Subject: Will Wiranto Come Clean on ETimor? [+Op-Ed by CTF Advisers Robert and Alice Evans]

also: 2 JP reports: Op-Ed: The toothless commission of truth ; and East Timor council in dark on referendum: Ex-speaker

The Jakarta Post Friday, May 4, 2007

Now or never for Wiranto to come clean on E. Timor

Kornelius Purba, The Jakarta Post

Former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. (ret.) Wiranto has a golden chance Saturday to clear his tainted image once and for all.

The chance -- probably his last -- could release him from the "ghost" of rights abuse allegations, should he decide to listen to his conscience rather than his legal and political advisers.

Three short words -- "I am sorry" -- would mean everything to many Timor Leste people, helping to heal the pain they are still suffering from the TNI's failure to act as protector of the tiny territory when it was still legally part of Indonesia in September 1999.

"I am sorry for my failure to fulfill my promise to ensure your safety and security." Those words, which hopefully Wiranto will have the courage to say, are much awaited by those who suffered from gross human rights abuses at that time.

Wiranto is scheduled to testify before the Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF) -- co-chaired by Indonesia and Timor Leste -- in Jakarta on Saturday. The commission was established to find the truth behind the upheaval surrounding then East Timor's vote to separate from Indonesia.

Of course, an apology would not bring back those killed during the spasm of violence or replace lost homes and property. But at least they would know that Wiranto eventually showed himself to be courageous enough to admit his mistakes.

Even his most skeptical critics would have to admit they had the wrong idea about the general.

Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo -- who was East Timor's bishop until the country's independence -- recently called on people to look to the future and not allow themselves to be imprisoned by the past.

Can Wiranto do that? Yes, though many people have their doubts. Many of those who knew him when he was still a colonel and serving as an adjutant to then president Soeharto probably believe he is capable of admitting his shortcomings and even failures.

People who had the chance to observe him closely when he served as military commander under Soeharto and B.J. Habibie can hope that Wiranto is an Army general in the true sense of the word.

Wiranto is a religious person. He is a family man. As a father and husband, surely he can understand the suffering of those fathers and husbands who lost loved ones in East Timor.

For the last seven years, the mayhem in East Timor has haunted him, whether he realizes it or not; whether he is willing to admit it or not. He needs to clean his name and prove he is a respectable Army general who understands honor and universal values, even in facing his enemies.

As a journalist, I remain impressed by a remark Wiranto once made that a commander is always responsible for his soldiers' actions, no matter how ridiculous or horrible those actions may be. That does not mean, however, that he ordered his soldiers to commit the actions. But as a commander, he not only has to take credit for the successes, but also blame for the failures.

Why is it so important for Wiranto to apologize tomorrow? Atrocities occurred after the majority of East Timor voters opted for independence from Indonesia. As TNI chief at the time, Wiranto was responsible for the security and safety of the people of East Timor. As a general he failed to protect Indonesian citizens. (Legally, the people of Timor Leste were still Indonesian citizens, until all the necessary international procedures were completed for it to become an independent state.)

To this day not a single Indonesian general has acted as an officer and gentleman by declaring in public, "Mea culpa."

Hopefully, Wiranto will not repeat the same old defense -- used by many Indonesian leaders -- that it was the United Nations and countries such as Australia that should be condemned for the violence in East Timor, and not Indonesia.

In an interview with The Jakarta Post about two months after the violence, Ali Alatas, who served as foreign minister under Soeharto and his successor B.J. Habibie, said, "Up to the balloting, the report we got from our own people, from the pro-integration people ... is that we were going to win."

"They always reported that we were going to win. So they too were shocked and maybe ashamed. They claimed there were a lot of violations (during the ballot). There were violations but not to the point that you can change 70 percent (who voted for independence) to 22 percent."

Forget the threat that the UN can bring to justice those who are suspected of committing crimes in then East Timor. What General Wiranto urgently needs now is personal peace. When he can overcome the "ghost" of East Timor, then he can put up the "Do not disturb" sign. Does he still need outside help? Then he can put up the sign, "Please, clean my room."

