the Timorese force, which is scheduled next month to resume responsibility for all districts, including Dili.
But Mr Gusmao and the President, Jose Ramos-Horta, have also made clear they believe preventing a return to instability through impunities is more important than punitive justice in the fledgling country of 1 million people.
East Timor has authorised more than 200 pardons, commutations or prison releases since 2007, including for rebels convicted of attacks on Mr Gusmao and Dr Ramos-Horta in 2008.
Dr Ramos-Horta, who was seriously wounded in the attacks, told journalists in Dili that he was releasing the rebels because they were also victims.
In 2009 Mr Gusmao ordered the release from jail of Maternus Bere, a former pro-Indonesian militia leader accused of being responsible for the massacre of 300 people in a church in 1999, including three priests.
Bere was allowed to return to Indonesian West Timor, where he is a senior local government official.
The head of the UN mission in Dili, Ameerah Haq, told the Security Council she was optimistic the country's progress could be maintained if all political leaders and the broader public acted responsibly.
There had been no significant increase in violence in districts where Timorese police have resumed responsibility, Ms Haq said. But she expressed concern at high levels of domestic violence and sporadic fighting among youth and martial arts groups.
East Timor was entering a crucial period that would determine whether the country had overcome the political and institutional weaknesses that contributed to the 2006 crisis, Ms Haq said.
The mission was set up amid the 2006 crisis, replacing earlier UN missions that were established after the East Timorese voted to break away from Indonesia in 1999.
Paul Maley and Peter Alford Failed asylum-seekers processed under Julia Gillard's East Timor plan would be transferred to partner countries who would then swap them for prospective refugees whose claims had yet to be processed.
Under complicated arrangements proposed by Canberra, asylum-seekers who make directly for the East Timor regional processing centre could be transferred back to transit countries as part of a basic queue system.
However, the confidential Australian proposal, sent in November, has not yet received close consideration from the Dili government.
East Timor's response is unlikely to be ready for a Bali Process ministerial meeting, if it goes ahead as tentatively scheduled next month, to consider a regional protection framework for asylum-seekers.
A senior official explained yesterday that ministers had been preoccupied by the budget, which passed on Friday.
East Timor has not yet formed a taskforce to study the Australian proposal, although the basic concept is already unpopular.
Canberra's concept document, containing details of the regional centre proposal, was leaked earlier this week.
Its publication came amid mounting criticism of the Timor plan, with Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young accusing the Gillard government of offloading its responsibilities. In the months leading up to the federal election, Julia Gillard announced her government would pursue an offshore processing centre in East Timor, in an effort to diffuse community anger at the rising tide of asylum boats, which was threatening a number of Labor-held marginal seats.
The leaked plan proposes a refugee assessment centre capable of holding between 1000 and 4000 people, with the job of assessing asylum claims likely to fall to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The centre would be run by either the International Organisation for Migration or a commercial provider. One option canvassed is a "swap" arrangement.
"An agreement may state that for every asylum-seeker requiring processing at the (refugee assessment centre), the country currently housing that asylum-seeker must, in turn, allow for the readmission of failed asylum- seekers from the RAC into their territory," the document states.
The plan envisages that potential refugees staying in partner countries would register with local authorities, providing biometric data as proof of identity.
From there, participating countries could request that asylum-seekers be transferred to Dili for processing, before being resettled in third countries, if successful.
The processing centre plan is worthless unless Canberra can persuade partner countries to offer resettlement guarantees to successful asylum- seekers.
Erik Jensen East Timor would be responsible for the legal processing and resettlement of asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia, using its laws and diplomatic relationships, according to leaked documents prepared by the federal government.
The documents from November show the federal government intends to build a refugee processing centre in East Timor to hold between 1000 and 4000 people. The site for the centre was not established and nor were specific costings.
The document, obtained by ABC TV's Lateline, says the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would be sought to undertake the determination process for asylum seekers, but offers no indication the body has agreed to this.
"Another option could be for countries that undertake [refugee status determination] processes, such as Australia, to assist in the determination process at the centre while building Timor Leste's capacity to undertake these processes," the document says.
