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East Timor News Digest 2 - February 1-28, 2006
Jakarta Post - February 24, 2006
The relationship between Indonesia and Timor Leste has again been
put to the test with recent border incidents and the submission
to the UN Secretary-General of a report on atrocities during
Jakarta's rule. Timor Leste Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta
discussed efforts to improve ties between the two neighbors with
The Jakarta Post's Tiarma Siboro, who is visiting Dili.
Question: What is your opinion about the border incidents
recently and how did Timor Leste handle those cases to prevent
them from recurring?
Answer: The two governments, in a mature fashion, and in the
spirit of friendship and based on our very positive and solid
relationship, handled this incident effectively as we had handled
other incidents in the past with the equal serenity and based on
our good relations. For instance, last year, in the month of
September, there were several cross-border incidents in Oecussi
where hundreds of villagers from western Timor entered East
Timor, burned crops and houses, attacked our police and destroyed
our police posts. We discussed it with Indonesian authorities and
the situation has calmed down. The dispute in Oecussi had to do
with some misinformation about the border demarcation process.
So, in the case of the shooting incident on Jan. 6, we deeply
regret the death of three former East Timorese militiamen. Again,
we handled it effectively and we will always preserve the trust
and goodwill between the two governments.
We have to work with the Indonesian side. Indonesia has to more
effectively prevent armed elements, like former militiamen, from
entering East Timor, and from our side, our police need to have a
better information exchange and coordination with the Indonesian
police. Working with the Indonesian side, we can prevent cross-
border violence or robberies. Ties between the two neighbors look
to depend on settlement of human rights violations against East
Timorese during Jakarta's rule.
What do you think about the way leaders of both nations deal with
the past, particularly through the joint truth and friendship
I am very pleased with the state of our relations and I am very
impressed with the pragmatism shown by the Indonesian side since
the time of Gus Dur (President Abdurrahman Wahid) and during the
administration of (president) Megawati. Now the relations have
been enhanced due to the leadership of our two current
presidents, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Xanana Gusmao. I am also
happy with the establishment of the commission of truth and
friendship, because we believe that this is the best mechanism to
address the issues in the past, particularly the 1999 violence,
which left many thousands of people displaced, many others killed
and between 70 and 80 percent of the towns destroyed. Someone has
to take responsibility. Under the 1999 agreement signed with the
UN, Indonesia was in charge of security, but then law and order
Well, I hope the truth and friendship commission will help
establish the truth, answering this question: who is responsible?
Therefore the victims will know who is responsible, but more
importantly, those responsible will apologize to the victims in
the interest of the two countries.
Will the commission's decisions affect the ongoing legal process
in Dili against several Indonesian senior military officers?
Well, we have to wait and see about the result of the work of the
truth and friendship commission. If the process is transparent
and credible, then I am sure it will be accepted by the people
here, the people of Indonesia and the international community.
And then, yes we can really put the past behind us. So, before
they conclude their work, I cannot say whether it will have an
impact or not into the ongoing trials in East Timor.
Do you believe that decisions of the truth and friendship
commission will give rise to border problems?
We have been doing a lot since 1999 to promote national unity and
reconciliation. Many thousands of former supporters of autonomy
with Indonesia are now in East Timor. Many are serving in
positions in the government. Many are in the Parliament, and in
our civil administration. Maybe more than 50 percent of former
police, who had served with the Indonesians are on our national
police force. This is part of our national reconciliation. We
have been working for it very successfully since 1999. There are
even many former militiamen hundreds of them who were less
responsible for the 1999 violence, who have returned to our land,
and only the hard-liners are still in (Indonesian west Timor), or
elsewhere in Indonesia. But most of them (the militiamen) have
returned and nothing happened to them. Not one single case of
revenge since 1999. And we must remember that there are almost
300,000 people who left East Timor to West Timor, many were
forced to go, now there are less than 20,000 people left in west
Timor and half of them are children who were born after 1999. So,
when we are talking about former militiamen, there are not that
many left in west Timor.