This Saturday's testimony will be a chance for Wiranto to prove to the world that this Indonesian general is a world-class statesman. It is now or never.

------------------------------------

The Jakarta Post Friday, May 4, 2007

Op-Ed

The toothless commission of truth

Robert Evans and Alice Evans, Jakarta

Few citizens know that of the thirty plus truth commissions in the world during the last three decades almost none had any but a few of their recommendations implemented by the respective governments and parliaments to which their final reports were submitted.

This includes South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, perhaps the most famous. In addition, few of the accused principal perpetrators of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity were actually prosecuted, and only a handful were imprisoned despite evidence of responsibility.

Nevertheless, the most effective truth commissions still had influence, even power, but this was primarily moral rather than judicial influence. Few South Africans could still deny the reality of the gross violations of human rights by the apartheid government and military, nor could Chile and Argentina's former dictatorial regimes continue to deny responsibility for the disappearance of thousands of their citizens. Other truth commissions from Rwanda to Guatemala have also revealed sufficient truth that only with great difficulty can leaders and citizens deny heinous acts of murder, rape, torture, and intimidation.

Now, for the first time, there is a truth commission between two independent nations: Indonesia, the fourth most populous and largest Muslim nation in the world, and Timor-Leste (former East Timor), predominantly Roman Catholic and the newest independent nation in the UN. Alice Evans and I are honored to be two of the three international advisors to this Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF).

The Commission is mandated by the two presidents to reveal the conclusive truth, heal the wounds, and contribute to future friendship following devastating violence in Timor-Leste in 1999. This violence occurred both before and after a United Nations-administered Popular Consultation in which Timorese decided between independence and continuing to be part of Indonesia. CTF's first public hearings in February and March 2007 in Denpasar and Jakarta reveal that meeting these mandates will not be an easy assignment.

A central component of the Commission's task is to reconcile significant disparities in previous human rights investigations and court proceedings in each country. The investigations into the killing, rape and destruction of homes and property in East Timor implicated Indonesian defense forces and local militias or armed groups some of which were reported to be funded and trained by the Indonesian military, police, as well as pro-independence forces in East Timor. However, the judicial proceedings in both countries resulted in isolated, low-level convictions and only three prison terms.

The statements taken during private and public hearings offered by both victims and accused perpetrators or "connected persons" reveal that the violence of 1999 must be seen in the context of the 24 years of Indonesian presence in East Timor. The 1975 invasion followed more than 350 years of Portuguese colonial rule in East Timor and was in the context of cold war suspicions that East Timor would become a communist state. Recently released U.S. State Department documents indicate U.S. and Australian covert support for the military invasion of East Timor.

The Indonesian military presence contributed to virtual civil war between pro-Indonesian and pro-independence forces who inherited more than 26,000 weapons left behind by the Portuguese colonizers. Current estimates suggest that up to one quarter of the original East Timorese population and thousands of Indonesian military and civilians died during the next 24 years.

In 1999 Indonesia was in transition on several fronts after 54 years of authoritarian rule to an emerging democracy under the leadership of President B.J. Habibie. At the same time international pressure was mounting for the East Timorese to be able to determine their relationship with Indonesia. With Habibie's support the United Nations assumed responsibility for preparing, supervising, and implementing this process.

However, Indonesia stipulated that since East Timor was still considered part of the nation, Indonesian rather than UN forces would provide security for the Popular Consultation. The violence between the pro-Indonesian and pro-independence supporters escalated during the months before the vote, and following an unexpected early UN announcement of a decisive vote for independence, the majority of the 1000 citizens killed were apparently pro-independence supports, and many villages as well as the capital city of Dili were looted and burned. Thousands of refugees fled to the Indonesian province of West Timor.

For the first time in the world heads of state and senior government, military, and militia commanders are testifying before the CTF under oath to a truth commission about the causes of this violence. Former President Habibie has already testified, and it is anticipated that the current presidents of Indonesia and Timor-Leste will also appear before the Commission.

