|Subject: Reconciliation with Jakarta
without justice is meaningless, says bishop of Baucau
21 January, 2006 EAST TIMOR
Reconciliation with Jakarta without justice is meaningless, says bishop of Baucau
Gusmao hands over report on crimes in East Timor to the United Nations. Findings point the finger at Indonesia for the 180,000 dead. Jakarta dismisses conclusions and rejects charges. East Timorese president says he only wants restorative justice. Mgr Basilio do Nascimento says it is time for the president to explain at home what he means, meeting people.
Baucau (AsiaNews) – The people of East Timor are afraid that the names of the thousands of lives lost during Indonesia’s occupation of the country will be forgotten in the name of reconciliation with the former occupier. They want their president to provide more information and be more open to dialogue over the issue. And Mgr Basilio do Nascimento, bishop of Baucau, is taking on the task of voicing this concern which is worrying “most Timorese”.
Reached by phone, the prelate spoke to AsiaNews about the report on Indonesian crimes in East Timor that was presented to the United Nations. Yesterday in fact East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao handed the report to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The document was prepared by the East Timorese Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation over the last three and half years.
More than 2,000 pages long, the report documents a catalogue of atrocities perpetrated by Indonesia during its 24 years of occupation that began with the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1974 and the landing of Indonesian invasion forces in late 1975.
Based on the testimony of some 8,000 witnesses, the report details how the Indonesian military used methods such as deliberate starvation and rape, how Indonesia’s occupation cost the lives of between 84,000 and 183,000 people between 1975 and 1999, how 90 per cent died from hunger and diseases brought on by Indonesian repression. The report goes further and suggests that the military used napalm bombs and other chemicals to poison food and water in the 1975 invasion.
“Peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation are important principles,” the bishop said, “but we cannot forget what people suffered; they must be included in the government’s initiative.”
“Talking about friendship between nations in theoretical terms does not work for those who saw their beloved endured in those years,” he explained. “Those who govern us must view the population as a necessary party to the issue”.
The prelate as well as many human rights groups want the report to be made public. “No one knows what its content really ispeople want more, they want explanations,” he insisted.
According to the spokesman for Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry Yuri Thamrin, “the recommendations (of the report) are unreal, impractical, because they are purely formulated [. . .] by those who do not live in East Timor”. Indonesia's State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra added that it is time to “look at the future”.
In New York, President Gusmao said that report’s main purpose is to establish the truth as to what happened so that it may not happen again. But“it is not so important to look at the figures. It is more important to look at the lessons. We don't advocate punitive justice but restorative justice,” he explained.
Referring to the president’s words, Bishop do Nascimento said he hoped one day that Gusmao will be able “to explain exactly what he means. And he should do it here [at home], meeting people.”
In 1999, a majority of people in East Timor opted for independence in a referendum supervised by the United Nations. Independence was formally proclaimed in 2002.
Afterwards, the governments of Indonesia and East Timor turned down a UN recommendation to set up an international tribunal on the grounds that it would damage relations between the two countries. Instead, in March 2005 they established a joint Truth and Friendship Commission which has the power to pursue those accused of war crimes in the courts but which can also offer amnesty.
Human rights groups as well as the local Catholic Church insist however that the United Nations intervene so that “justice for the people of East Timor be done” by an international tribunal. (MA)