It also says East Timor would need to establish its own review process for failed asylum seekers, suggesting these people would become the responsibility of East Timor. "Review mechanisms will need to be consistent with Timor Leste's legislation," the document reads.
The executive director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, David Manne, said: "It would appear that they're trying to enmesh this process in the East Timor legal system and leave it to them.
"What's clear from the document is there's no evidence that there's been any agreement from the UNHCR to be engaged at all. It's one of many areas where central issues are completely unconfirmed. It's contingency on contingency, and it raises more questions than it answers."
The UNHCR opposed offshore processing connected to the so-called "Pacific solution", and called the scheme a "difficult chapter in Australia's treatment of refugees and asylum seekers" when it was ended in 2008. It could not be reached for comment last night.
"Many bona fide refugees caught by the policy spent long periods of isolation, mental hardship and uncertainty and prolonged separation from their families," the organisation said at the time.
The national president of the Independent Council for Refugee Advocacy, Marion Le, was involved with the UNHCR's reluctant processing of asylum- seekers from the Tampa and said the body was unlikely to be involved.
"I think it's absolutely appalling for Australia to abrogate its responsibility in such a way and to foist it onto a country as vulnerable as East Timor," she said. "It's just unconscionable."
The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, told ABC TV's Lateline that negotiations continued with East Timor and it would be inappropriate to discuss the document.
The document speculates that 200 male asylum seekers could be housed in the compound within 12 months of a site being selected. Another 600 would be housed six months after that. A centre for 1000 people, with emergency capacity for 2000, would be finished within two years of site selection, the document said.
Adam Gartrell The federal government's plan for an asylum seeker processing centre in East Timor has come under fresh attack after a document outlining details of the proposal leaked to the media.
The Gillard government document from November last year titled "Regional Assessment Centre Concept" shows the government wants the controversial centre to house between 1000 and 4000 asylum seekers.
The document suggests the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would be asked to process the asylum seekers but East Timor would be called on to deal with appeals and resettlement.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the document had been intended to kick start "ongoing discussions" with East Timor.
"The paper addresses the issues we believe East Timor wished to be apprised of to aid their consideration of Australia's proposal," a spokeswoman said. "Given we are still in sensitive diplomatic talks, it would be inappropriate to comment further."
The Australian Greens were quick to slam the proposals, accusing the government of passing the buck to East Timor.
"What is clear from this document is that the government seems more than happy to dump both our international obligations and our moral responsibilities onto another country," immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said.
"It is irresponsible to simply push this problem offshore, into the hands of other people."
Refugee groups again called on the government to ditch the plan, noting the document did not guarantee Australia would resettle successful refugees.
"The arrogance of the document is astonishing and is certain to result in even more opposition in East Timor and Australia," the Refugee Action Coalition's Ian Rintoul said.
The UNHCR could not be reached for comment on the proposals.
Opposition acting immigration spokesman George Brandis said the coalition was still firmly against the proposal.
"If this processing centre were ever to be built and we the opposition doubt it ever will be then it would be nothing more than a transit station to Australia," he told the ABC. "Not a solution to the problem but in fact an escalation of the problem."
Mark Dodd East Timor's defence chief has blasted Australia for its tardy response in helping the half-island state develop a patrol boat fleet to tackle people-smuggling.
The criticism follows Dili's acceptance of a South Korean offer of two free patrol boats whose mission includes intercepting asylum-seeker vessels.
The Gillard government has sought the help of neighbouring states including East Timor and Indonesia to help tackle the problem of people-smuggling, a major regional concern.
Canberra is also pushing Xanana Gusmao's government in East Timor to agree to host a regional processing centre to handle asylum-seekers. Dili is yet to respond to the request.
But in an interview with Tempo Semanal newspaper, a translation of which was seen by The Australian, Secretary of State for Defence Julio Pinto accused Canberra of putting too many conditions on eligibility for its Pacific Patrol Boat Program.