The picture emerging from many witnesses is that a biased and flawed electoral process by the UN agency, UNAMET, which was administering the popular consultation, contributed to the explosive violence that followed the vote.

In direct contradiction to two military testimonies which denied any role in arming the militias, other witnesses from the militias have testified that they in fact did receive arms and funding from the Indonesian defense forces.

The CTF has already broken new ground by convincing senior government and military leaders and well as victims from each nation to testify to their understanding of the truth. The eight commissioners appointed from each nation have distinguished histories in the judiciary, foreign affairs, military, human rights advocacy, education, and in field experience as independence fighters. There has been criticism by some national and international human rights NGO's of the inadequate legislative foundation of the CTF and questions about its independence.

However, as advisers, we have experienced these Commissioners as persons of integrity and independence who have learned from one another and who hold a common commitment to the rejection of impunity for human rights violations and to restorative justice, especially focused on the victims.

The commissioners from each nation are pursuing a mutual quest for communal and symbolic ways to heal the wounds of the past and promote effective programs for building friendship as a strong base for God's gift of reconciliation.

CTF may be important not only to Indonesia and Timor-Leste but also to the world. The insights from this unique process of two nations trying to transform a tragic history into a more promising future should benefit future post conflict realities. Try to envision a "truth and friendship" commission between Israel and Palestine, or South and North Korea, or England and Northern Ireland, and even the United States and Iraq.

The field of international diplomacy and conflict resolution is urgently in need of constructive models of disclosure, healing and restoration. As a Dinka elder from Sudan proclaimed, "The practical meaning of reconciliation is to sit under the same tree and work together for a more viable future for ourselves and our children." The Commission on Truth in Friendship between Indonesia and Timor-Leste is attempting to do just that.

Prepared by Professors Robert A. and Alice Frazer Evans, expert advisers to CTF and Founding Directors of Plowshares Institute.

----------------------------------

The Jakarta Post Friday, May 4, 2007

East Timor council in dark on referendum: Ex-speaker

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The East Timor legislative council was not consulted on plans for the 1999 referendum which resulted in the province's secession from Indonesia, former council speaker Armindo Soares Mariano said Thursday.

"The Indonesian government and United Nations did not consult the council regarding the referendum," Armindo told the joint Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF).

Armindo, who chose to maintain his Indonesian nationality, told reporters that it was hard to determine what the council thought at the time.

"Several members of the council opted for independence. One of them is now a CTF member for Timor Leste. I fought for East Timor to remain part of Indonesia, so it was clear that I was pro-Indonesia," he said.

Armindo pointed to Maria Olandina Alvez, a former East Timor councilor from the Indonesian Democratic Party.

Armindo, who currently resides in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, said he never felt like a Timor Leste citizen. "I was a citizen of Portugal and later the Republic of Indonesia."

He added that the two neighboring nations should carefully examine other potential strategies to improve relations.

Former commander of Indonesia's Wira Dharma Military Resort, Maj. Gen. Noer Muis, accused the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) of bias in the independence poll.

"We noted 27 offenses, 26 of which were committed by UNAMET and pro-independence supporters at 89 voting stations," Noer said.

UNAMET chief Ian Martin declined to attend the public hearing.

There were 20 reports claiming UNAMET attempted to intimidate and influence people to vote for independence. These reports came from Dili, Suai, Los Palos and Ambeno.

"Reports claimed several voting cards had been punched before being placed inside ballot boxes," Noer said.

On voting day, Aug. 30, there were around 274 voting stations spread over 13 regencies with approximately 438,896 voters.

"UNAMET staff rejected assistance from Indonesian police to guard ballot boxes," said Noer.

On Friday, the truth commission is scheduled to hear the testimony of the former head of the East Timor Referendum Task Force, Agus Tarmidzi; National Commission for Human Rights member Insp. Gen. (ret.) Koesparmono Irsan; pro-Indonesia supporter Berta dos Santos; and former Suai Police chief Sr. Comr. Gatot Subiyaktoro.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service


Back to May menu
April

World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu