Subject: UNOTIL Daily Media Review 23 August 2005


Daily Media Review

Compiled by the Public Information Office from national and international sources

Tuesday 23 August 2005

National Media Reports

President Xanana and PM Alkatiri’s Statements During the Celebration of Falintil Day in Oecussi

Diario Nacional and STL quoted President Gusmão as voicing concerns on various subjects during the Falintil commemoration day in Oecussi on Saturday 20 August. TP and DN reported quotes from President Gusmão saying that a good soldier should honour his uniform. Diario Tempo also reported on the presentation of Oecussi Secretary of State, Albano Salem, to whom President Gusmão appealed not to be self-centered but to integrate the interests of the people of Oecussi in a holistic national development process. The President also urged the regional Secretaries of State not to just travel to and from Dili as has been done by some of the district administrators. Diario Nacional reported that before presenting the Oecussi Secretary of State to the population, the President confirmed that Oecussi was a regional administration with special status based on the national constitution. Diario Nacional quoted PM Alkatiri as saying that Fretilin had established Falintil to defend the people during the resistance which cost the lives of so many people in the struggle for independence. (STL, Diario Nacional, Timor Post)

Timorese Leaders Will Participate in UN Reform Meeting

The Chief of Staff of the Office of the President, Agio Pereira told media that according to plans, President Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and the President of the National Parliament, Francisco Lu Olo Guterres are expected to attend the UN reform meeting that will take place in September in New York reported Timor Post. He added that although all three of them would attend the same meeting they would probably depart Timor-Leste on different dates with President Gusmão leaving from Timor-Leste on 10 September followed by PM Alkatiri and the President of the National Parliament, Francisco Lu Olo Guterres. Before heading to New York, President Gusmão would first stop in Thailand to launch a book on Timor-Leste written by the UN Secretary-General. [UNOTIL correction- Hong Kong] (STL)

CTF Has Not Yet Requested Funds from International Community

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Jose Ramos-Horta has confirmed that the Commission for Truth and Friendship has not yet requested financial assistance from the international community, adding that a financial plan has also not been submitted to the governments of the two nations. Speaking to the media after a meeting to inform Prime Minister Alkatiri of the activities of the CTF, Ramos-Horta said that the commission had already started working but needs to finalise administration issues in Timor-Leste, Bali or Jakarta which require logistic support. He reminded PM Alkatiri that the CTF would be composed of 25 staff from each country and that the Dili office of the CTF would be located in the building of CAVR, in Balide, Dili. (Diario)

Border Demarcation to be Completed By End of Year: Ramos-Horta

Minister Ramos-Horta told the media that the land demarcation process for the land-border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia will be completed by the end of 2005. Ramos-Horta said that so far 96 per cent of the border demarcation has been completed and the remaining 4 percent is in Oecussi. He added that on Monday (29 August ) there will be a huge ceremony at the border in Motain to erect a sign post to start the demarcation process adding that the borders agreed by the two nations would be identified with cement posts. (Diario)

China Ambassador Presents Final Design Plan to the President

Chinese Ambassador to Timor-Leste, Cheng Duging on Monday presented the final design for the construction of the Presidential Palace to President Gusmão. According to the Chief of Staff of the Office of the President, Agio Pereira, the location of the Presidential Palace would be in the Heliport area. Pereira also said that the project had been discussed with the government and the final design needs to be approved by President Gusmão in order to start the construction. “I think the construction would be completed in a year or so,” said Agio Pereira. During the meeting the Ambassador also presented the President with sport equipment such as volley balls, tennis rackets and training equipment which the President intends to distribute to people in remote areas. (Diario)

UDT, ASDT and PD Agree with Lowering of CPD-RDTL Flag

Various political parties such as União Democratica de Timor (UDT), Associação Social Democratico de Timor (ASDT) and Partido Democratico (PD) have agreed with the steps taken by the government to lower the CPD-RDTL flag last Saturday in Dili and other districts. MP Alexandre Corte-Real (UDT), Rui Menezes (PD) are of the same opinion that there has not been any human rights violations because the government followed the procedures already in place by requesting the group to either register as a party or an NGO. As the group had refused the groups can be considered an illegal group, reported Timor Post on Tuesday. (TP)

