Subject: Bali Post interviews Munir on Atambua and the international fall-out

(The date on which this interview was published in Bali Post is not given.)

Bali Post "Munir: Even without an embargo, Indonesia is already hurting"

The problem of E. Timor refugees in Atambua appears to have again cornered our nation in the eyes of the international community. After last week's unrest, the UN threatens to send a special delegation to Atambua to help in resolving the case. If that request is rejected and Indonesia is unable to solve the problem, the UN threatens to apply an embargo as was once used against Iraq. What is actually the main problem for refugees in Atambua? Following is an interview with Munir, Vice Chair of the Indonesian Legal Aid Association who was also former Coordinator for the Commission on Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and once handled refugee problems there.

BP: It appears the problem of E. Timor refugees in Atambua has become a big problem for our country. Do you agree with that? M: Certainly. It looks like our government can't handle the problem itself.

BP: Why isn't the government able? M: I don't know exactly. But this isn't the only time the government has had to handle a refugee case. Our government successfully handled Vietnamese refugees on Rempang and Galang Riau islands.

BP: What is actually the main refugee problem in Atambua? M: I think that the main problem for refugees there is that they have no hope. For a year now they have only lived for the day without knowing what they would do the next day. It is as if they became victims of a situation they themselves really don't want.

BP: Besides that problem, what other problems are there? M: Another problem is that the refugees have been used as a political weapon by both the government and the military.

BP: What do you mean? M: The refugees have been used as justification for the government's statement that, although it has already accepted the results of the E. Timor referendum of last year that was won by the pro-independence side, it still wants to claims that the results of the referendum aren't legitimate. The evidence is that a lot of E. Timorese fled and sought refuge.

BP: But isn't that a loss for the government and ruin our image outside the country? M: sure, economically the government has suffered a loss. How many funds have we expended? But when it comes to a good image and name, that can't be judged in terms of gain and loss.

BP: Concerning the unrest of a few days ago, do you think the military was involved? M: O, yes, that's clear. That is seen nakedly there. Furthermore, according to me, military involvement there is already too deep and has given rise to a deep trauma among the refugees. Do you know? In the refugee camps, every time a soldier goes by, even if he doesn't do anything, it is certain the refugees will look scared.

BP: What, actually, has the military done in Atambua? M: Wow, a lot. What more they were already doing it there while E. Timor was still joined with Indonesia. That became even more ? when they heard the news that there was to be a human rights trial for crimes against humanity that would likely drag in a lot of soldiers.

BP: What is the advantage to the army to carry out such intimidation? M: At the least, by creating feelings of fear among the refugees they will be scared to give testimony should at some point they be summoned as witnesses.

BP: Concerning the murder of the UN staff, do you think the military was also involved? M: I'm inclined to say they were involved although probably not directly.

BP: What indicates the involvement of the military? M: This case doesn't stand alone. The case was preceded by the murder of the former militia member, Olivio, that was certainly carried out by the military to get rid of a key witness who knew of the military's involvement in human rights abuses in E. Timor, whereas the attack on the UN office itself was only an excessive act following from that case.

BP: With conditions as they are now, what should the government do? M: Because of the problem there is hope that the government will immediately give them some certainty about their lives, if need be seeking foreign assistance. They should immediately ask that the refugees choose to remain in Indonesia or return to E. Timor. If they choose to remain in Indonesia they should be treated just the same as all other citizens.

BP: Concerning the military who are involved, what's the best thing to do? M: Take them to court. What's the problem with the military sacrificing its members who are wrong. That's the best path to follow if they don't want other countries to intervene via the UN. [What is more (EH)], now that the UN has issued its threat to impose an embargo on us. Let's not end up like Yugoslavia and Iraq as a result of our government's inability.

BP: What's your opinion about the UN's embargo threat? M: Heaven forbid the UN impose sanctions against us. Without an embargo sanction our condition is already very serious, what more if an embargo is added.

BP: Are you convinced the government will succeed in solving this case? M: Normally, if our government is threatened and closely observed, then it will really work seriously. The problem is not whether or not it will succeed, but whether it has the desire for that or not.

