Subject: Age/E.Timor: Sex slave protests confront Japanese army

Also: UN plays down protest in E.Timor over Japan troops, Ramos-Horta: E Timor must forget

The Age March 5 2002

Sex slave protests confront Japanese army

By Jill Jolliffe

An advance party of 24 Japanese peacekeepers landed in East Timor yesterday to protests by local and Japanese activists and two elderly women demanding compensation for their use as sex slaves during World War II.

The Japanese team, led by Colonel Shoichi Ogawa, arrived in a Hercules military aircraft a little over 60 years after Japan invaded East Timor on February 19, 1942. The remainder of the battalion-strength engineering group will arrive later this month.

Colonel Ogawa refused to answer journalists' questions on whether Japan should apologise to or compensate an estimated 800 Timorese survivors of sexual slavery, known as "comfort women". He said only "we came here on a request from the UN and East Timorese leaders to assist in the country's restoration, so we will do the best we can". His group avoided a confrontation with the protesters by leaving the airport VIP lounge by a rear door.

Helena Guterres and Sara da Silva, who had travelled from the countryside for the protest, said they were disappointed that they could not meet the Japanese to demand compensation.

Mrs Guterres, given the Japanese name "Misiko" during the war, said she had been raped by Japanese soldiers in 1942 when she was 12 years old, in her home town of Baucau. She was forced to live in a barracks with six other women to service the Japanese army for the remaining three years of the occupation, in which an estimated 40,000 East Timorese are thought to have died. She was pregnant at the time of Japan's surrender and gave birth to a son.

Sara da Silva said she was captured in Dili in 1943 when she was 19, and taken to Baucau and other eastern villages with two other women and held in barracks in similar conditions until war's end.

There were also some elderly male survivors of the war in the crowd. A spokesman for the Foundation for Compensation of Victims of Colonialism in East Timor said it had a register of 3450 surviving victims.

The Japanese troops will work on road building during their six-month mission. Although they are officially known as a "Self-Defence Force", this will be the first time a contingent will carry arms abroad.

UN plays down protest in E. Timor over Japan troops

DILI, East Timor, March 5 (Reuters) - The U.N. on Tuesday played down protests against Japanese military engineers in East Timor, the advance party of a contingent that will eventually comprise Japan's biggest ever peacekeeping force.

On Monday around 20 Timorese greeted the arrival of the two dozen engineers in the capital Dili with placards decrying Japan's occupation of the tiny territory during World War Two when thousands of East Timorese were killed. The overseas dispatch of Japanese military forces has long been a sensitive topic in Japan and throughout Asia, where memories of the country's past militarism run deep.

"In the new East Timor, freedom of expression and speech are one of the core principles," said Barbara Reis, spokeswoman for the U.N. administration in East Timor.

"The protesters decided in a peaceful way to let the people know they were unhappy, and that is their right. The Japanese engineers are well respected and we do not believe it will affect any of their work."

The demonstration broke up without incident. The engineers will help prepare for the arrival of nearly 700 Japanese troops.

East Timor came under U.N. administration not long after it voted in a 1999 referendum to break free from Indonesian rule, an act that triggered a wave of violence from pro-Jakarta militias backed by elements in the Indonesian army.

The territory will become formally independent on May 20, although a smaller peacekeeping force is expected to remain for several years. The current number of peacekeeping troops in East Timor was unclear, although they once totalled 8,000.

The Japanese troop contingent will be the first to take part in U.N. peacekeeping operations since Japan approved a bill late last year to ease restrictions on the use of weapons during such missions, allowing its military to play a broader role.

Under its pacifist constitution, Japan is barred from settling international disputes by military means.

The engineers will also help rebuild roads and bridges that were destroyed by pro-Jakarta militias.



Tuesday March 5 2001

For Immediate Release


The following is a statement issued by Senior Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Second Transitional Government of East Timor, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Jose Ramos-Horta:

No chapter in Japan's great and rich history than the 1940-1945 chapter, has scarred more the Japanese for the suffering it caused to millions of peoples in Asia, including in East Timor, and to its own people. The great and proud nation was reduced to ashes by the first atomic bombs ever dropped on humankind and the Japanese people endured the humiliation of defeat and surrender and extreme poverty.

Within a short period of time Japan recovered from the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to become again a proud nation thanks to the extraordinary resilience and determination of its people, and becoming yet again a world economic superpower. With its vast wealth and know-how in almost every field of human endeavour it has made enormous contributions towards the well being of many countries in the Asia region, Africa and Latin America. It is the single largest contributor to UN humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR, UNICEF, UNESCO, WHO, etc.

Japan has been in the forefront of East Timor recovery efforts since 1999. Now in response to United Nations appeals and with the full support of the entire East Timorese leadership, the Japanese government has agreed to dispatch to East Timor an army engineering battalion, one of the most competent in the world. East Timor urgently needs this very important Japanese technical contribution.

Overall, Japan must engage more and more with UN peace-keeping missions. East Timor is a first major step after a smaller but significant mission in Cambodia.

On the question of compensation and apologies, nations have different ways of approaching this issue. Japan has atoned in many different ways for its past.

On the other hand if the East Timorese people were to heed the calls by a small group of people, local and foreigners, whom we now also care about the East Timorese, we would have to spend the next decades expecting apologies from a too long list of countries that one way or another, directly or indirectly, have contributed to our suffering.

The events of World War II have long passed. Its tragic consequences have receded in the collective memory of our people and overtaken by a much greater calamity that took place during the past quarter of a century and that have affected the entire nation and from which our people haven't recovered.

But the same time greater and more glorious days have arrived. Let's celebrate these great days of triumph and freedom, focus on the present and build a better, more prosperous and peaceful future.

East Timor warmly welcomes the Japanese army engineer battalion. Their presence and vital contribution will greatly contribute to consolidating East Timor-Japan friendship.

Jose Ramos-Horta Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

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