Pertamina Manager Appeals to Government to Monitor Petrol Smuggling at the Border

The manager of Pertamina, Rifky E. Hardjjanto made an appeal to the Timor-Leste Government to monitor carefully petrol smuggling or illegal transportation of oil across the border in order to assist the Indonesian government seize smuggled petrol, STL reported. Rifky E. Hadjanto added that Timor-Leste would also not like resources being taken out of the country and by assisting each other Timor-Leste and Indonesian would help further establish constructive bilateral ties. (STL)

Clean Water Shortages in Maliana and Suai

Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper reported that residents of some sub-districts in Covalima, Suai have not had access to clean water for the past two weeks and are now buying clean water. According to Natalia Gusmao, the representative of Asuamaten village Debos, some of the residents are paying two dollars for a barrel of clean water not including transportation costs. Gusmao added that the population in that area have not had assistance to access clean water from the Water and Sanitation Services department. In response to the problem, the Head of the Water and Sanitation department of Covalima District said the problem is due to fuel shortages. (STL)

Regional Media Reports

UN body calls for donors to support action in East Timor

The United Nations' World Food Program says food security is an issue for 40 per cent of East Timor's population. The organisation says 12 per cent of East Timorese are malnourished, a rate considerably higher than other countries in the region. World Food Program country director, Tarek Elguindi, says there is an urgent need for donors to support the government's efforts to provide children and new mothers with adequate nutrition. The body has recently reached a deal with the government to provide cooking oil to new mothers and children under the age of five, as well as daily snacks to nearly 100,000 school children. The World Food Program says East Timor's poor spend 75 per cent of their money on food. (ABC Asia Pacific TV / Radio Australia)

The gulf of views between Aceh and Jakarta

Jakarta: A young East Timorese once inquired, "Do you people also experience atrocities?" I said, "What? Of course not." Where did she get such an idea? Youngsters in Indonesia's big cities were not only free of "atrocities", they were out blissfully shopping and loitering in malls, and moaning about the traffic.

A few years later, third president BJ Habibie led the controversial move to allow East Timor's referendum, and we teased our colleagues among the Dili press, asking, "So, what are you going to vote for?" And they would just give their gentle, mysterious smiles. East Timor became free; life was tough, but they have never voiced regret.

My Timorese friends came to mind in the wake of the Aug. 15 signing of the historic peace agreement between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). I recalled that my Acehnese colleagues would spell "Aceh" -- in their emails or text messages -- as "Acheh" or "Atjeh", in accordance with the spelling of Aceh used by GAM; a gesture I belatedly figured out was similar to the Timorese.

From these friends' subtle expressions and evasions of "sensitive" issues, it was as if they were saying, "I am indeed your friend, but we may need to become separate from you one day because of circumstances that you may not understand, and I'm not telling you outright because I don't want to argue with you; it's a long story, and we've found that you people never understand -- you cannot, or refuse, to see our point of view and you will make me listen to the same lecture all over again."

This quiet attitude reflects the seeming impossibility for an open dialog among fellow Indonesians between, for instance, those from Aceh, or pre-independent East Timor, even when they're of the same age group or profession, with those who grew up in the "center" -- mainly Java or the capital -- who never seem to have any doubt about the "truth."

Even if you dozed all through your history and civics classes, being spoon-fed government-approved versions of the truth, you grew up with either veteran elders and their heroic stories of defending the red-and-white; or you grew up simply ignorant, with no curiosity, on why any Indonesian could harbor a wish to separate themselves from our republic.

The wider public has thus largely become convinced that the Acehnese are not aware of their own history; that they are an indisputable and integral part of the Indonesian republic. And even if they were aware, any demand for independence and any support for GAM could only be short-lived, even though these people say they suffered atrocities at the hands of the Indonesian military. After all, we think, these are just necessary excesses that occur during wars in order to crush the enemy.

