Subject: Tempo: Xanana and Wiranto meet reaped condemnations in Timor
Tempo Magazine No. 40/IV/June 08 - 14, 2004 National For the Future... and Supermie
-- The meeting between Xanana Gusmao and General (ret) Wiranto reaped condemnations in Timor Leste.
As soon as he landed at Nicolau Lobato Airport, Dili, unlike his usual self, Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao descended the steps with a sour expression. Carrying his son, accompanied by his wife, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, he stepped outside the airport on Monday, two weeks ago. His return from Bali, as reported by TEMPO correspondent, was greeted by one presidential officer and a handful of guards only.
Once he was inside the special room in the airport, dozens of youths crowded him in demonstration. From outside, the demonstrators screamed and shouted, "Arrest Wiranto, arrest Wiranto." Banners of protests were waved. "Xanana has deceived the people of Timor Leste," yelled a number of protesters from the Timor Leste Alliance for International Trial. The Alliance demanded that Wiranto, the former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander, be put on trial on human rights violation charges during the unrest in the area leading up to the separation of Timor Leste (formerly known as East Timor) from Indonesia in 1999.
Xanana instantly turned red. Apparently, his trip to Kuta, Bali, two days earlier, was also fraught with protests. The president, the former Timor Leste guerrilla leader who is often referred as the "King of the Jungle", met with Wiranto. The two former foes embraced warmly. The picture of the event—with Xanana laughing openly and Wiranto smiling happily—immediately reached all corners of the earth. People can still remember how Xanana had to remain in the Cipinang Prison, East Jakarta, as a result of his actions in the jungle. Today, in different positions, with Xanana as president and Wiranto as a presidential candidate, both looked like close buddies.
They chatted in a closed meeting at Cottage 212 of the Oberoi Hotel, Legian, Kuta. As Xanana claimed, the nature of the meeting was "personal not state- related." Wiranto referred to the meeting as "a meeting between two best friends discussing national interests." After the meeting, Wiranto held a press conference. There was nothing much that Wiranto could say to the reporters at that time. Unfortunately, Xanana was not there. He immediately left and later had dinner with Wiranto and wife.
As far as Wiranto is concerned, the meeting was like a sip of fresh wine. As a presidential candidate from the Golkar Party, he is being haunted by accusations of human rights violation in Timor Leste. His trip to the Presidential Palace is wobbly because of this. In Timor Leste, February 2003, Prosecuting Attorney for Serious Crime from the Serious Crime Unit (SCU), a trial body of the United Nations in Timor Leste, charged Wiranto and seven military officials and civilians with violations of human rights in Timor Leste.
The charge stemmed from his position as the then TNI Commander in Chief. After a poll which was won by the pro-independence group, East Timor was nearly totally destroyed by the clash between pro-integration and pro-independence sides. "Of around 1,041 murder cases which took place at that time, some TNI officials were involved," said Timor Leste Attorney General, Longuinhos Monteiro, to Faisal Assegaf from TEMPO News Room. As the highest in command, Wiranto was blamed.
Timor Leste did take a next step. An order to arrest Wiranto was issued by the Judge of the Special Panel on Serious Crimes, Phillip Rapoza, on May 10. The Special Panel is a mixed court for serious crimes. Some of the judges come from Timor Leste and the other half come from the UN.
However, the letter that was signed by Rapoza, a judge from the United States, lasted only a day. The very next day Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro vetoed the letter of arrest. The reason? "I don't want to have a confrontation with Indonesia," he said. Monteiro's other reasons were, the charge requires a number of revisions and in view of the national political developments in Timor Leste.
Previously, before meeting with Wiranto, Xanana met with President Megawati Sukarnoputri, at the Patra Hotel, Kuta, on May 15. At that time, the discussion was more about bilateral relations. "We did not specifically discuss the letter ordering the arrest of Wiranto," said Xanana. However, he said, there was one important agreement: the two countries agreed that human rights violation cases would be resolved by reconciliation.
