Subject: Transcript: Late Night Live - “East TimorPost Trauma”

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Late Night Live ABC Radio "East Timor Post Trauma" Host: Phillip Adams Broadcast Date: 21 February 2008

Sara Niner Post-Doctoral Fellow at the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University; author of a new biography of Xanana Gusmao.

Patrick Burgess Regional director of the International Centre for Transitional Justice; former Director of Human Rights for the UN in East Timor.

Fernanda Borges East Timorese member of parliament and chair of the parliamentary committee responsible for tabling and dealing with the 'Chega' report.

Phillip Adams: Sara can you give us a sense of Alfredo Reinado's story?

Sara Niner: He was a young child when the Indonesians invaded Dili in 1975 and was caught up in the movement of people away from the Indonesian forces and to be behind the lines of their own resistance army, Falintil. In that process he lost contact with his family and traveled with strangers and witnessed all sorts of terrible events that he talked about in his testimony. He saw people being murdered, he say, he says, Timorese parents killing their own children because the children were making too much noise and they were scared that the Indonesians would find them. He saw old people left behind to die. And then when he was about 11 years old he was taken by an Indonesian sergeant and used as a porter to carry the goods of the soldiers and this was the fate of a lot of young boys and with them he was taken out on operations and saw rape and more executions. He saw one of the other young boys killed by Indonesian soldiers. I just can imagine the effect of this sort of thing on a young child.

Phillip Adams: And so the effect of this in, and I quote, "with an ego ever desirous of attention and notoriety and talk about the...of a pure narcissist who was propelled into ever increasing grandiose and dangerous behavior."

Sara Niner: Yes, I remember watching him on a documentary on SBS when he had already caused all the trouble, a lot of trouble in 2006 and was hiding up in the mountains from capture by the government, and getting all these incredible media attention from Australian journalists....

Phillip Adams: ...And loving it...

Sara Niner: Absolutely loving it and I thought, oh my God, what has this person become? Through all this attention I just wondered when I heard all these things about his childhood, what the process was between those events in his childhood to become this person we saw on television.

Phillip Adams: As everyone knows if you are abused as a child or you witness the things you talked about, you tend to act it out in your own adult life and with domestic violence, Timor's most reported crime, there's evidence that Reinado behaved and appallingly to his own family.

Sara Niner: The most disturbing thing was it was to his own young son who much have been about the same age. I'm not a psychologist but to be repeating the same sort of behavior that was done to you at the same age, to me sounds very disturbing.

Phillip Adams: Patrick Burgess, you were a neighbor of Reinado in Dili for some time. Does what Sara say ring true to you?

Patrick Burgess: Yes, it does and I don't want to say too much about it because obviously it has repercussions for the victims of these things but I had...many many times saw the children involved, who had been very savagely beaten and they used to take refuge in my house.

Phillip Adams: As counsel assisting the CAVR which produces the Chega report, you would have seen the testimonies that were given, including Reinado's, as a consequence, were you surprised by the events of last week? Or did you see it as an inevitably?

Patrick Burgess: I was surprised, I mean it is not an inevitability. Its one of those bizarre things that can happen in these situations but it is a type of context now that we have to expect all these types of very strange and very difficult circumstances to arise... I work in post conflict countries so I'm looking at Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma, which is not post conflict, Sri Lanka, East Timor and Indonesia and in my view its like, I had this view in my own mind of a country like an adolescent who has been very badly abused as a child. And listening to all the testimonies in the East Timor Commission which I was in for three years, I heard, hundreds, thousands of them actually, I just get this picture of a country which has to somehow get on top of 25 years of incredible ill-treatment. One in four of its population died. When one person dies, there are several others who are very severely injured... So you had almost the entire country of... I kind of get surprised, Phillip, when I hear people say, a whole lot of international aid have gone there, why aren't they now really well? I mean, its the same if you say someone in our family or friends who have had many many years of severe treatment do they recover in one or two years? They don't and it takes a very long time. Its the same for the whole country, I'm afraid.

Phillip Adams: Patrick , you were attacked in Dili in 1999 by a militia group. As I recall you were in the UN compound as the UN came under siege. So you have a personal understanding of the trauma and the ongoing sense of injustice.