How has the Timor Leste government reacted to the submission of
the report to the UN about the atrocities that occurred during
The handing over of the Timor Leste Commission for Reception,
Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) to the Secretary-General of the
UN was an obligation imposed by our law to our President. But no
action is expected from the Secretary-General of the UN to follow
up on the CAVR report. The commissioners who produced the report
made some recommendations, some of which are acceptable to the
East Timorese government, but others are not, like the
recommendation for compensation, demanded from Indonesia,
Australia and the United States. Well, our government rejected
that part because we do not think it is realistic or fair. But
the report is very important, not so much in its conclusions that
almost 200,000 people died. The important thing is not the data,
because the number could be more or less, but the fact that we
learn from the past. We, East Timorese and our Indonesian
brothers, need to work together to build a far more peaceful and
better society for Indonesia and East Timor. This should be a
pedagogical process and exercise for us to look into the past.
Yes, we are reminded about the horror of the past as a warning
and a lesson, so that the two sides can work together to prevent
violence in the future.
Associated Press - February 17, 2006
Bali Indonesia's president embraced his East Timorese
counterpart Friday, and said a report detailing atrocities
committed by Indonesia during its occupation of the tiny nation
would not affect ties.
East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao did not address the report,
which was submitted to the United Nations last month, but said he
was looking forward to "living in peace" with his giant neighbor.
The report says at least 102,000 East Timorese were killed,
abducted, starved or died of illnesses under Indonesia's
occupation from 1975-1999. It also describes sexual violence, and
the use of napalm and torture by Indonesian forces, among other
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the report,
which was prepared by local and international experts working for
East Timor's truth and reconciliation committee, was "an internal
matter between the United Nations and East Timor."
"In the future, it will become a piece of history in the
relationship between the two countries," he said after talks with
Gusmao on the resort island of Bali.
The report's findings were in line with other published accounts
of the decades-long occupation, but it put a fresh spotlight on
Indonesia's history there, triggering anger in Jakarta, which
accused East Timor of trying to "open old wounds."
East Timor's leaders have repeatedly said that building good ties
with Indonesia was more important than supporting efforts to
prosecute military officers implicated in the violence.
But East Timorese and international rights groups are still
calling for justice. "Indonesia bears primary responsibility for
the illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor," said John M.
Miller, from the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network.
"Instead of seeking to bury the past, Indonesia should ensure
that those responsible for crimes against humanity are brought to
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and ruled the former
Portuguese colony until 1999, when a UN-organized plebiscite
resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence. A final orgy
of violence by retreating Indonesian troops left more than 1,500
dead. No Indonesian official has been punished for crimes
committed during the occupation.
In response to international pressure, Indonesia and East Timor
established a joint Truth and Friendship Commission in August
last year to probe the 1999 bloodshed. The body cannot recommend
prosecution for officers implicated in the violence Yudhoyono
said the commission's mandate would be extended by a year from
its original deadline of August 2006.
Hope lives on to get to the bottom of 1999 mayhem
Timor, Indonesia agree to look forward
SBY, Xanana reach understanding
Jakarta Post - February 24, 2006
The relationship between Indonesia and Timor Leste has again been put to the test with recent border incidents and the submission to the UN Secretary-General of a report on atrocities during Jakarta's rule. Timor Leste Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta discussed efforts to improve ties between the two neighbors with The Jakarta Post's Tiarma Siboro, who is visiting Dili.
Question: What is your opinion about the border incidents recently and how did Timor Leste handle those cases to prevent them from recurring?
Answer: The two governments, in a mature fashion, and in the spirit of friendship and based on our very positive and solid relationship, handled this incident effectively as we had handled other incidents in the past with the equal serenity and based on our good relations. For instance, last year, in the month of September, there were several cross-border incidents in Oecussi where hundreds of villagers from western Timor entered East Timor, burned crops and houses, attacked our police and destroyed our police posts. We discussed it with Indonesian authorities and the situation has calmed down. The dispute in Oecussi had to do with some misinformation about the border demarcation process. So, in the case of the shooting incident on Jan. 6, we deeply regret the death of three former East Timorese militiamen. Again, we handled it effectively and we will always preserve the trust and goodwill between the two governments.
We have to work with the Indonesian side. Indonesia has to more effectively prevent armed elements, like former militiamen, from entering East Timor, and from our side, our police need to have a better information exchange and coordination with the Indonesian police. Working with the Indonesian side, we can prevent cross- border violence or robberies. Ties between the two neighbors look to depend on settlement of human rights violations against East Timorese during Jakarta's rule.
