Subject: JP: Truth and Friendship Commission members sworn in [2 reports]

also: Indonesian, East Timorese presidents launch truth commission

The Jakarta Post Friday, August 12, 2005

Truth and Friendship Commission members sworn in

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar

A joint truth commission embarked on Thursday on an uphill task of unveiling the dark side of the history of Indonesia and Timor Leste, some of the unfinished businesses facing the two neighbors.

Both Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Timor President Xanana Gusmao, however, expressed optimism that the commission would allow the two nations to finally move forward from the 1999 carnage that has marred their ties.

Susilo called the formation of the Truth and Friendship Commission, whose 10 members were sworn-in on Thursday, as a "sign of maturity in the relationship between our countries."

"We want to foster an eternal friendship," said Susilo.

Xanana, a former guerrilla leader fighting against Indonesia's rule, hailed the establishment of the commission, as "a historical moment for the two countries."

"Instead of looking to the past with a heavy heart, it is better to look toward the future with a pure heart," said Xanana, who was once jailed in Jakarta.

The commission, which is comprised of an equal number of people from both countries, is charged with investigating human rights abuses committed during the rampage by pro-Indonesia militias in the aftermath of Timor Leste's (then named East Timor) independence referendum in 1999. The United Nations estimates that up to 1,500 people were killed by the militia groups, who were backed by the Indonesian military.

But the commission will not seek prosecution or punishment.

Susilo, a retired Army general, who once spent a stint in East Timor, said that the commission would seek the truth of who was responsible for the violence, thus allowing the two countries to establish even stronger ties.

He said the formation of the commission won support from the international community, despite a UN expert team's demand for a retrial of Indonesian military officers and civilians responsible for the atrocities.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of Lt. Col. Sudjarwo, chief of the Dili military during the violence, and cleared him of human rights abuse charges. Sudjarwo was one of 18 men tried for the mayhem by an ad hoc human rights court established by the Indonesian government in 2002. All but one, a civilian who remains free on appeal, have been acquitted of their crimes.

The commission's co-chairman, Cirilo Cristovao of Timor Leste, affirmed that no further prosecutions should be expected.

"We will not recommend any trial, but instead recommend amnesty," he said.

The Indonesian co-chairman, Benjamin Mangkudilaga, said that the recommendation for any amnesty, which would have to be approved by the legislatures of the respective governments, could possibly be contingent on either an admission of guilt or an apology.

He added that the commission would interview current and former Indonesian military officers, including the former chief at the time, Gen. (ret) Wiranto.


AFP, August 11, 2005

Indonesian, East Timorese presidents launch truth commission

The leaders of Indonesia and East Timor launched a truth commission into the violence that marred the push for independence in what is now the world's youngest nation.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former army general, and the Timorese ex-guerrilla fighter Xanana Gusmao witnessed the signing of documents appointing the 10 members of the Commission for Truth and Friendship.

The ceremony took place at the governor's office in Bali, the resort island halfway between Jakarta and East Timor.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda signed on behalf of his government while East Timor was represented by Vice Foreign Minister Antoninho Bianco.

"This is a historical moment in the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Timor Leste," Gusmao said in his speech.

He said setting up the commission was "a creative step forward between the two states about not-so-pleasant history."

Yudhoyono said it was "a sign of maturity in the relations between our two countries."

"We need to find a closure to the tragic events that happened in East Timor after the popular consultation in 1999," he said.

The commission convened in Bali last week to prepare for operations, but Thursday's ceremony was its official launch.

Modelled along lines similar to South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the body aims at reconciliation rather than recrimination over deadly violence by pro-Jakarta militias during East Timor's 1999 drive for independence.

Yudhoyono told journalists after the ceremony that the commission was seeking truth rather than justice.

"Justice is not the framework of this commission. We are the one with the problems and we will settle this with the future in view," he said.

Gusmao said both leaders were convinced that the establishment of the body was "a credible decision," adding it was not prompted by realpolitik.

"We will live side by side forever and therefore we need friendship and cooperation in the future," Yudhoyono said.

The commission plans to hold talks with former East Timorese rebel leaders, Indonesian top military brass and their former militia supporters.

Benyamin Mangkudilaga, the Indonesian chairman of the commission, has said the body had a tough job ahead and likened his task of dealing with the former foes to that of a peacemaker.

Militia gangs, which the United Nations has said were recruited and directed by Indonesia's military, went on an arson and killing spree before and after the East Timorese voted for independence in a UN-sponsored ballot in August 1999.

They killed about 1,400 independence supporters and laid waste to much of the infrastructure in the half-island what was a Portuguese colony before Indonesia annexed and invaded it in the mid-1970s.

An Indonesian tribunal set up to try military officers and officials for atrocities in East Timor has drawn international criticism for failing to jail any Indonesians.

The Roman Catholic church in East Timor, which is overwhelmingly Catholic, has also expressed outrage over Dili's move to drop trials for militia atrocities.

The neighbours, however, have rejected prosecutions, in favour of looking toward the future between tiny East Timor and the population giant Indonesia.

The commission's task was to unveil the truth behind human rights violations but would not prosecute anyone, Wirayuda has said.

East Timor gained full independence in May 2002 after more than two years of UN stewardship.

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