|Subject: JP: RI, East Timor to discuss
Also: Asia Times: East Timor a quick study in realpolitik
The Jakarta Post
June 10, 2003
RI, East Timor to discuss residual issues
Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri is slated to arrive here on Tuesday for a four-day working visit to discuss various residual issues with the Indonesian government following the secession of the former Indonesian province in 1999.
During his visit, Alkatiri is scheduled to meet Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri on Wednesday and other senior Indonesian officials.
Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said on Monday that cross-border issues, including traditional markets in border areas, would be among the topics of discussion.
"Hopefully, we can sign several new agreements that will further strengthen our forward-looking diplomatic ties," Hassan said after a meeting with Megawati.
Alkatiri's trip comes on the heels of the furor over his reported statement expressing his intention of asking for an international tribunal to try Indonesian Military (TNI) officers implicated in the 1999 mayhem in East Timor.
Reportedly, Alkatiri suggested the trial be held in a neutral country, citing the "theatrical legal process" in Indonesia, which has acquitted 13 military officers of all charges.
Hassan said he had asked for clarification regarding the report and, according to him, the East Timorese had denied the statement.
"Alkatiri's office said that the report was inaccurate and they were ready to correct it," Hassan said, adding that East Timor remained committed to maintaining relations with its neighbor, Indonesia.
The minister added that the working visit of Alkatiri reflected East Timor's desire to strengthen ties with Indonesia.
East Timor seceded from Indonesian in 1999 after the United Nations-sponsored ballot resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence.
An Indonesian ad hoc human rights court has tried 18 military and government officials for crimes against humanity both before and after the ballot. Only five of the defendants have been convicted and sentenced, but they remain free pending appeals.
Megawati and Alkatiri are slated to witness the signing on Wednesday of agreements on cross-border arrangements and the establishment of traditional markets in border areas.
On Thursday, Alkatiri is scheduled to meet with executives of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines, the East Timorese community here and ambassadors from Portuguese-speaking countries.
Merpati is the only Indonesian airline company that continues to serve Dili.
Alkatiri will also pay a courtesy call on House of Representative Speaker Akbar Tandjung and People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais.
Asia Times June 10, 2003
By Jill Jolliffe
DILI - East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri leads a high-powered delegation to Indonesia on Tuesday in a bid to turn former bitter enemies into good friends and neighbors.
During his first official visit since East Timor became independent a year ago, Alkatiri will apply his customary pragmatism and concentrate on "healing" issues in talks with President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
These include settling border problems, fostering trade ties, and cooperation in health and education. According to a senior aide of Alkatiri, they exclude the issue of an international court to judge Indonesian officers accused of war crimes during Jakarta's scorched-earth withdrawal from East Timor in 1999.
"The prime minister has been credited with statements that he didn't make," senior aide Jose Guterres said. "He will not be asking President Megawati Sukarnoputri for agreement on an international court."
The committee traveling with the prime minister reflects the importance placed on the bridge-building visit of three days. Five ministers will accompany him, including Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, along with commanders of the new national army and police force, and more than 20 Timorese businessmen looking for investment opportunities.
It is an occasion for the 53-year-old prime minister to raise his profile in Jakarta. Although he is a leader of the radical Fretilin party, which predominated in East Timor's guerrilla war against Indonesia, he is also a practicing Muslim and a pragmatist, and should have an easy rapport with Indonesian leaders.
They have become accustomed to dealing with the better-known President Xanana Gusmao, which has created some confusion about who represents East Timor's government policy. The role of president is largely a figurehead one - it is Alkatiri who wields executive power.
"It's more the atmospherics that are going to be significant in this visit, and the prime minister getting acquainted with President Megawati," a United Nations analyst in Dili observed. "While President Gusmao has been there before, this will be his [Alkatiri's] first official visit. It will introduce him as a player and clarify issues of past weeks."
It was Gusmao who set new terms for the Indonesian-East Timorese relationship, in the period around independence day, May 20, 2002. The Indonesian parliament, still dominated by the army, did not approve of Megawati's stated intention to attend independence festivities in Dili. To strengthen her resolve, Gusmao hopped on a plane carrying a personal invitation. The result was historic. During the ceremonies the pair came on stage with hands joined aloft in a victory salute, to wild applause from the East Timorese public.