What do you think about the way leaders of both nations deal with the past, particularly through the joint truth and friendship commission?
I am very pleased with the state of our relations and I am very impressed with the pragmatism shown by the Indonesian side since the time of Gus Dur (President Abdurrahman Wahid) and during the administration of (president) Megawati. Now the relations have been enhanced due to the leadership of our two current presidents, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Xanana Gusmao. I am also happy with the establishment of the commission of truth and friendship, because we believe that this is the best mechanism to address the issues in the past, particularly the 1999 violence, which left many thousands of people displaced, many others killed and between 70 and 80 percent of the towns destroyed. Someone has to take responsibility. Under the 1999 agreement signed with the UN, Indonesia was in charge of security, but then law and order broke down.
Well, I hope the truth and friendship commission will help establish the truth, answering this question: who is responsible? Therefore the victims will know who is responsible, but more importantly, those responsible will apologize to the victims in the interest of the two countries.
Will the commission's decisions affect the ongoing legal process in Dili against several Indonesian senior military officers?
Well, we have to wait and see about the result of the work of the truth and friendship commission. If the process is transparent and credible, then I am sure it will be accepted by the people here, the people of Indonesia and the international community. And then, yes we can really put the past behind us. So, before they conclude their work, I cannot say whether it will have an impact or not into the ongoing trials in East Timor.
Do you believe that decisions of the truth and friendship commission will give rise to border problems?
We have been doing a lot since 1999 to promote national unity and reconciliation. Many thousands of former supporters of autonomy with Indonesia are now in East Timor. Many are serving in positions in the government. Many are in the Parliament, and in our civil administration. Maybe more than 50 percent of former police, who had served with the Indonesians are on our national police force. This is part of our national reconciliation. We have been working for it very successfully since 1999. There are even many former militiamen hundreds of them who were less responsible for the 1999 violence, who have returned to our land, and only the hard-liners are still in (Indonesian west Timor), or elsewhere in Indonesia. But most of them (the militiamen) have returned and nothing happened to them. Not one single case of revenge since 1999. And we must remember that there are almost 300,000 people who left East Timor to West Timor, many were forced to go, now there are less than 20,000 people left in west Timor and half of them are children who were born after 1999. So, when we are talking about former militiamen, there are not that many left in west Timor.
How has the Timor Leste government reacted to the submission of the report to the UN about the atrocities that occurred during Indonesia's rule?
The handing over of the Timor Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) to the Secretary-General of the UN was an obligation imposed by our law to our President. But no action is expected from the Secretary-General of the UN to follow up on the CAVR report. The commissioners who produced the report made some recommendations, some of which are acceptable to the East Timorese government, but others are not, like the recommendation for compensation, demanded from Indonesia, Australia and the United States. Well, our government rejected that part because we do not think it is realistic or fair. But the report is very important, not so much in its conclusions that almost 200,000 people died. The important thing is not the data, because the number could be more or less, but the fact that we learn from the past. We, East Timorese and our Indonesian brothers, need to work together to build a far more peaceful and better society for Indonesia and East Timor. This should be a pedagogical process and exercise for us to look into the past. Yes, we are reminded about the horror of the past as a warning and a lesson, so that the two sides can work together to prevent violence in the future.
Associated Press - February 17, 2006
Bali Indonesia's president embraced his East Timorese counterpart Friday, and said a report detailing atrocities committed by Indonesia during its occupation of the tiny nation would not affect ties.
East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao did not address the report, which was submitted to the United Nations last month, but said he was looking forward to "living in peace" with his giant neighbor.
The report says at least 102,000 East Timorese were killed, abducted, starved or died of illnesses under Indonesia's occupation from 1975-1999. It also describes sexual violence, and the use of napalm and torture by Indonesian forces, among other abuses.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the report, which was prepared by local and international experts working for East Timor's truth and reconciliation committee, was "an internal matter between the United Nations and East Timor."
"In the future, it will become a piece of history in the relationship between the two countries," he said after talks with Gusmao on the resort island of Bali.
The report's findings were in line with other published accounts of the decades-long occupation, but it put a fresh spotlight on Indonesia's history there, triggering anger in Jakarta, which accused East Timor of trying to "open old wounds."
