Subject: LUSA: Truth body to advance even without Timorese consensus - Ramos Horta

11-02-2005 13:16:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-6743123 Temas:

East Timor: Truth body to advance even without Timorese consensus - Ramos Horta

Dili, Feb. 11 (Lusa) - East Timor's leaders want national consensus on how to deal with Indonesian atrocities committed in 1999, but will move to set up a Truth and Friendship Commission with Jakarta regardless of negative public reaction, Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta said Friday.

Just returned from talks over the bilateral commission in Indonesia, Ramos Horta, downplayed the significance of criticism of the initiative from civil society groups and the influential Timorese Catholic Church.

Ramos Horta, in comments to Lusa after briefing Parliament Speaker Francisco Guterres on his talks with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda earlier this week, said Dili sought a "solid national consensus" over the controversial issue.

But failing to achieve such agreement, he stressed that President Xanana Gusmão, the government and parliament had the political "legitimacy" to move forward to set up the bilateral commission.

Both the foreign minister and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri described recent criticism of the plan from Catholic Bishop Alberto Ricardo, the head of the church in Dili, as "precipitate" and based on a lack of information.

Local media quoted Bishop Ricardo earlier this week as saying he was "perplexed" by the Dili-Jakarta plan to deal with the wave of crimes against humanity committed by pro-Indonesia militias and troops around the time of East Timor's 1999 independence plebiscite.

"I don't understand: If we reconcile will there be justice or not", newspapers quoted the cleric as asking.

"When someone is caught robbing and is not tried" where does that leave the victims, he questioned.

Whatever the future stance of the United Nations or the position of "Timorese leaders", the bishop said the Catholic Church would not budge from its demand that "justice be done".

Gusmão and his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed to set up the truth commission after a December meeting in Bali.

The two countries' foreign ministers have jointly presented the plan to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but have yet to get his blessing for the initiative.

Domestic and international critics, arguing Dili appears willing to sacrifice justice for normalized relations with its powerful neighbor and former occupier, have called on the UN to create an international court to try those responsible for the rampages five years ago.

Gusmão is scheduled to begin talks with Timorese political parties next week to seek as broad a political consensus as possible over the issue.

Indonesian forces and militias are blamed for the deaths of 1,500 people, forcing some 250,000 into temporary exile, and destroying most of the country's infrastructure during a scorched earth campaign in 1999.

Trials of 18 Indonesian officers and officials in Jakarta have been viewed internationally as a whitewash, while trials in Dili have dealt with relatively minor cases and faced Indonesia's refusal to cooperate.

EL/SAS.

Lusa

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