Subject: Xanana: Speech to Stockholm Conf on Reconcilation

ADDRESS BY His Excellency Mr Xanana Gusmao To the Stockholm International Forum Conference on Truth, Justice and Reconciliation

23 April, 2002

RECONCILIATION -The Challenge for All

It is a great honour to be here, representing the people of East Timor, at this international forum on Truth, Justice and Reconciliation.

Before I speak of the universality of pain, suffering and forgiveness, I would like to remind all of the participants present here that the violence in East Timor commenced on 11 August 1975 with two East Timorese nationalist movements taking up arms against one another on ideological grounds. And so began the bloody conflict which led to the Indonesian invasion of 7 December 1975.

In 1984, a process of reconciliation involving the two movements was initiated, making way for the establishment in 1986 of the Nationalist Convergence which was a response to the reconciliatory efforts being promoted inside East Timor itself.

After the first three years of resistance, the over 90% of the population which had fled into the mountains found themselves under the control of the invading Indonesian forces. As of this moment, many were mobilized by the Indonesian military to fight the guerrilla forces. A large number of these brothers who paraded the heads of slain Timorese from the mountains as war trophies were accepted back into their communities in a spirit of reconciliation. Others joined the guerrilla struggle and died as heroes.

In the same way, many of those who were considered to be collaborators for having betrayed the clandestine organization were forgiven and turned to working for the resistance.

Mention must also be made of the political will of the East Timorese to engage in dialogue and reconciliation which was manifest through their participation in dialogue in 1994 in London and in Austria in the two years that followed. Even prior to the popular consultation, two meetings took place in Dare, just outside Dili, and another in Jakarta, with a view to bringing East Timorese face to face in search of reconciliation.

All of the above is evidence of the East Timorese people’s profound understanding of the need for reconciliation and of their efforts to conduct themselves, whenever possible, in this spirit.

Today we continue to engage actively in this process, with special attention being paid to the consequences of the violence of September 1999.

As I stated at the beginning, we are here to reflect upon the universality of pain, suffering and forgiveness. These feelings know no boundaries - they are the human condition. Sometimes the pain is so overwhelming that talk of forgiveness seems like another insult - people who talk to perpetrators of injustice are accused of insulting the victims. Opening dialogue with the recent enemy is a difficult process. In this sense I come today from the field of sorrows where the sea of sadness washed our shores for so many years that we even lost names of those for whom we seek justice. I have heard the same words from our brothers and sisters in other places in the world. We know from our knowledge of history that civilisation evolved from brutality, that peace followed great wars.

· What then does a tolerant society in the 21st Century do to speed up the healing process? Truth and Reconciliation are important elements but the parties must become engaged-dialogue is the primary objective with conditions for an effective exchange of views a basic requirement. Getting the opposite sides to the table sounds like a simple negotiation but in reality is very complex. People have different perceptions.

In post apartheid South Africa truthfulness was made a legal requirement for participation in the reconciliation/healing process. Those who were not prepared to truthfully acknowledge their crimes did not participate in the reconciliation process. Alternate judicial processes and sanctions were developed in South Africa to deal with persons who would not recognise their criminality. Such a structure may have been suited to South Africa where there was a developed judicial and criminal law system. In East Timor these structures are still being created.

Let me explain the situation in East Timor in more detail. In 2000 we strove to revive dialogue and many meetings were held with the support of Uppsala University, starting with Jakarta and including gatherings in Singapore, Tokyo, Denpasar and Baucau, East Timor. These meetings were largely aimed at promoting dialogue with the pro-autonomy leadership.

It must be acknowledged that the people did not agree with these meetings and we were accused of distorting the spirit of reconciliation. We reflected deeply on this message from the people and resolved to identify another mechanism.

The need has appeared for us to formulate a National Reconciliation Policy. In meetings with the First Transitional Administration and the judiciary (including judges, prosecutors and serious crimes investigators) I outlined the need for all of us to be guided by a single code of conduct, without which our efforts at reconciliation were bound to fail.

All of the government bodies agreed that reconciliation should offer a means whereby the perpetrators of human rights violations can sit together with the victims and community leaders. From here commenced a second phase of the reconciliation process. With the announcement of the unqualified support of the Indonesian authorities, we proceeded to organize meetings at various localities along the border in both the north and south of the country, including in the enclave of Oecusse-Ambeno.

Throughout this process I have witnessed tense encounters which ended with tears being shed and embraces of forgiveness exchanged between former foes. Such meetings allowed us to dispel many of the concerns regarding personal revenge which persisted.

