East Timor

The Evening Post (Wellington) April 27, 2000 
Punish Suharto, says mother


The mother of a 20-year-old New Zealander gunned down in the 1991 Dili massacre says former Indonesia President Suharto should be first "in the dock" for human rights violations in Timor.

Indonesia has revealed plans to bring in legislation allowing it to prosecute for any past human rights violation.

Helen Todd's son Kamal Bamadhaj was killed in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, when Indonesian troops opened fire on protesters marching for independence on November 12, 1991.

The story of his death was told in the documentary Punitive Damage, a collaboration between his mother and filmmaker Annie Goldson, which screened this year.

A Malaysian-New Zealander, Kamal was on his second visit to East Timor after becoming involved in the pro-independence movement when he was killed with 270 others.

Foreign Minister Phil Goff raised the Dili massacre issue at a meeting with Indonesian Attorney-General Marzuki Darusamn in Indonesia yesterday. He was told the new law on prosecutions would allow the incident to be considered.

Mrs Todd, who lives in Malaysia, told The Evening Post by phone yesterday that the move to punish violators of human rights was an "excellent initiative and a real signal that this is a completely different Government".

But she said with the fresh wave of massacres that followed last year's independence referendum, there were "more urgent cases in terms of healing wounds" than the 1991 event that took her only son.

After his death, Mrs Todd won a landmark human rights case in the United States courts.

One of the Army commanders during the incident, General Sintong Panjaitan, then studying in the US, was ordered to pay $ US14 million in damages, but fled back to Indonesia.

Mrs Todd, who runs a lending operation to assist poor Asian women, said she had now "moved on".

"I feel that (my current work) honours Kamal more than going out to put someone in jail now.

"If the opportunity arose, I could pursue it, but it's not my primary objective," she said.

"I would rather see the supreme commanders put in the dock . . . By that I mean Suharto."

After 30 years of autocratic rule, Suharto stepped down in May 1998.

"People like Panjaitan were just administering policy which came from the top," Mrs Todd said.

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