|Subject: letter on Balibo sent to editors
by Jose Teixeira
Please find below text of my letter to the editors of various papers in Australia. I hope you can post it on ETAN site.
Jose Fernandes Teixeira
Member of Timor-Leste National Parliament.
Coroner’s findings on Balibo 5 a blessing for the Timorese people
As Dr Martin Luther King Junior said, “The greatest tragedy is not the brutality of evil people, but rather the silence of the good people”. This has been the tragedy lived by the people of Timor-Leste, and the families of the deceased Balibo Five, as this weeks Coroner’s Findings into the deaths of the Balibo Five has shown.
Many Timorese of my generation witnessed the events leading up to and of the Indonesian invasion, which caused us to become refugees from our country at a young age, exiled to return only decades later. We felt vindicated, and our wounds partly healed, by the Coroner’s Findings that the five men were murdered.
There has been not only a silent but an active conspiracy to cover up their murders, which haunted us for decades until now.
This is more than just a finding that five foreign men were murdered in a far off village on the Timor-Leste / Indonesian border. In the world of “realpolitik” and “geopolitics”, it was the first finding of Indonesian military wrongdoing on a scale which shines light on the truth about how our country was brutally and violently invaded and occupied for decades. It will have a positive and lasting impact on how we Timorese deal with the question of justice for the victims of our violent and traumatic past.
Those against whom the findings have been handed down are still alive and remain influential, not just in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Indonesia, but also in Timor-Leste. General Yunus Yosfiah, against whom the heaviest findings have been made, is alive and married to a Timorese woman and is reported to retain both commercial and property interests in Timor-Leste. He exercises and enjoys benefits from his influence through his proxies to this day.
Many of us Timorese were becoming increasingly and frighteningly concerned that there was a growing sense of impunity for these people. We felt this even more keenly after the 2006 crisis and the sidelining from office of the most proactive and forceful voice against such impunity and for justice for our past, Dr. Mari Alkatiri.
I feel that the Coroner’s Findings have reversed that trend. It has sent a signal that justice will be pursued and impunity will not be permitted for those who are responsible for violations during our country’s military occupation.
My Indonesian activist friends fighting for democratisation and reform of the military in Indonesia, including assassinated human rights activist Munir, firmly believed this and were unswerving in supporting us in our fight for justice. As one said to me, “Only when you liberate yourselves from the injustice of the past caused by our military, will we liberate ourselves from our own military which has carried out much injustice to our people.”
I and some colleagues intend to introduce into the parliament a raft of preliminary legislation which will begin the justice seeking process.
The Indonesian authorities know where the remains of the disappeared and presumed dead lie, including that of our heroic and much beloved freedom fighter and former president of the republic Nicolau Lobato. Another of many, is another Australian, whom I knew, journalist Roger East who was publicly executed by the Indonesian military in the days following the Indonesian invasion on 7 December 1975.
Therefore the first simple step will be for parliament to resolve that our diplomatic efforts should seek immediately and without further delay the disclosure of where the victims have been buried. This will be hard because where there is a body there is a crime, and no-one has had the courage to admit that to us. In Dr. King’s words, the tragedy is not in the brutality of their murderers but in the silence of the good people who know and will not tell us this very simple truth which will help to heal so many wounds and for our two nations to move forward in giant leaps.
The second step is to freeze the assets of any person or persons against whom there are indications of criminal or human rights responsibility, until they return to Timor-Leste or submit themselves to any legal action in the jurisdiction in which proceedings have been commenced. The legislation will include, the seizing of assets under judicial review once adverse convictions or rulings are entered into, and that the assets be included in a special fund to be established to provide assistance to victims with residual disabilities and their surviving kin in need.
A significant response to the Coroner’s report has come from our President, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, who has been reported to say that “Indonesia must accept responsibility for the death of the journalists”.
I trust and hope this signals a change in his own hitherto cautious and “diplomatic” approach to this whole issue. One thing clearly follows on from his statement, and that is that Indonesia must accept responsibility for other crimes committed by its military leaders in Timor-Leste, even if the findings are from a process external to Indonesia.
The Coroner’s findings have impacted positively thus far and continue to do so, and its legacy will be opening the path for justice for the Timorese people once again, when all roads had apparently been closed. All this has happened at the Glebe Coroner’s Court so distant from an international tribunal.
It is indeed a blessing that some good people will not remain silent in the face of the brutality of others, even if 30 years on - the march of time notwithstanding.
Mr Jose Teixeira
Member of Parliament
Solicitor admitted to Supreme Court Queensland and
High Court of Australia
Dili, Timor Leste