Among those living outside Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, and earlier, East Timor, we indeed knew that much information of history and living conditions were hidden from the public eye for a very long time. But amazingly, the basic views remained -- that no part of Indonesia could separate itself because of our "holy legacy" of the "unitary state", fought for with the blood and tears of our forebears. Settling any wrongdoing by breaking away, as in the East Timor case, was a stupid mistake and a betrayal of the nation.

Rare has been the view that we might not deserve the land nor its people who we keep neglecting, extorting and oppressing.

In 1998, the eyes of attendants in a Jakarta conference room were moist when women from Aceh for the first time in public recited experiences under the 10-year military rule, shortly after it was declared to have ended that year.

A few years later, an Acehnese sociologist described how virtually every male, 14 years upwards, had experienced being slapped by Indonesian security forces, a contributing factor to the recruitment of GAM apart from the fact that many youngsters had been witness to violence against family members by police or military personnel.

But knowing of such experiences in Acehnese life did not lead to much reflection and public debate ahead of declaration of martial law, which would include another phase of military operations. Instead, "Crush GAM, uphold the unitary republic" was the main message coming from phone-in calls to talk shows.

Some Acehnese had said they had wanted to make their differing views known, they had tried to join the polls broadcast on television, but somehow they couldn't get through. An Acehnese scholar had said yes, military operations might be the way but why all across the province? Such views were drowned out.

Media surveys such as those from the Institute of Studies on Information Flow (ISAI) strongly suggested that the media shared much of the blame for the absence of Acehnese voices in public discourse; they showed that coverage in the mainstream media became increasingly slanted to the needs of the military while the disputing parties of the government and GAM went back and forth on the earlier peace talks in Geneva, which eventually collapsed.

Today the absence or drowning out of the "Acehnese perspective" in public opinion persists -- resulting in a gulf of views between the public inside and outside Aceh (and any other area mulling ungrateful rebellious thoughts like Papua), a gulf molded by both years of comfortable life under the New Order and a mask over real life experiences in Aceh.

Such experiences have only been exposed as occasional dramatic stories, too sporadic to make the wider public refrain from judgment and lecturing, "all Indonesians stick together forever, you've got all our sympathy, now we'll strive with you to make things better; there's no point on relying on GAM anyway, they're led by old men who've been away from Aceh for so long."

So we hector them about local political parties and all the other "concessions" given to GAM: They've done nothing and yet we're bribing them with all this land and amnesty, they get direct access to foreign loans and get to set their own bank rates! But look closer at the MOU, at the potential dangers in the lack of explicit language on GAM dropping their demands for independence.

It is indeed the business of experienced negotiators and concerned patriotic citizens to be aware of all the flaws.

But Acehnese remind us that we haven't really looked at what counts most; what do they want? In the "MOU controversy" we've forgotten that the Acehnese are some hundred thousand short of their original 4 million population figure; they're what's left of the devastating tsunami.

An Acehnese said, "Why all the fuss over local political parties? We might not even consider choosing them! Wasn't it a breakthrough that GAM no longer demanded independence?" In other words, we've forgotten the main actors behind the disputing parties who want to get on with their lives as best as they can, after surviving decades of war, and the pain of losing loved ones to violence, and later the tsunamis.

Ironically it's taken an official to remind us, "Use your conscience when criticizing the MOU; do we really want more of our mothers to become widows, and more children to become orphans, because of the violence?"

Justice minister and chief negotiator Hamid Awaluddin may sound defensive, but millions of Acehnese may agree -- and they might not be telling us. (The Jakarta Post).

National News Sources

Timor Post (TP) Suara Timor Lorosae (STL) Diario Tempo (DT) Diario Nacional Seminario Lia Foun (LF) Televisaun Timor-Leste [TVTL] RTL Radio Timor-Leste [RTL]

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