Subject: Indonesian Presidential Visit to Timor Ends, Demonstrators Moved

[Wire service photos of SBY's visit to East Timor can be found for the next few days at]

Also: BBC - Indonesia and E Timor heal wounds

Indonesian Presidential Visit to Timor Ends, Demonstrators Moved By Tim Johnston Jakarta 09 April 2005

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ended a controversial two-day visit to East Timor by laying a wreath at a cemetery where Indonesian troops killed hundreds of Timorese 14 years ago. The visit went smoothly, but, some would-be demonstrators say they were muzzled by police.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's visit to East Timor, which ended Saturday, appears to have been a success. The two countries signed a treaty defining their disputed border, and relations seem warm and friendly.

But the visit was still controversial. Indonesia occupied East Timor for almost 25 years. And then, when the Timorese voted for independence in an UN-sponsored referendum six years ago, Jakarta-backed militias unleashed a wave of violence - killing an estimated 1,500 people and leaving the country in ruins.

Indonesia has failed to bring anyone to justice for the crimes committed around the 1999 vote. The governments of both East Timor and Indonesia have tried to downplay the problem, saying they want to look to the future of the relationship rather than dwell on the past.

On Saturday morning, as a gesture of reconciliation, President Yudhoyono visited the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, where, in 1991, Indonesian troops opened fire on demonstrators gathered to honor a pro-independence activist. More than 200 people were killed.

But some East Timorese were not impressed with efforts to forgive and forget and turned out to protest at the cemetery, a site of huge symbolic importance to the Timorese.

Tomas Freitas, one of the protesters, says his group wants to remind President Yudhoyono of his responsibilities.

"The objective to have a banner there just to remind Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, we just want to remind him you have to resolve this justice," he said. "You don't have to leave all the people who committed these crimes. We just want him to resolve all of the problems in terms of the justice."

Police moved off protesters, before President Yudhoyono arrived and the demonstrators say their demands for justice are being silenced.

Indonesia did appoint a special tribunal, which tried 18 people for the crimes, but all but one have been acquitted.

East Timor also held trials, but justice was diverted in that many of suspects could not be extradited from Indonesia

So now, the United Nations has appointed a so-called Commission of Experts to examine attempts to bring to justice those responsible for the carnage. The three-person commission is currently visiting the Timorese capital, Dili.


Indonesia and E Timor heal wounds Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has visited a cemetery in East Timor where Indonesian troops killed hundreds of protesters in 1991.

The visit, the first by an Indonesian leader to the graveyard, is seen as a symbol of reconciliation after East Timor's 1999 breakaway from Indonesia. On Friday, he signed a border agreement which both sides described as a good step towards normalising relations.

Some 1,500 people were killed when the tiny country voted for independence.

The president prayed at the cemetery where a peaceful commemoration of an activist killed by the Indonesian military turned into a bloodbath when troops opened fire on 3,000 people.

More than 200 were killed and about 270 went missing.

Improving relations

Mr Yudhoyono later on Saturday visited a nearby graveyard where hundreds of Indonesian troops killed during the occupation are buried.

"East Timor is like an old relative," he told the East Timorese parliament.

"I hope that the atmosphere of this trip can be maintained and translated into closer relations in the future."

The two countries have also signed an important agreement to formalise the border between East Timor and Indonesian-controlled West Timor.

"Our two nations have been able to reach a provisional land border agreement after less than five years of talks," East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said.

"This is a great achievement in its own right and it bodes well for making progress on other fundamentally important issues."


But while the visit marks a step forward in the relation between the two countries, many in East Timor feel that justice has not yet been done.

Indonesia set up a special human rights court in 2000, but has so far refused to extradite those accused of responsibility for the massacres.

Of 18 people it has tried in its own courts, 17 have been acquitted and one is still free while his case is being appealed.

The BBC's Tim Johnston says that despite the visit, the wounds in East Timor are far from healed.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, starting an occupation which lasted almost a quarter of a century.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/04/09 05:49:17 GMT

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