If Xanana seems to be softening, it is not without careful consideration. In Xanana's eyes, Indonesia remains an important country to Timor Leste. "We still eat Supermie (noodles), even our clothes and sandals are from Indonesia," he added. The economy of the new country is still facing tough challenges. More than half of the Timor Leste population is unemployed. According to Xanana, that is why he places people's welfare above international court.
However, Xanana's diplomacy was not well received by all of his people. One proof was the rally at the airport. In response to them, Xanana defended himself. He is willing to resign as president if "the Bali meeting impacts the Timor Leste people negatively," he said. With regard to holding an international trial, said Xanana, that authority is in the hands of the United Nations.
The state of his country has made Xanana opt to act pragmatically. That was why he accepted Wiranto's invitation to Bali. A TEMPO source in the Timor Leste presidential office said that the meeting took place because of a letter and a phone call from Wiranto who invited Xanana to meet in Bali.
On the so-called Island of the Gods, the two chose the Oberoi Hotel. The reason was, said the source, Xanana, Minister for Foreign Affairs Ramos Horta, and the Attorney General of Timor Leste had met with Wiranto for the second time in the same hotel. The second meeting was in February 2004. Previously, Xanana and Wiranto met in Cilangkap in 1999. At that time, Xanana's status was still as a rebel leader who was imprisoned in Cipinang Prison.
And in Bali, the former war leader and former prisoner were "affectionate". That was what Xanana's comrade-in-arms, Minister for Foreign Affairs Ramos Horta, criticized. According to Horta, Xanana should have postponed the meeting until after the presidential elections in Indonesia have concluded. Xanana's step, said Horta, had degraded the dignity of the Timor Leste people. Like it or not, said Horta, the prosecuting process by the Special Panel must be respected. "The meeting has harmed the legal process against Wiranto," he said.
Wiranto's reaction was obviously more relaxed. He claimed that the meeting had taken place repeatedly and was an ordinary thing. "It was a common meeting, a meeting between two best friends," said Wiranto at a presidential campaign event in West Nusa Tenggara on Friday. His meeting with Xanana, said Wiranto, was a meeting of two best friends who understood that a war would only cause sufferings to people.
That was it? The Wiranto camp denied any charges that there were any political promises behind his meeting with Xanana. "What political deals? I witnessed it myself," said Suaidi Marasabessy, a retired three-star general, one of the motors in Wiranto's campaign team. According to Suaidi, even if there had been political deals, it would have been more in connection to cooperation to build the future of Timor Leste than to question the past.
But is it true that the Wiranto camp facilitated the meeting? Suaidi was evasive. He claimed that he did not know how the meeting process started. His reason was, the meeting was not the first, it was for third such meeting. "I myself do not have personal contact with President Xanana," he said.
Whoever made the initial contact is now a moot point. Wiranto seems to have been dealt a new card in the presidential nomination, but it is Xanana who has had to explain his Bali visit. Nelson Correia, Deputy Secretary-General of the Timor Socialist Party (PST), called the move a realistic one. As a new country, he said, Timor Leste would face great challenges in tackling the agenda left behind by the UN. "One of them is the charge brought forward by SCU against Wiranto," said Correia to Selma Hayati, TEMPO correspondent in Dili.
The case bequeathed by the UN is officially not closed yet. Attorney General Monteiro threw the case documents to the National Council. Chaired by President Xanana, the National Council comprises representatives from the parliament, supreme court, and the people. According to plan, the council will take over the government policies from the UN, which will leave Timor Leste in December. The council will also decide on legal policies, such as the trial for those violating human rights. "In one or two months, the council will be established," said Monteiro.
It is certain that, while Xanana leads the National Council, he will not drag Wiranto to court, especially if Wiranto wins the seat of President of the Republic of Indonesia. It is for the sake of good relations—and, of course, Supermi.
-- Nezar Patria, Alexandre Assis (Dili), Sujatmiko (Mataram)
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