"The South Korean government wrote to us informing they have agreed to donate two patrol boats for the East Timor Defence Force," Dr Pinto told the newspaper.
The Timorese defence chief said Canberra appeared reluctant to help the F- FDTL (defence force) develop its own naval capability, which could be used to deter asylum-seekers and illegal fishing boats entering its maritime zone.
"If Australia is willing to donate any boats lets accept them but there's been no sign yet," Dr Pinto said.
The newspaper quotes unnamed Timorese officials as saying Canberra's Pacific Patrol Boat Program comes with too many conditions attached, including a communications net run out of Australia a demand that potentially compromises Timorese maritime intelligence.
The Australian understands the Korean boats are 21m and 33m craft and will be delivered in June.
Dalih Sembiring East Timor, officially known as Timor-Leste, is experiencing an economic boom. The problem is that it's only happening in the country's capital, Dili, and it's only benefiting a small number of people.
Fernanda Borges, known as one of the most vocal members of East Timor's Parlamento Nacional, has a clear idea of what is driving the country's economy and why it is so focused on the capital.
"At the moment, it's all about construction. Everyone wants to be in construction and development," she said.
It's a situation that has fueled double-digit growth in the country's economy over the past three years. But, according to Borges, all this success could be coming at the expense of more balanced growth in other sectors of the economy.
"Not much attention is being paid to creating conditions necessary for us to be able to, say, strengthen our livestock and horticulture exports, which a lot of women are involved with, on the border between Indonesia and East Timor."
Interviewed in his brand new office in Dili, the country's president, Jose Ramos-Horta, agreed with Borges's assessment.
"Dili is becoming a boomtown. We have traffic jams almost all day long the number of cars and motorbikes has exploded in the last two years. You see thousands of stores and shops in the city, but drive an hour outside of Dili and you see next-to-zero development in rural areas."
This lack of growth in rural areas seems entrenched, despite 12 percent annual increases in the economy over the last three years. Over 60 percent of businesses are centered in the capital city.
Those living outside of Dili have, by and large, been forced to fend for themselves.
In Bobonaro district, farmer Rui Naibau Melo has been keeping himself updated on the progress of repairs to a bridge over the Loes River along the main route between the district's capital Maliana and Dili.
The bridge was damaged over two weeks ago, but, to date, no crews have shown up to fix it. Rui frequently ships his cattle along this route and if the bridge collapses, his livestock and other goods will have to be shipped via a far more demanding route to reach Dili's markets.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems Rui is facing in his livestock business.
As one of only four cattle suppliers in Bobonaro, Rui has not been allowed to continue trading his cows and water buffaloes across the border into Atambua in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Indonesia, since new regulations took effect last August.
"My cattle exports to Indonesia were slowed down in 2005, when the Indonesian government issued a new regulation," Melo said. "Before that, I could easily send cattle across to Atambua twice a month, about 80 to 100 cows each time."
Bobonaro is one of East Timor's three districts that border NTT. In its vast, hill-fringed dry fields and savannas, cows, water buffaloes and goats are set loose by their owners to graze. Fences are not part of the local custom here.
Just like in many parts of Indonesia, the animals here function as financial assets, and are a common form of belis, or dowry.
Traditionally, grazing cattle have been moved from East to West Timor and vice versa according to what land had the best pasture.
The establishment of a definitive border between the Dutch-colonized western half and the Portuguese-colonized eastern half of the island in the early 20th century made this practice more difficult, but it wasn't until Indonesia took control of East Timor between 1976 and 1999, that cattle herds began to be thought of as business assets rather than just personal possessions.
After gaining its independence in 2002, East Timor was allowed to ship 2,000 head of cattle to Indonesia per year.
But many of these small suppliers have become inactive due to their inability to compete with the illegal trade of livestock and other goods that is rampant along the country's borders.
Helio Sinatra Tavares, executive director for external trade at East Timor's Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry, is aware of the illegal trade along the border that takes place in Batugade, Salele and Bobometo.
"This is happening behind everyone's back. The border is so wide that even 500 border police are not going to be effective," Tavares said.
