Subject: KY: E. Timor gives 'symbolic' donation for Indonesia's tsunami victims

Thursday January 27, 9:11 PM

E. Timor gives 'symbolic' donation for Indonesia's tsunami victims

(Kyodo) _ President Xanana Gusmao of East Timor, one of the world's poorest countries, departed Thursday for Jakarta carrying a "symbolic" donation of $75,000 from his people for the victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami disaster in Indonesia's Aceh Province.

Gusmao said at a pre-departure press conference in East Timor's capital Dili that the money was collected through a door-to-door fundraising operation supported by the government, and will be handed to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta.

"This small country of poor people shows its sincere, heartfelt sympathy and love for those who suffer and are in need," Gusmao said in the country's official language, Tetun.

"Not too long ago, it was us, the people of East Timor, who received substantial international support following the tragic events of September 1999. Today, we are proud to contribute in our small way, to help alleviate the suffering of our nearest neighbors," he said.

The day after disaster in Aceh, East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri provided a token $50,000 from the fledgling country's tiny budget for the relief effort there, winning praise from the United Nations and elsewhere.

East Timor became independent in May 2002 after 24 years of Indonesian occupation, during which time thousands of its people were killed by the Indonesian military during the struggle for independence.

After the results of a U.N.-organized referendum on independence were announced in September 1999, hundreds were killed by Indonesian soldiers and their militia proxies, while some 250,000 East Timorese were forcibly evacuated to Indonesia's West Timor and more than 75 percent of East Timor's infrastructure was destroyed.

Besides handing over the new donation for Aceh, where insurgents have also been fighting for independence, Gusmao and East Timor's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Jose Ramos-Horta will discuss with the Indonesian side in Jakarta about ways to strengthen bilateral ties.

Specific issues to be touched upon include border demarcation as well as the establishment of a Commission on Truth and Friendship that was agreed upon by the two countries in December to look into the 1999 violence.

After Indonesia's violent exit from East Timor in 1999, two processes were established to prosecute serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, committed in East Timor during the final year of the occupation.

Indonesia set up an ad hoc human rights court in early 2000 to deflect calls for an international tribunal. While six of the 18 people tried were convicted, all of those convictions were overturned on appeal except for one, which is pending.

The U.N.-backed serious crimes process in East Timor, meanwhile, is scheduled to end next May, although nearly 80 percent of those indicted, including a number of high-ranking Indonesian officials, remain in Indonesia, out of reach of the courts in Dili.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is currently considering proposals to establish an international commission of experts to review these two processes and to figure out how to ensure some level of accountability for the atrocities.

Despite criticism over the fairness of Indonesia's judicial proceedings, the East Timorese government has ruled out the idea of seeking justice at an international tribunal and has instead made efforts to build a close relationship with its former occupier and giant neighbor.

Gusmao is expected to extend Yudhoyono an invitation to pay an official visit to East Timor.


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