East Timor's leaders have repeatedly said that building good ties with Indonesia was more important than supporting efforts to prosecute military officers implicated in the violence.
But East Timorese and international rights groups are still calling for justice. "Indonesia bears primary responsibility for the illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor," said John M. Miller, from the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network. "Instead of seeking to bury the past, Indonesia should ensure that those responsible for crimes against humanity are brought to justice."
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and ruled the former Portuguese colony until 1999, when a UN-organized plebiscite resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence. A final orgy of violence by retreating Indonesian troops left more than 1,500 dead. No Indonesian official has been punished for crimes committed during the occupation.
In response to international pressure, Indonesia and East Timor established a joint Truth and Friendship Commission in August last year to probe the 1999 bloodshed. The body cannot recommend prosecution for officers implicated in the violence Yudhoyono said the commission's mandate would be extended by a year from its original deadline of August 2006.
Jakarta Post - February 18, 2006
Tiarma Siboro and I Wayan Juniartha, Tampak Siring, Bali President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Friday that Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao's decision to submit a report detailing alleged human rights abuses by the Indonesian Military in the former Indonesian province to the UN was a domestic matter.
"President Xanana has briefed me on the submission of the document," Yudhoyono said of the report by the UN-sanctioned Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR).
"Of course, I can understand because, in fact, (the report) is a domestic issue and internal process of Timor Leste, and a matter between Timor Leste and the UN." Xanana provided the report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in January.
Yudhoyono and Xanana conducted a joint press conference at the conclusion of one-day bilateral talks held at Tampak Siring Presidential Palace in a hill resort about 50 kilometers from Denpasar.
The meeting was attended by dozens of high-ranking civil and military officials from both countries, including newly installed Indonesian Military chief Air Marshal Djoko Suyanto and Timor Leste Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta.
The CAVR report provides a chronological detailing of the alleged abuses from 1975, when Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony, through 1999, when the Timorese voted for independence.
The report alleges that the military used starvation and sexual violence as weapons to control the territory. It also accuses soldiers of using napalm and chemical weapons to poison food and drinking water.
Jakarta has rejected the findings, and legislators have said Indonesia should sever ties with Timor Leste, regardless of Xanana's speech at the UN that all parties including Portuguese, Indonesia and some East Timorese groups "were responsible for the abusive acts".
Yudhoyono said he carefully reviewed the speech, and it convinced him that Xanana was deeply committed to continue the process of dealing in a constructive framework based on reconciliation.
"The important thing for me is that we keep holding on to our understanding and commitment that the issues must be resolved in a fair, truthful and reconciliatory way, and without sacrificing the need and hope of the two nations for a better relationship in the future," Yudhoyono stated.
During Friday's meeting, the two countries also received a progress report filed by the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), a team which was established by the two countries to investigate the alleged human rights violation after Indonesia's occupation in 1999.
CTF chairman Benjamin Mangkoedilaga, who is Indonesian, said the team has so far interviewed members of the judicial panel and prosecutors involved in trying alleged human rights violators held by the military authority in Timor Leste before, during and after the UN-sanctioned 1999 ballot.
Benjamin previously said the commission also planned to interview several military figures, including former military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, about the alleged rights abuses.
However, he dodged a question on whether the commission would treat the CAVR report as a key source document in its ongoing investigation. "We just received the CAVR report last night and we have to study it carefully before making any judgment," he said.
Ministers from both countries also discussed various border- related issues, including on traditional border crossings and traditional markets.
Agence France Presse - February 13, 2006
Lisbon East Timor will not seek compensation from Indonesia after the publication of a report blaming Jakarta for over 100,000 deaths during its occupation, East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said in an interview Monday.
"Collective justice should prevail over individual justice. We can't now find among the people victim A, B or C," he said in an interview published in daily Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias. "If the entire people suffered to gain independence, the compensation for this suffering was independence," he added.
Last month East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao submitted an independent report to the United Nations which concluded Indonesia killed up to 180,000 East Timorese through massacres, torture and starvation during its 24-year military occupation.
The report of more than 2,000 pages was the fruit of over three years of work during which more than 7,000 victims testified on human rights violations committed in East Timor between April 1974 and October 1999.
Some human rights campaigners have urged the government of East Timor to draw greater attention to the report's accusations of human rights violations by Indonesia but Alkatiri said the East Timorese people had to avoid dwelling on the past.