Patrick Burgess: Yes, I was attacked actually in a humanitarian convoy. We had just delivered food and medicine to refugees and I was coming back through Liquica district before we took refuge in a compound later on. But yes, I militia groups in those days and I had a lot of experience. The divisions which led to a lot of these problems. Again its a lack of education, a lack of education, a lack of maturity, a lack of opportunity out of a 25-year period that led to this kind of situation, which is ongoing.

Phillip Adams: Let's now bring Fernanda Borges in. Fernanda, it seems only yesterday that we were sitting together inside the parliament in Dili, talking about the future. So much has happened and so quickly. But the violence that many predicted would just rage following the death of Reinado hasn't eventuated at least so far. Do you see this as a good sign or is the pressure still building up?

Fernanda Borges: Yes it is definitely a good sign, its an indication that the people don't want violence to perpetuate in the country. However, after what Sara and Patrick have just said we are very much a post-conflict country with all the syndromes that haven't yet addressed...properly. These are still embedded just under the surface so whatever the state does in the next few days and weeks to come will determine how we are able to contain the situation and keep the peace in East Timor. That requires a responsible approach to how they secure these armed people that are out there to come before justice and give their side of the story. We have now the FDTL and PNTL force through a resolution, the government has given them the authority to do that but we have to be very careful how they act in terms of the placement of duties so that they will continue to respect human rights and do it in a way that will build confidence.

Phillip Adams: One of the problems is your justice system is pretty...flimsy. I want to read just a few words here. This is a quote from Renaido's uncle who organized his funeral reportedly attended by 2,000 people. "With the help of God, with the fall of my nephew, the situation in Timor would improve. The situation of instability will finish once and for all and we can find peace. The boy is dead, finished. He will not create any more confusion, no more disgrace. Let us have a peaceful funeral. It is calm. It is finished." We will see whether is it finished indeed. Sara, you make the argument that Xanana has been able to get on acknowledging the trauma in his past so he is able to move on than most Timorese. Why is that?

Sara Niner: I wrote a little bit in the essay and I wrote a little bit more about it in his biography that he was visited by a South African advocate of reconciliation.

Phillip Adams: That's Michael Apsley?

Sara Niner: Yes who's quite well known and they had quite a long discussion. This was a meeting in '99 when Xanana was still in prison and very free to meet with people and had the time to meet with people and have long conversations. And he and Apsley spoke about reconciliation, what would happen in East Timor after the ballot that was being organized at that time and Xanana told him that the Timorese were willing to forgive and reconcile and would not be preoccupied by the past. It is something that Xanana has talked about since then. There's been a movie about it in fact. And Apsley told him that as a leader, his own story and pain had been acknowledged quite publicly, privately, all the things that have happened to Xanana, his prison term, things that happened to Xanana's own family and himself.

Phillip Adams: You know him well. Why don't you thing he's made more allowance for the difference between his personal healing and others.

Sara Niner: I think he so sincerely believes in the process of forgiveness that people have to do it to move on and move forward. And that it really is the only way for the country to move forward. I think he sincerely believes that people have to go through that process to move forward and be functioning human beings that he's been holding it up as the example, himself as the example and the three characters he presents in the film, A Hero's Journey, were amazing extraordinary people and its an uplifting film to watch and I'm sure he's done it for that reason. And also its a very pragmatic path to take and he's a very pragmatic politician as well. He believes they have to take this path to reconciliation, with Indonesia and get on with Indonesia because their economic future, a lot of it lies with getting on with their big neighbor, Indonesia.

Phillip Adams: Jose Ramos-Horta made the same point to me repeatedly, and its interesting, Fernanda, that we now know that the first thing he says when he comes out of his induced coma is to spread the message of peace and to minimize the risk of violence. Fernanda, do you agree that there is this disconnect as Sara is describing between your prime minister and the ordinary Timorese in terms of dealing with the past?

Fernanda Borges: Yes, I think there is. I think there definitely is a... because people... (line disconnected)

Phillip Adams: Patrick, what were the key recommendations of the Chega report. I understand there were 205 of them in total and how have they been dealt with in your view?

