|Subject: ETese NGOs write to Japanese PM re
The following is an English translation of the full text of a letter originally written in Bahasa Indonesia and sent to the Japanese government by a coalition of East Timorese NGOs.
To: Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka Makiko
Cc: UNTAET SRSG, Sergio de Mello
September 3, 2001
Re: Deployment of Japanese Defense Force
We write to you as representatives from East Timorese non-governmental organizations. With this letter, we wish to forward our opinion of the Japanese government's plan to send a Japanese Self-Defense Force (SDF) to join the Peace Keeping Force (PKF) in East Timor, as has been reported in the mass media.
To date, the Japanese government has sent two members of Japan's SDF to assess the security situation, and East Timorese political leader Jose Ramos Horta has responded positively to Japan's plan to send troops to East Timor (Suara Timor Lorosa'e, 24 August 2001).
Without bringing into question the constitutional legitimacy of this plan, namely that Article 9 of Japan's Constitution prohibits the sending of troops overseas, we wish instead to take this opportunity to offer another viewpoint which is based on the East Timorese people's sense of justice.
The East Timorese people had a bitter experience with the Japanese military during the Second World War. Many East Timorese have been victims/survivors of abuse by Japanese troops, as forced laborers and sexual slaves ('comfort women'/jugun ianfu). In December 2000, two East Timorese women testified about their experiences as sexual slaves before the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal for the Trial of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery. This testimony points to the fact that these past experiences remain as a wound in these women's hearts, and that they have not yet found justice for their suffering.
More recently, for 24 years, the Japanese government has supported the illegal military occupation of East Timor by Indonesia. In 1982, Xanana Gusmao wrote a letter to the United Nation's General Assembly explaining that Japan had left a wound in the hearts of the East Timorese people during World War II, and that this wound was deepened by the Japanese government's close relationship with the Indonesian government.
We respect the Japanese government's change in attitude during the present transitional period. The Japanese government has shown their concern for East Timor's reconstruction and has contributed the largest amount of funds to the Trust Fund for East Timor. Drawing from our experience of the past and view of the present, we offer the following views:
* The Japanese government must publicly acknowledge that past policies have caused great suffering to the East Timorese people. They must ensure that there is no possibility of further abuses on our people.
* The plan to send a Japanese Self-Defense Force to join the PKF in East Timor should be abandoned. This plan will open past wounds and potentially damage the East Timorese people's image of the Japanese government. The funds needed to send troops would be better used to compensate victims of abuses during World War II and during Indonesia's occupation.
* There is no need to introduce a new military contingent from Japan to the international troops now present in East Timor. The security situation has already improved greatly under the control of the PKF.
* We believe that security problems around East Timor's border will not be solved by increasing the PKF. We want to see an end to war. What is needed is good diplomatic relations between Indonesia and East Timor. For this reason, if the Japanese government wishes to help build stability on the Indonesian-East Timorese border, they should push for a normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Japanese government can also use its economic and political strength to ensure stability along the border. In fact, increasing PKF members will likely increase animosity on the part of West Timorese (Indonesians) against the East Timorese people.
We sincerely appreciate your attention to and concern for our perspective.
Kyodo News Service
DILI, East Timor, Sept. 5
East Timor's major nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have urged Japan to abandon its plan to send troops to East Timor to participate in a U.N. peacekeeping operation and to instead use the money it would cost to compensate victims of abuses during Japan's wartime occupation.
'This plan will open past wounds and potentially damage the East Timorese people's image of the Japanese government,' 12 NGO organizations said in a joint letter addressed to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka.
'The funds needed to send troops would be better used to compensate victims of abuses during World War II and during Indonesia's occupation,' said the NGOs, which included groups representing women and students.
The letter, dated Sunday, was obtained Wednesday.
The Japanese government has indicated that it is keen to dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to East Timor after the U.N.-administered territory becomes independent next year.
Last month, East Timor's foreign affairs chief Jose Ramos-Horta said that East Timor would welcome participation by an SDF logistical unit in the U.N. peacekeeping operation, and that East Timor would not make an issue of Japan's 1942-1945 occupation of the territory.
The letter said the East Timorese people 'had a bitter experience with the Japanese military during the second world war.'
'Many East Timorese have been victims/survivors of abuse by Japanese troops, as forced laborers and sexual slaves,' it said. 'These past experiences remain as a wound in these women's hearts, and they have not yet found justice for their suffering.'
The letter also noted that the Japanese government for 24 years supported Indonesia's 'illegal military occupation' of East Timor.
It called on Tokyo to abandon the SDF dispatch plan and 'publicly acknowledge that past policies have caused great suffering to the East Timorese people.'
The United Nations plans to maintain peacekeeping troops in East Timor for two years after the half-island gains independence.
On Aug. 30, 1999, an overwhelming majority of people in the former Portuguese colony, which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, voted to separate from Indonesia in a U.N.-organized referendum.
After the results were announced, pro-Indonesia militias organized and supported by the Indonesian military went on a burning, looting and killing spree, prompting the international community to send in an Australian-led multinational force to restore order.
TOKYO, Sept. 5
Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani said Wednesday Japan will study plans to dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to East Timor for U.N. peacekeeping operations there after the U.N.-administered territory becomes independent next year, Defense Agency officials said.
Nakatani made his remarks during talks in Tokyo with his Singaporean counterpart Tony Tan, who doubles as deputy prime minister, the officials said.
Tan said he is well aware that the issue of dispatching the SDF overseas is a sensitive topic in Japan, but that he hopes Japan would participate, possibly in situations that call for humanitarian assistance, according to the officials.
The Singaporean defense chief also asked for Japanese cooperation in dealing with the rampant piracy in the Malacca Strait and other areas, the officials said, adding that Nakatani assured Tan that Japan would be involved in communicating and sharing information with concerned countries.
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