"What would be the goal of this? Create new conflicts with Indonesia? What would be the point of that?," he asked.
Indonesia annexed East Timor with the tacit approval of major powers in 1975, shortly after former colonial master Portugal abandoned the territory amid worsening civil war.
But the brutality of the occupation eventually turned world opinion against Jakarta and led to a UN-backed vote for independence in 1999. East Timor gained full independence in May 2002, becoming the world's newest nation, after more than two years of UN stewardship.
Sydney Morning Herald - February 12, 2006
Tom Hyland The struggle for East Timor was played out in the battle for its children, a landmark report has found.
Some were abducted by departing soldiers, smuggled out in crates. Others were taken from orphanages. Some parents were forced or tricked into handing their children over. Other parents voluntarily sent them away, hoping they would be cared for, educated and returned home.
Some never came back and grew up not knowing their families, their language, religion or culture. They are East Timor's lost, stolen generation.
Aidia is the mother of one of them. Thirty years on, she clings to hope. She's middle-aged now, old by East Timor standards. Her child, if she is still alive, would be in her 30s, maybe with children of her own. Aidia last saw her daughter Kustantina in an Indonesian army office some time after 1975. The child was three at the time.
With his tour of duty at an end, an Indonesian soldier told Aidia, a widow living in a forced-resettlement camp, that he had no children of his own. "I would like to take her home (to Indonesia)," the soldier said. "I want to give her an education and after that she can come back." She never did.
Aidia is illiterate. It was at the height of Indonesia's invasion, savage war was raging and she feared soldiers. In the army office, she pressed a thumbprint onto documents she didn't understand. When the paperwork was done, the soldier, his bags already packed, left with Kustantina, and a family was torn apart.
"I only gave away my child because I was afraid. They had guns and I felt like I didn't have a choice," Aidia says. She doesn't say what she has endured in the years since. It is a gap that speaks of an aching, anxious longing.
"I live now with the hope of that man's promise that one day my child will come back to me ... I often go to the edge of the sea, breathe in the fresh air and remember my child taken from me across those waters."
Aidia's story is told in a landmark report on East Timor's ordeal under Indonesian occupation. The 2500-page report by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation entitled Chega! (Enough! in Portuguese) documents in harrowing detail a quarter-century of war, massacre, torture, forced relocations, starvation and systematic rape.
Children were not spared. They were forced to serve on the battlefield and died in massacres, as well as from bombardment and famine. They were tortured in detention. Girls as young as 14 were raped and forced into sexual slavery as "comfort wives" during a time when soldiers could rape at will. And then there were those who were simply taken away.
The commission finds both sides in the conflict failed to protect children "but the most reprehensible violations of all kinds were committed by Indonesia".
A unique dimension to the children's suffering is now revealed for the first time. An unknown number the commission estimates thousands were taken to Indonesia. They may have escaped the ordeal of those left behind but they and their parents paid a different price.
Some were taken from combat areas after their parents were killed or they became separated from their families, the report says. The commission heard evidence of hospital staff hiding children to prevent their removal.
It heard of an eight-month-old girl called Veronica, taken by a soldier who said he had no daughters of his own. In payment he gave the mother a bag of rice.
Some mothers resisted. One girl identified only as QN was abducted from Ermera by an army officer and taken to Dili in a box. Her frantic mother traced her to an army office in Dili, where, despite being kicked by soldiers she rescued the child.
But the story has no happy ending. Back in Ermera, the officer raped two of QN's older sisters, one of whom subsequently gave birth to a girl. He subsequently "took this baby girl with him back to Indonesia. No news of the child's fate has ever been received by the family."
Nobody knows how many were taken, but the commission is confident "several thousand" children were involved. The removals "took place along a spectrum from unregulated transfers ... without consent being sought, to coercion ... to informed consent". An unknown number of the children many of them adults by now have yet to be identified.
The commission finds "insufficient evidence" to say if the removals were official policy. There is evidence some officers tried to stop lower-ranking soldiers smuggling out children. But at the same time, it says officials at the highest levels, extending to former president Soeharto and his family, were involved in unregulated removals.