Solid framework From that symbolic beginning, the solid work of forging a new relationship began in the post-independence period. Given the residue of bitterness from Indonesia's brutal invasion it was not an easy task. Tensions rose when Jakarta demanded reparations for assets left behind during the military withdrawal. The new East Timorese government pointed to assets expropriated from individuals and the Portuguese state when the Indonesian army invaded in December 1975.
The issue was resolved by the establishment of a joint commission to deal with mutual grievances. It met successfully for two days in Jakarta last October under Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda and his East Timorese counterpart Horta. Five working groups were established: on border issues, trade and finance, legal matters, social, educational and cultural affairs, and transport and communication.
The current talks in Jakarta will reflect work begun in that framework. The large delegation of Timorese businessmen results from an agreement that Indonesian assets in East Timor could be transformed into equity investment in the independent territory. They have come seeking business partners on that basis.
Work to demarcate the border, which has not been revised since a Dutch-Portuguese colonial agreement in the early 20th century, is well under way, and is expected to be completed soon. There are some leftover points of disagreement.
A related issue is the East Timorese desire for overland access to the coastal Oecusse enclave, which is geographically isolated from the rest of the territory. The only access to Oecusse, surrounded by Indonesian-controlled West Timor on three sides, is currently by plane or sea. The government is seeking Indonesian agreement for an overland transport service exempt from normal passport controls so that ordinary people may travel more freely.
According to the East Timorese Foreign Ministry, a memorandum of understanding will be signed concerning the movement of goods and people from the border, although no details have been given.
And then there is the long-standing problem of a substantial number of refugees from the 1999 violence who remain in camps on the West Timorese side of the border, some controlled by the same militiamen responsible for the bloodshed. After a massive effort of several years by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a hard core of about 28,000 remains. They are a potential source of destabilization, as several armed border incursions early this year showed. Negotiations to resolve the situation have reached an impasse, and their concentration close to the border is increasing worries as the term for the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers, set for next June, draws closer.
The war crimes issue Although Alkatiri has decided not to make war-crimes trials a major issue on this visit in order to reinforce positive ties, it is a background issue that looms over all bilateral dealings between the new state and the former occupying power.
The prime minister does advocate trials of Indonesians and East Timorese accused of atrocities committed during the 1999 referendum. But he believes this is primarily the responsibility of the international community - in particular, the UN.
The UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit in Dili has issued 169 arrest warrants for persons in Indonesia accused of involvement in the violence. They include General Wiranto, Indonesia's defense chief at that time. The Indonesian attorney general has not acted on any of the warrants, on the grounds that the government does not recognize an April 2000 extradition agreement made between the UN and the previous government led by president B J Habibie.
After Wiranto's indictment, Gusmao traveled to Jakarta to dissociate from the legal action, and declare his general opposition to trials. He believes the two countries can only move on to a strong relationship if they put the past behind them - and believes this is the best way to do it.
The prime minister disagrees. In an interview with Asia Times Online early last month (see Timor PM slams UN on war criminals, May 15) he accused the UN of washing its hands of prosecutions. He stated that "whoever committed crimes ... in 1999 must be judged", adding that "crimes against humanity are of the most serious nature. We cannot treat them with impunity and yet prosecute petty thieves."
He also made it clear that the president was speaking on a personal basis and did not represent the government view. "I am the prime minister, and it is the government which makes policy," he asserted.
However, he said he had been misquoted in a more recent interview by an international news service, on the eve of his departure for Jakarta, where it was claimed he would raise the controversial issue with Megawati. Last week panicking Indonesian diplomats requested a clarification of the newspaper report. "It absolutely didn't correspond with the truth," Jose Guterres said. "He would not be so stupid as to say that on the eve of such a sensitive visit."
The prime minister's assistant added that the question of Aceh would not be raised by the East Timorese side, but that if it came up "the prime minister will respect Indonesia's territorial integrity, because this is a first principle of good neighborliness."
In the blackest years of Indonesia's military occupation of East Timor, young nationalists at home and abroad argued passionately against the acceptance of arguments based on realpolitik, which claimed they were fighting a lost cause. They were a tiny territory, their critics argued, with no influential friends. That tiny territory is now the much-applauded first new nation of the new millennium, but it is quickly learning, as many new nations do, that idealism and state power don't mix.
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