Subject: E Timor vows ‘new chapter’ with Jakarta

Financial Times

E Timor vows ‘new chapter’ with Jakarta

By John Aglionby in Jakarta

Published: April 29 2008 19:48 | Last updated: April 29 2008 19:48

Justice for the victims of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor appeared more remote than ever on Tuesday after the two nations’ leaders said they would draw a line under the past and forge a relationship focused on co-operation.

The declaration pre-empts the recommendations due next month of a commission set up by the two countries to determine the truth behind widespread violence in East Timor in 1999, allegedly instigated by elements of the Indonesian military attempting to sabotage a referendum on independence. As many as 1,500 people, including Financial Times correspondent Sander Thoenes, were killed during the violence.

Diplomats and human rights workers fear that if prosecutions do not follow the publication of the Truth and Friendship Commission’s report, the culture of impunity that pervades both countries would be reinforced and could trigger further instability in East Timor.

The committee, which the UN has refused to join for fear that the report could be a whitewash, is expected to put some blame on the Indonesian military but not name individuals or recommend prosecutions.

An earlier UN inquiry recommended an international tribunal prosecute those responsible for the 1999 violence. But that appears unlikely, particularly after the US announced this month it would accept the bilateral commission’s recommendations.

East Timor became independent in 2002 after a three-year transition period, overseen by the UN, following Indonesia’s 24-year occupation. It collapsed into anarchy in 2006 after a mutiny in the army and the implosion of the police. International troops were deployed to restore order and the UN reinforced its mission.

The nation’s security was rocked again in February when some mutineers tried to assassinate José Ramos-Horta, the largely ceremonial president, and Xanana Gusmão, the prime minister.

The last of the armed mutineers surrendered on Tuesday, prompting hopes that the country could move on from this instable period.

Mr Gusmão, a former leader of the armed resistance to Indonesian rule, said during a press conference with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesian president: “We hope that the two states and two governments will soon come together to close a chapter of our common history and open a new chapter.” Many analysts believe that East Timor, a half-island nation with a population of fewer than a million, will struggle to survive unless it buries the hatchet with its much larger neighbour.

Despite the leaders’ conciliatory approach, there is widespread resentment that no Indonesians have been held accountable for the 1999 violence.

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