Subject: Tempo: RI-Timor Leste: The Problem of Coming Clean [+Voice of America]

also: Tempo: RI-Timor Leste: Confronting the Past;

Tempo No. 22/VI Jan 31-Feb 06, 2006


The Problem of Coming Clean

Xanana Gusmao has reported human rights violations in Timor Leste to the United Nations. Unfortunately, Indonesia is not big enough to accept the report.

IT was predictable that Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao's statement on human rights violations in Timor Leste by Indonesia would fail to cause much of a stir. At the United Nations headquarters in New York, he rejected the recommendations of the Acceptance, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) that requested the international court to set up a special panel to investigate and try those responsible for human rights violations in his country. He also made it clear that he believes in prioritizing reconciliation and friendship with Indonesia. He said that was more important than looking for justice over the 1965 to 1999 violence in East Timor, when it was officially Indonesia's 27th province. The CAVR is a body set up by the UN and the Timor Leste government.

The commission's recommendations are critical. In the 2,500-page document, Indonesia is accused of involvement in more than 1,000 human rights violations, causing the deaths of 183,000 people. And Indonesia is said to have used napalm to sweep East Timor clean after the annexation. Napalm was used by the United States in the Vietnam War.

The reaction from Indonesians was one of contempt. Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono denied that napalm was used. The former leader of the pro-Indonesia East Timor militia, Eurico Gutteres, asked the UN to also look at human rights violations committed by Fretelin, the organization founded by Xanana during the war. Politicians from the House of Representatives asked the government to take firm steps against Timor Leste, including an embargo of products going there. Protests also came from the Governor of the National Defense Institute, Muladi, who as a lawyer defended the generals accused of engineering the violence in East Timor. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono even canceled a planned meeting with Xanana because of the recommendations.

It is not difficult to guess why Xanana took this conflicting stance: allowing the Timor Leste government and the UN to issue the report, but rejecting its recommendations. From the beginning, Xanana has committed himself not to bring cases of human rights violations to court. In the Truth and Friendship Commission-set up by the Indonesian and Timor Leste governments-he clearly stated that the two nations wanted to use the peaceful path when taking a stance on the recent history involving the two nations. Xanana knows the way things stand, and does not want to cause problems for Indonesia because economically, his nation very much needs its "big neighbor." The main reason for his journey to New York is that he holds a mandate to report the CAVR's findings to the UN. He also has to take into account other political forces in Timor Leste who want him to be tougher on Indonesia.

Therefore Indonesia does not have to fly into a rage and become defensive-like someone who feels he is in the wrong. The CAVR's recommendations-even more so with Xanana's gentle statement-do not mean that Indonesia's generals are going to be dragged into court. The member states of the UN will discuss whether they will act on these recommendations or merely take note of them. Their implementation would depend very much on the wishes of the Timor Leste government itself. Good and dignified diplomacy with Timor Leste will lessen the desire of our neighbor to make an issue of human rights abuses there.

Even if a court is set up, we should use the best lawyers in Indonesia to fight on the international stage. Indonesia's image in the eyes of the world? With or without the CAVR's recommendations, the 1975 annexation of East Timor is known to the world as a dark time. The world would respect us more if we accepted that and admitted the wrongdoings we committed.


Tempo No. 22/VI Jan 31 - Feb 06, 2006


RI-Timor Leste

Confronting the Past

A meeting between Xanana Gusmao and SBY was canceled last week. Border issues between Indonesia and Timor Leste continue to be an obstacle.

LIKE a newly healed wound, Indonesia's relationship with Timor Leste has been ripped open again. This time the trigger was Timor Leste's Acception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) report, which Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao delivered to the United Nations in New York two weeks ago.

The 2,500-page report contains the findings on human rights violations between April 25, 1975 and October 25, 1999, right after the New Order regime sent troops to East Timor. The report said that as a consequence of Indonesia's 24-year occupation around 83,000 to 183,000 people died.

The commission was formed by the UN through the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), and tasked with investigating human rights violations in the former East Timor. Its objective was to uncover the truth and promote reconciliation for both the victims and the perpetrators of the crimes. In fact, the head of the CAVR Aniceto Guterres says they compiled the report with great care. "We continually took into consideration reconciliation with Indonesia," Aniceto told Tempo.

Admittedly, the world has heard tales of human rights crimes in East Timor many times. What became a problem was the report's recommendations to the Timor Leste government that an international court bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Although not explicitly stated, the target would be former Indonesian generals serving in East Timor at the time.

Although the report has upset many people, the CAVR says that the recommendations are proper. "It's up to the government, whether to act upon it or not," says Aniceto. But the recommendations appear set to remain inside Xanana's desk. "The country was established not to deal with the past, but to attend to the present situation and the future," said Xanana during a speech addressing the CAVR's findings at the Timor Leste Parliament last November.

But the reasons for the increasingly antagonistic relations between the two countries are not limited to past events. Recent friction at the Indonesia-Timor Leste border threaten to cause new tensions. Prior to the CAVR report reaching the UN desk in New York, for example, there was the fatal shooting of three Indonesians by Timor Leste border police. Apparently this was what triggered the fury of DPR Speaker Agung Laksono. He even went to the point of calling for the Indonesian government to sever diplomatic relations with Timor Leste.

The issue was still unsettled when the testimony of Dominggas Tefa, 24, surfaced. A resident of Netamnanu village in Abanani, the woman claimed to have been raped by a TNI (Indonesian Military) officer at a post in the Ablal village of West Miomafo, Northern Central Timor. The commander of the Wirasakti Kupang 161 District Military Command, Inf. Col. APJ Noch Bola, has denied the report. According to Bola, Dominggas had crossed the border illegally and was handed over to the police immediately after being arrested. Bola says no rape was committed by a TNI officer.

The truth about these two stories is not yet known. The three deaths as well as charges of the rape of an East Timorese woman, remain unresolved, given the mutual accusation from both sides of the border. Reportedly, last week the work of a joint team investigating the deaths of the three Indonesians, formed by both countries, was deadlocked.

In such a situation, Timor Leste's Foreign Affairs Minister Ramos Horta understands that Xanana's report to the UN was bound to trigger a controversy with Indonesia. But, he said, Indonesia does not need to worry too much since the Timor Leste government is incapable of executing the recommendations. As to demands of compensation for the victims, for example, Horta says that the Timor Leste government has rejected that clause. "We will not be pursuing compensation," Horta told Tempo on Friday last week.

Like Xanana, Horta hopes that reconciliation between the two countries can move forward. Horta seemed to have totally understood the cancellation of the Xanana-SBY meeting that should have taken place on Friday last week. "We leave it up to Indonesia, we are ready anytime to meet," says Horta.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirajuda said the cancellation of the meeting was not a result of the blistering report. "President SBY just didn't have sufficient time to meet," said Wirajuda on Friday last week. Although they failed to speak face-to-face, the two leaders later spoke by phone. On the question of the UN report, Wirajuda said that apparently Indonesia had been informed beforehand, when Xanana visited Medan at the end of December.

Fortunately, Indonesia still believes that the historical burden of the past can be resolved through the Truth & Friendship Commission formed by the two countries. "There is no need to be doubtful. We will continue to consult with the Timor Leste government," he says.

Nezar Patria, Jems de Fortuna (NTT)

------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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