Patrick Burgess: They haven't yet been dealt with but these recommendation are part of it, is a historical document as well, so there's plenty of time and opportunity to continue to act on them and actually, I know that Fernanda herself is involved at the moment with the parliamentary committee considering the recommendations which were made about providing reparation to victims in East Timor. The Chega recommendations include a different point of view than, you've been discussing Xanana and Jose Ramos-Horta's view. They include the need for justice and they're based on the statements taken from 8,000 victims and witnesses who told us that they need to see those responsible for what happened brought to formal justice to move on. And also, for me personally, one of the big reasons why I was involved for six years in Timor is not only an issue of the victims in East Timor from the past. Its also the issue of victims today and tomorrow in Indonesia and in other places where they're still facing the same problems from the same actors who were involved in Timor. So its not as simple as just saying, well we're going to forget the past. People cannot forget the past. I wish they could in many ways but our experience from the International Center for Transitional Justice working in more than 30 countries, transitional countries around the world is that we do need to deal with the past in one way or another.

Phillip Adams: Fernanda, you are involved in the parliamentary committee on Chega, where do you stand on this spectrum? Are you for forgiving in the way that Xanana and Jose are or do you believe as Patrick says that there's got to be a process of justice and reparation.

Fernanda Borges: I agree with Patrick definitely on this issues because there is a strong feeling of betrayal, that there has been no accountability, no responsibility for the violence that took place 30 years ago. As a consequence of that, the continued violence in the East Timorese state after independence is also indicative of the history of violence and the use of violence to resolve problems in the country. Because of that, we work for the rule of law to be implemented properly in order for the state to be a viable state that can then develop and take the people out of poverty and give them what they fought for...many many years ago in '75.

Phillip Adams: Is it possible to achieve justice without the cooperation of Indonesia, and before you answer that, when I talk to Xanana, Horta, and Alkatiri, they seem pretty much in agreement. Alkatiri said less than a million of the 250 million people in Indonesia have any idea of what went on in East Timor and until there's a broad understanding in Indonesia, you can forget it.

Fernanda Borges: Yes they have a point there. However, it doesn't mean that the principle of justice should just be put away because of this lack of knowledge in Indonesia, all the more reason we should put the information out to the Indonesian people. But my concern is, not just Chega, but being put aside are also the events of 2006, which has a report that is called the COI report on the 2006 crisis, that is being disregarded and not being implemented accordingly. If you look at Reinado's case, there were recommendations there for justice to take place for Reinado, for him to come to the court and tell his story. That did not happen. And because of that, we had the 11th of February incident and the court in East Timor did issue an arrest warrant politicians failed to comply with that. So we're not just talking about Indonesian cases. We're talking about events after Indonesia and after... (interrupted)

Phillip Adams: In my observation, Fernanda, was that the more recent violence was ever more traumatic than the Indonesian experience to so many people. But Sara makes the point that while there are some programs in East Timor to deal with post-trauma issues there are precious few, Patrick, are there international teams, are there skills available to help in East Timor?

Patrick Burgess: There are skills available but there's a need which is going to take many years to be fulfilled and the justice sector, I very much agree with Fernanda in terms of, in the past the justice sector was seen as a political tool which was used to target opponents during Indonesian period. And suddenly we had to find lawyers in '99 and 2000, there's less than a hundred East Timorese with law degrees and less than a handful with any experience in court at all. Now they've done a very good job with trying to fill these very large boots but its going to take a long time for them to develop those skills and in that context, when you continue to allow people to act with impunity, just giving to the population a reason why they should respect the law in the country is becoming more and more difficult. This is what is absolutely, vitally important to build in the population is the respect of the law.

Phillip Adams: Is the Catholic church playing a useful or significant role in the notion of reconciliation and justice?

Fernanda: Yes, I think it does because it is saying to the people that there is the only civilized way that East Timor can proceed forward. If we ignore justice we will be acting in a manner that is violent and it will not help us in healing for the future. We need to, at some stage, draw line between violent acts and we need to process in court in order for everyone to feel... (interrupted)

End of broadcast

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