As a preventive step, the Indonesian government has threatened to blacklist any East Timor cattle suppliers caught engaging in this illegal border trade.
Yosep Bere Buti in Atambua, Belu district, used to have a permit to sell cattle he imported from East Timor to several Indonesian buyers, but he thinks obtaining and keeping these permits up to date is becoming more trouble than its worth.
"Since 2005, I have to get the permit all the way from the Directorate General of Animal Husbandry in Jakarta and it's only valid for three months," Buti said.
"Moreover, the price of cows from Maliana has gone up. Meanwhile, the East Timor government has raised the number of cows allowed for each shipment outside the country to 50, which is a big number for the buyers there."
The familial relations and a shared language and culture that exist between inhabitants of Indonesian West Timor and independent East Timor have helped create good conditions for business partnerships, but the harsh fact remains that almost all of what Indonesia imports from East Timor can also be obtained domestically.
Mech Saba, head of the NTT's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin NTT), said there is no commodity that Indonesia really needs to import from East Timor. A lack of structure and oversight adds to the difficulties of doing business with East Timor.
The world's second-youngest nation has yet to push a lot of laws and regulations through its parliament. As a result, Doing Business, a cooperative study by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, recently ranked the country 174 out of 183 economies in the ease of doing business category.
Meanwhile, East Timor is importing a great deal, with the largest amount of merchandise coming from Indonesia. According to a draft of the World Bank's Diagnostic Trade Integration Study in August 2010, Indonesian goods accounted for 47 percent of East Timor's total imports between 2004 and 2008.
But until something changes, East Timor, a country of nearly 15,000 square kilometers in size and slightly over one million people, will be forced to rely on exports of its horticultural commodities as a main source of income.
The country is also getting creative in hunting buyers for its goods. Big and small entrepreneurs have been increasingly making use of a nonprofit organization named Peace Dividend Trust. The organization specializes in connecting sellers with international agents working inside and outside the country.
The effort is undertaken either through direct lobbying or using the organization's Internet business database and matchmaking service, which can be found online at timor.buildingmarkets.org.
There has been a 240 percent increase in visits from Indonesian buyers in the six months since the site was translated into Indonesian last July. PDT, with it's slogan, "Buy Local, Build Timor-Leste," has been a big help in the eyes of local business owners.
As of the end of 2010, the organization was responsible for over 13,000 new contracts with approximately 12 percent of these being in the agricultural sector the vast majority being cattle, mungbeans, and soybeans and over 600 tenders being distributed to East Timorese entrepreneurs.
There are, of course, obstacles for smaller entrepreneurs, but it turns out that the main obstacle boils down to simple communication.
A cross-border event hosted by PDT last November on the border of Bobonaro and Indonesian West Timor, attended by entrepreneurs, government officials, representatives of the chambers of commerce, customs officials and border police from both sides, resulted in the realization that the main barrier to improving border trade is getting everyone on the same page.
Domingas dos Santos, a PDT representative, has made multiple trips to West Timor in an attempt to find and break down communication barriers. On one trip she discovered that buyers there found that the crops from East Timor were of poor quality.
"The PDT began working with the [Bobonaro] Chamber of Commerce to hold workshops. We informed [farmers] about the right way of planting and looking after their crops and harvest. As a result, these farmers are selling a lot more of what they grow," said Santos.
East Timor's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ccitl) is also lobbying countries other than Indonesia.
"Starting this year, one company will be exporting large amounts of turmeric to China, which is also interested in our fruits and wild scorpions," said Ricardo Nheu, vice president of the Ccitl.
"We are cooperating with Malaysia for [the opening of] rubber plantations. We are trying to open ways to export cattle to Malaysia too. The biggest importer of our coffee is the US and Europeans like our spices.
"Everything we grow is organic," he added. "The government is just beginning to focus on larger export items that can balance out our trade deficit. The next step is giving subsidies and fighting for a banking loan system to support the export sector."
The challenges are many, but the world's second-youngest country is far from taking them lying down.