The worst stories come from the harshest early years of the occupation, between 1976 and 1979, when a "climate of chaos, coercion and impunity" created conditions for widespread removals.
Maria Legge Mesquita was taken by soldiers after her father was killed. She told the commission: "When the army was ready to leave, after their tour was over, they took five children, including me, and put us in crates. We were put in crates, one per crate, like chickens." She was lucky. A local family, fearing its children were being taken, freed Mesquita and the other children.
Soldiers also took children from orphanages at a time when East Timor had an estimated 40,000 orphans. They preferred light- skinned children, according to former governor Mario Viegas Carrascalao. "They liked children with mixed blood. They were the ones that they took to Indonesia."
Many of those taken were young boys pressed into army service as "TBOs" the Indonesian acronym for "operations assistants" who carried ammunition and supplies.
One TBO, Alfredo Alves, told how, at the end of his unit's tour, he was placed in a box so officers wouldn't see him being loaded on the departing ship.
"After half an hour we were allowed to get out of our boxes and I saw Dili fade into the distance. I felt very sad because I had not seen my mother since I was taken from the schoolyard in Maubisse. This happened in February 1980, when I was 13 years old."
By the 1980s, officials sought to regulate removals to ensure there was parental approval, but the report concludes that, "in the prevailing climate of coercion", there was no guarantee parental permission would be freely given as "there was almost always an element of duress".
It was not only soldiers; government officials and charities took part. While these removals were better organised, with the stated intention of caring for children, many were taken without parental permission. Nor could parents maintain contact with children once they were taken.
Soeharto family foundations played a prominent role. In one notorious incident in 1977, 20 children were taken without their parents' knowledge to Indonesia. Before being sent to an orphanage, they attended a presidential welcome where Soeharto declared: "You are our children, owned by the state, and we will be responsible for your welfare from now on."
By the 1990s, when Jakarta faced a growing revolt by East Timorese youth, the government started programs to transfer children to Indonesia. While officially aimed at increasing education and job opportunities, the program had "underlying political and social motivations" of encouraging a commitment to integration with Indonesia and removing potential trouble-makers from East Timor. It was part of the battle for the hearts and minds of the young.
The entire struggle for East Timor "was partly played out in the battle for its children", the report says. "The widespread practice of removing children displayed a mindset that, by taking control of (East Timor's) territory, Indonesia also gained unfettered control over its children."
Even where transfers had a humanitarian motive with parental consent, little effort was made to ensure children could maintain contact with their families or return home. Some never saw their families again. Some of the children prospered in Indonesia, adopted by families that loved, cared for and educated them.
But such cases shine feebly in the unremitting gloom of the commission's report. A common thread runs through the children's experience: the loss of cultural identity, their language, their names. Some, taken as babies, were never told they were East Timorese.
For some this loss and alienation is a wound that never heals, even when they try to re-connect with their homeland.
One boy, taken from a Dili orphanage when he was five years old, was one of 10 children sent to a state orphanage in Bandung, Java, in 1979.
"I was living in a foreign environment," he says. "We never spoke about Timor, we couldn't speak (the Timorese language) Tetum, and we didn't send letters to Timor. We were brought up as (Indonesian) children in Java. I didn't know why I was there, just that there had been a war in Timor.
"I was happy to get an education in Bandung but I felt in my heart that I would always be someone wondering who he really was. I actually felt like I had been brainwashed. Eventually I made friends from Timor but I felt backwards and embarrassed around them because I couldn't speak Tetum. I often had to leave the room or more often I was silent. I tried to study my own language and culture.
"Living without my family was also very bitter for me. Very bitter. Even now if I see a picture of a mother holding her child, tears well up in my eyes. It is so sad that I cannot ever feel close to my family."
[The full CAVR report is at http://www.ictj.org.]
Sunday Age - February 12, 2006
Tom Hyland and Lindsay Murdoch, Dili Thousands of East Timorese children were shipped to Indonesia during Jakarta's occupation and the fate of many is unknown, says a report that echoes Australia's experience with the indigenous "stolen generation".
In some cases children were abducted by Indonesian soldiers and smuggled out in boxes, the report by an independent commission of inquiry has found.
"We were put in crates, one per crate, like chickens," one woman told the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, known by the Portuguese acronym CAVR.
