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Governments fail to reunite Timorese families

UCA News - September 1, 2016

Ryan Dagur and Siktus Harson, Jakarta – Rights groups have said the governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste have failed to find, document and reunite Timorese separated from their families when they were children during the Indonesian occupation (1975-1999) as recommended by an official commission in 2008.

Even though people were taken as children and are now adults, uprooting them from their families remains a violation of their human rights, said activists from six rights groups, on Aug. 30, the International Day of the Disappeared, which is also the Referendum Day of Timor-Leste.

Many families in Timor-Leste are still awaiting the return of their relatives from Indonesia where they were taken to, the activists said in a joint statement read out at a press conference in Jakarta.

"We appeal for both states to make a serious effort to reunite the children who were taken from their families in Timor-Leste," the groups said.

Selviana Yolanda, of Asia Justice and Rights, said that an estimated 4,000 children were separated from their families and taken to Indonesia during the occupation. "The government should have helped finding those people," Yolanda said, as recommended by the Commission on Truth and Friendship eight years ago.

As of now, only 65 people have been documented and only 30 have been reunited with their families. Former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued an instruction in 2011 providing guidelines to follow the commission's recommendations. But it has not been implemented, according to Yolanda.

"Unfortunately, as of today, the government ignores all the recommendations related to missing people and separated children," she said. "The government should help to find these people."

She also urged the government of Indonesia to take steps to heal the trauma and further protect victims. The Indonesian government must admit that taking children from their families for whatever reason is severe violation of human rights and also provide a victim protection service.

"The Indonesian government must help them obtain their citizenship documents, provide them with scholarships and other financial aid," she added.

Sandra Moniagar from the National Human Rights Commission said the government has not made a serious effort to document the number of Timor-Leste children who were separated from their families during 24 years of Indonesian occupation. "There has not been any concrete measures taken by Indonesian government," Moniagar said.

Isabelinha Pinto, one of the Timorese who was separated from her family and adopted by a member of Indonesian military, said that there must be a serious effort to find people who were taken from their families.

"I have experienced what it feels like to be separated from family members," said Pinto. She was separated from her family in 1979 and met her parents accidentally in 2009 when they travelled to Yogyakarta. She believed that there are still many people like her who want to reunite with their family members in Timor-Leste.

Meanwhile, Sisto dos Santos, coordinator of the Timor-Leste National Alliance for International Tribunal (known as ANTI), said that the government of Timor-Leste has been too busy building infrastructure to pay attention to the pleas of broken families. Santos also slammed the Indonesian government for protecting the perpetrators of the crimes.

"Unfortunately, after independence the state of Timor-Leste decided to focus more on physical development and... [has not sought] credible justice for the serious crimes committed against the Timorese people," he said in a statement sent to ucanews.com.

Source: http://www.ucanews.com/news/governments-fail-to-reunite-timorese-families/77010