In each of these meetings, we emphasized the importance of justice being done. Whilst we recognize that many international organizations take exception to our approach, our position continues to be that we must allow the perpetrators of crimes to meet with victims before they decide to return to East Timor and to face trial there.

The prosecutors of serious crimes will have little work to follow up on if the indicted refuse to return to East Timor. We advocate a reconciliation process whereby justice is meted out to perpetrators but which eschews revenge, resentment and hatred.

There has been some criticism of my meetings with militia leaders. Some have suggested that persons are being invited to return home on the basis of a known prosecution agreement. This is a very complex issue. To start a reconciliation process requires a balancing of interests. On one hand the interests of justice and on the other hand the interests of a suffering community who follow a leader who is unwilling to return for fear of punishment. In this sense the situation in West Timor among the East Timorese people is very complex. I anticipate that early in the independence of my country the East Timor Government will clarify its position with respect to persons accused of very serious crimes. As I said earlier a good knowledge of the laws of East Timor and attitudes to those suspected of serious crimes is necessary to facilitate the reconciliation process.

A good deal is spoken outside East Timor on the subject of trauma. In East Timor’s case I believe trauma is experienced at a personal level, but it is not a generalized phenomenon. Personally I believe that we must view trauma from another angle, that is, as it may be experienced by the family members and particularly the children of those facing prison sentences of 10, 15 or even 20 years.

Reconciliation would be rendered meaningless. I am of the view that reconciliation succeeds only when East Timorese society stops being haunted by the ghosts of conflicts of the past. We have already proudly shown to the world that, in spite of 24 years of violence and suffering which culminated in September 1999, the East Timorese people desire to live in harmony and to attain true peace of mind. The two elections which took place within the space of 7 months were carried out peacefully and with an exceptionally high level of popular participation.

We agree with the need for justice. As part of the healing process, what is also required of us is courage in our political conduct because this is, after all, a political process and not merely a judicial one.

In my programs (and I was elected President on the basis of my programs) I defended strongly the need for amnesty for those already indicted and serving prison terms. I intend to urge the Parliament to issue a decree granting the President special powers in this regard.

I have already mentioned that the process requires a balancing of interests. I wish to include here the national interest of guaranteeing stability along the border and of strengthening our cooperation with Indonesia, in particular with the Province of Nusa Tenggara Timur inside which our enclave of Oecusse is situated.

Last year at the UN Security Council I appealed for the down-sizing of the peace keeping forces to be delayed until after last year’s general elections. We are keenly aware that the attention of the international community has turned to Afghanistan and the Middle East, with implications for donor contributions to the peace keeping effort in East Timor.

Even before the war in Afghanistan, we were aware that the costs associated with peace-keeping operations in East Timor were much higher than the roughly 100 million dollars budgeted for the reconstruction of the country. Following this conference, I am obliged to travel to New York to request that peace keepers remain in East Timor for another two years with only a gradual down-sizing.

To relieve the burden on the international community, we must see our reconciliation efforts as a means of consolidating national stability and of contributing to world peace.

The reconciliation process in East Timor has certain features and is governed by certain rules which must be kept in mind.

One of the priorities of my term as President will be to continue to unite the Timorese people in the fight against poverty. In this sense, reconciliation is an essential element in the process of national reconstruction.

In November last year I visited Kupang. Earlier this month I traveled to Atambua and Kefa in West Timor where I addressed more than five thousand refugees. On my return to Timor, I will visit Sulawesi with the same intention.

The small size of our population and the strong sense of community and social solidarity which are a feature of many economically under-developed nations have facilitated reconciliation amongst East Timorese. In addition, our people’s strong ancestral links to the land have been an important factor in bringing refugees home in spite of fears of possible retribution.

A Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been established to provide support to communities in the resolution of small-scale conflicts.

The Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation has to show virtues of tolerance, compassion and forbearance as well as the pursuit of truth. It may be a contradiction for a state sponsored commission to issue threats of prosecution against persons unless they return or unless they tell the truth; it may be counter productive for reconciliation to be seen as an outcome of strengths and power.

Only a wise policy of Reconciliation can promote harmony within Timorese society and guarantee broad participation as the basic condition for social justice and the improvement of the living standards of the population. Only then will Independence have real meaning for a people who fought, suffered and finally won their right to live in freedom and independence.

We continue to count on the support of the democratic governments and institutions which have assisted us thus far, many of which are represented here at this Conference. We share the success we have attained so far with all of you, and we hope and trust that the experience of the small nation of East Timor can contribute in a modest way to informing and enlightening your deliberations here at this conference. Thank you.


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