The massive report poses a dilemma for Canberra, which received a copy last week and has already disputed its findings about Australia's role in events leading to independence in 1999. It has also sparked tensions between East Timor and its former rulers.
While not publicly released, sections of the report exposing atrocities during the occupation from 1975-99 have leaked. East Timor's Government was embarrassed when the report was posted on the website of the US-based International Centre for Transitional Justice.
The Sunday Age today reveals a previously ignored section of the report, which alleges children were taken in uncontrolled removals. An unknown number remain in Indonesia, some unaware of their true identities and their families ignorant of their fate.
Melbourne Catholic auxiliary bishop Hilton Deakin, a veteran campaigner for East Timorese rights, predicted a popular outcry in East Timor and overseas when the report is circulated. "The little children were the most defenceless of them all," Bishop Deakin told The Sunday Age.
"Some who were taken away were treated in comfort and education beyond their wildest dreams. But so many other ones were abused as sexual objects and as economic digits in the household."
Predicting the issue would emerge as a major cause for church and non-government groups, he said: "It won't be swept under the carpet when all this is revealed."
Cardinal George Pell, Australia's most senior Catholic bishop, was briefed on the commission's work when he met CAVR chairman Aniceto Guterres Lopes on a visit to Dili last month. He also inspected the commission's archives, now stored in a former Indonesian prison. Cardinal Pell's office said he was too busy to be interviewed about his visit.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said human rights issues raised in the report were "essentially issues for East Timor to work through". He said references in the report to Australia's diplomatic role leading to independence in 1999 were inaccurate and undermined the report's credibility.
He said sections of the report had been questioned by East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao and Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, referring to their rejection of calls for Indonesia to pay reparations and for new war crimes trials.
But in an interview with The Sunday Age in Dili, Mr Ramos Horta backed the report's findings on the "stolen" children. "The findings in the report on this question do not surprise me," he said. "The Indonesians often used the term adoption but most of the children were stolen, taken without the approval of the parents."
The removals are revealed in a 2500-page report alleging horrendous human rights abuses during Indonesia's rule, with up to 180,000 civilian deaths.
The report titled Chega! ( Enough! in Portuguese) alleges children were not spared during the occupation. Compiled over three years and drawing on thousands of testimonies, it alleges children were victims of massacre, torture, detention and rape. While broad details of those atrocities are widely known, the report reveals for the first time the previously taboo issue of the removal of children.
It alleges some were abducted by soldiers, while others were taken from orphanages by officials, charities and religious groups. It alleges some parents were forced or tricked into handing over their children.
Others voluntarily sent them thinking they would be cared for. The report finds "although some maintained contact with their families and were eventually able to return, others never came back ... and their fate or whereabouts are not known to their families".
Even when children were removed for humanitarian reasons with parental consent, it says there was little effort to ensure they could maintain contact or return home. The report says "several thousand" were sent to Indonesia.
It finds "insufficient evidence" to say if the removals were government policy, but alleges officials including former president Soeharto were involved. It claims the removals had an underlying political and strategic motive to ensure young Timorese became Indonesian.
Joao Goncalves, a leading opposition MP in Dili who had a relative taken in the late 1970s, appealed to Jakarta to help reunite parents with their children. "These Timorese children have a right to know their identity. And it's important for the parents and families to find out if their children are still alive and well," he said.
Mr Ramos Horta said since independence in 1999 many parents had asked the Government to help trace their children, many of whom were now adults.
Dino Kusnadi, spokesman for the Indonesian embassy in Canberra, said Indonesia rejected the report, even though Jakarta had yet to officially receive a copy.
Mr Kusnadi told The Sunday Age: "The report is only one-sided, based on reports from East Timor. It's not endorsed by the East Timorese Government, let alone verified by the Indonesian Government."
But he said measures to trace children could be considered by the new Truth and Friendship Commission, set up by the two governments. "This will reveal a more balanced report, more forward-looking. Perhaps that question (of the fate of the children) may also be discussed within this commission of friendship."
The Catholic Church in East Timor is set to demand more be done to reunite families when it formally receives the report this week. Father Martinho Gusmao, director of the church's Peace Commission, told The Sunday Age a committee would study issues raised in the report and then list what the church believes to be the priorities for immediate action.
A Foreign Affairs spokesman said Australia would be guided by the preferences of the East Timor Government.
