Subject: E.Timor leader criticised over rights report

Agence France Presse -- English

E.Timor leader criticised over rights report


Indonesian rights activists on Wednesday condemned a recommendation by East Timor's president that a probe into past human rights violations in the world's youngest country be kept under wraps.

East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao suggested to legislators in Dili on Monday that a more than 2,000-page report and recommendations of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) should not be made public.

The commission was set up as an independent authority in 2002 tasked with investigating rights violations from all sides during Indonesia's occupation of its smaller neighbour.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 but the country's people voted in favour of breaking away in a UN-sponsored ballot in August 1999. It gained full independence in May 2002 after more than two years of UN stewardship.

Militia gangs, which the UN has said were recruited and directed by Indonesia's military, went on an arson and killing spree before and after the East Timorese referendum, killing about 1,400 independence supporters.

The commission was also set up to facilitate community reconciliation with justice for those who committed less serious offences, its mandate says.

"What concerns me is not the revelation of the truth, which is already common knowledge," Gusmao said in the speech, a copy of which was obtained by AFP in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"What really concerns me is the recommendations made by the (commission), which could be used to manipulate our people's state of mind," he said.

Gusmao said that the recommendations, "in the eyes of pragmatic policies, would not be considered as being absurdly utopian, but they are realistically very ambitious."

He added that the commission's "grandiose idealism" went beyond "conventional political boundaries."

Activists charged that Gusmao was more concerned about East Timor's relations with its powerful neighbour.

"This is more of an elitist solution than a popular one," rights activist Hendardi, a member of the board of patrons of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Associations, told AFP.

Hendardi charged that Gusmao's decision was clearly made in the political context of maintaining good ties with Indonesia.

"The public should be given the opportunity to assess it, because they were the victims," he said, adding that barring public access to the report "already goes against the very essence of truth."

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, of Solidamor, a pro-East Timor Indonesian rights group echoed Hendardi, saying that for Gusmao, good ties with Indonesia appeared to be more important than justice for his own people.

"It is true that the relations between the two countries have improved immensely compared to a few years ago, but this should not ignore the need for truth and justice for the victims," he said.

"Truth, if attained but without an accompanying legal process to bring justice, will remain meaningless," he said.

"When we speak of the truth and of justice, the public should decide since it was they who were the victims."

Gusmao's move, he said, followed the same pattern used by Indonesian officials -- buying time in the hope that time will wipe out past human rights violations from the collective memory of the nation.

In his speech, Gusmao said that the absence of justice was "not necessarily" a fundamental obstacle in the process of building a democratic society.

"The best justice, the true justice, was the recognition by the international community of the right to self-determination and independence the people of Timor-Leste have," Gusmao said.

Ruhut Sitompul, a member of the team of lawyers defending civilians and officers accused of gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999, was pleased with Gusmao's speech.

"We should not reopen old wounds and rather work together to build a better future, both for East Timor and for Indonesia," he said.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesmen were unavailable for immediate comment.



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