Subject: ABC: Truth and Friendship Commission winds up hearings

ABC Radio Australia Connect Asia

EAST TIMOR: Truth and Friendship Commission winds up hearings


In East Timor, the Truth and Friendship Commission has wound up its public hearings. The joint Indonesian and Timorese Commission was established to uncover the truth behind the violence surrounding East Timor's independence vote in 1999. Indonesian troops and local anti-independence militia murdered over one thousand Timorese, raped countless women and ransacked the country before the United Nations intervened. The Commission was widely criticised as a whitewash, and was boycotted by the UN. Local people are also unhappy with the closed door testimonies given to the Commission and late last week held their own alternative meeting in Dili.

Presenter - Karon Snowdon Speaker - Jose Caetano Gutteres, founder of the East Timor Crisis Reflection Network

SNOWDON: The CTF or Truth and Friendship Commission is supported by both governments of Indonesia and East Timor, but few others. The United Nations has branded it a whitewash and has boycotted its closed door meetings. So have community groups in East Timor. Jose Caetano Guterres runs a local network in the capital, Dili, and was the coordinator of a two day alternative Truth Commission running in parallel to the official one. He explains the opposition to the CTF hearings being held in Dili for the first time.

GUTTERRES: There are public hearings, they have a public hearing that was used by the CTF. It just promotes impunity, where the leaders try to defend themselves, to hide the truth, to try to manipulate the process.

SNOWDON: Radio Australia's attempts to phone East Timor's co-chair of the Truth and Friendship Commission for comment were not successful. The UN-backed Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation published its report in 2005. It took 8,000 testimonies and documented the abuses of the 25 years of Indonesian occupation up to 1999. East Timor's parliament is yet to respond to the report, which calls for the prosecution of Indonesian military leaders and in some cases Fretilin freedom fighters. The current Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, has never supported calls for justice against the perpetrators of the earlier violence, saying East Timor needs to keep friendly relations with Indonesia. The prime minister was among who gave closed door testimony to the Commission in the past week. Jose Caetano Guterres says his public meeting has attracted more than 150 participants, some from Indonesian NGOs. The meeting is calling for action on the 2005 UN report.

GUTTERRES: We want power of parliament for Timorese leaders to start debate on the report, because it has been in the hands of the parliament for two years, but nothing is happening on it for the moment.

SNOWDON: And the Truth Commission is holding its hearings behind closed doors?

GUTTERRES: It's closed for the public, so we don't know what kind of testimony that they want to get. But I will say that I think this is political, so I don't think they are telling the truth and I think for their hearing, they invite leaders is just for political purposes. I don't know what kind of political outcome they want, but the victims and survivors still want justice. We can talk about friendship with Indonesia, but we want a friendship that is based on justice and the truth. 

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