BP "Foreign Affairs Dept., the spear point for shaping image in eyes of the world"

"To ask the UN Sec. General to report to the UN Security Council in one week's time from the passing of this resolution, concerning developments in the field."

That was an order included in the UN Security Council's Resolution No. 1319/2000 of 8 Sept., point 7. Today is the deadline for UN Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan to report the results of the investigation and Indonesia's sincerity in carrying out the decisions of the resolution. Two of the resolution's eight points are especially important: that the Indonesian government must immediately confiscate weapons from the militia and uphold the law by trying those who instigated the rioting in which 3 UNHCR staff were murdered. Secondly, the govt. of Indo. must implement security in repatriating E. Timor refugees and insure security in Indonesian territory both for refugees as well as for foreigners carrying out the UN's mission.

Today is also the day that will be very determinative in terms of Kofi Annan's attitude towards Indonesia. And today is also a golden opportunity for Indonesia to show the world that Indonesia is still able to implement security for its members and foreigners implementing humanitarian missions in Indonesia. If Indonesia is able to show its capability it will avoid various curses and embargo threats from the UN and disdain of the international community. It is no longer a secret that the UN Sec. Council resolution is a very serious hit against the government of Abdurrahman Wahid. The politics behind the birth of this resolution were very heavy indeed. This is evident from the number of elements that can be said to be the intervention of US politics with the inclusion of a number of "its interests." Another indication of the weight of this issue is that the Security Council is ready to send a special mission to Indonesia. This most clearly indicates the intervention of the US. Fortunately, China and Russia, which hold veto rights in the Sec. Council, are still friends with Indonesia. Their vetoes can help to save face for Indonesia.

Indonesia has been shamed in the eyes of the world during the high level conference in NY on 7-8 Sept. After learning that three UNHCR staff people had been killed, the High Commissioner, Sadako, said, "I am disappointed at the failure of Indonesia to guard security in Atambua." Another threat has come from the World Bank when the Director, James Wolfensohn wrote a letter to Gus Dur: "I ask you to work with all your might to stop the violence before there are other victims." Although there is not yet any official termination of Bank aid, nor a postponement of the meeting of the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) scheduled for October, it is unusual for Wolfensohn to right such a harsh letter. Should the Bank suspend aid, Indonesia would really be in a bind. Multidimensional problems we are currently facing would have no end in sight and our economy would continue to suffer until who knows when.

Atambua will be a crucial moment for Indonesia if today, for example, the UN Sec. Gen. should report that in Atambua there is still long-term unrest and Indonesia is accused of being unable to carry out the Security Council resolution. For sure a lot of threats would follow such as an economic embargo, prohibitions on overseas flights, etc. Not only that, the UN is prepared with a long list of abuses of Indonesians to be tried in an international tribunal. And if that happens, Indonesia's image will really suffer. Why? Because an international trial means that the sovereignty of the law in this country is truly paralyzed, and the international community no longer trusts the legal institutions of Indonesia.

[The article goes on to speculate on a number of possible scenarios – including all the human rights abuses that would be tried in an international court – and concludes with this]: The lesson for the government to learn from all this is that there are still a lot of enemies of this regime inside the country. They can't be faced by Pres. Abdurrahman Wahid alone. The people must be united in facing them. The President is only the manager because all the people of Indonesia certainly agree that this crisis must immediately be finished and Indonesia must immediately be counted in the world's assembly because Indonesia is a rich country with great potential. The efforts of various foreign countries to embarrass Indonesia so right now are only efforts to gain control of the assets and wealth of this country and their tactics are getting increasingly vicious like various acts of terrorism that are now being implemented. The support from the world certainly needs to be a priority because Indonesia is part of the nations in the world. Therefore, the Foreign Affairs Dept. as the tip of the spear that shapes Indonesia's image with outsiders must work extra hard to insure the good image of Indonesia. To restore the world's faith in Indonesia will have both economic and political advantages since it will improve Indonesia's bargaining position. Now the UN Sec. Council's threat is under the nose of Pres. Wahid. It remains to be seen what attitude the pres. will take and the role he'll play as a global man who can quell international anger via his authority and diplomatic skills. We'll wait and see.

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