Lusa - February 8, 2006
Dili President Xanana Gusmao sent copies Wednesday of the East Timorese Truth Commission's report on a quarter century of human rights violations and crimes against humanity, mostly committed under Indonesian occupation, to foreign embassies, international institutions and human rights groups.
In a communique, the technical secretariat of the CAVR Truth Commission said the embassies, including the Indonesian and Portuguese missions, were instructed by GusmC#o to relay the reports to senior officials in their respective countries.
Extracts of the more than 2,000-page report, which blames Indonesia for direct or indirect responsibility in the death of more than 100,000 Timorese, have been widely leaked since Gusmao first delivered the document to Dili's parliament in November.
The President personally delivered a copy to UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan in New York last month.
While the report attributes about 10 percent of the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity to pro-independence Timorese forces, especially during the brief 1975 civil war, it underscores that, in contrast to Indonesia, Timorese nationalist leaders assumed their responsibilities and cooperated with the 18-month inquiry.
Lusa - February 2, 2006
Dili East Timorese officials strongly criticized a New York- based human rights group Thursday for publishing on the Internet without authorization an official Timorese report on crimes against humanity that has embarrassed Indonesia.
President Xanana Gusmao "is very disappointed with what has happened", a presidential aide told Lusa, referring to the Jan. 30 action by the International Center for Transnational Justice (ICTJ).
The coordinator of the technical secretariat of the Timorese body that drafted the report, Rev. Agustinho de Vasconcelos, denounced the ICTJ move as "unilateral and wrong".
Prepared by Dili's CAVR "truth commission", the report holds Indonesia primarily responsible for the death of some 180,000 East Timorese during Jakarta's 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese territory.
The ICTJ "are not authorized to divulge an official Timorese document without prior consent or approval", de Vasconcelos said in a communiqui issued in Dili.
He charged the New York City-based organization had "not corresponded to the courtesy" shown it and other NGOs when Gusmao altered his schedule at the United Nations last month to meet with them and ask for their "cooperation and understanding".
Vasconcelos noted that Gusmao, after delivering a copy of the report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, announced that he would also present copies to "certain heads of government and donor countries" before making the document public sometime before June.
Coinciding with Gusmao's delivery of the document to Annan, Jakarta announced it was postponing a scheduled meeting between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Gusmao for reasons of agenda conflict.
International media speculated that the postponement was an indication of Indonesian displeasure over the Timorese report.
Radio Australia - February 3, 2006
A report to the United Nations has accused Australia of violating its international duties by lobbying Jakarta to delay East Timor's independence ballot in 1999. The report by East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission says the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer actively tried to delay the act of self determination by a number of years, arguing instead that East Timor should remain an Indonesian province.
Presenter/Interviewer: Anne Barker
Speakers: Kevin Rudd, Labor Party spokesperson for Foreign Affairs
Barker: East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has spent three years collating evidence about human rights abuses under Indonesia's 25-year occupation.
The massive report runs to 2,500 pages and documents thousands of witness accounts of killings, rape, torture and detention from 1974 right up to the independence ballot in 1999.
The report was handed to the United Nations two weeks ago, but the East Timorese Government is yet to release it publicly. Much of the blame and accountability is sheeted home to the Indonesian Government and militia groups, but Australia too comes in for some criticism.
In Chapter Eight, the Commission finds that Australia contributed significantly to denying the people of East Timor their right to self-determination both before and during the Indonesian occupation.
In the early years, it says Australia was well placed to influence the course of events in East Timor, but rather than playing the role of honest broker, it tilted sharply in favour of Indonesia.
It says "Had Australia given greater weight to the right of the East Timorese to self-determination and to the inviolability of its sovereign territory in its dealings with Indonesia, it may have been able to avert the Indonesian use of force.
"The Commission finds that during the Indonesian occupation, successive Australian governments not only failed to respect the right of the East Timorese people to self-determination, but actively contributed to the violation of that right."
Barker: The report acknowledges the leading role Australia played in the international force that ultimately ended the violence and bloodshed of 1999, and notes that Australia has consequently tended to portray itself as a liberator of East Timor.
But it contrasts this with the actions of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who it says in fact tried to stop East Timor from attaining independence.
"Even when President Habibie was moving towards his decision to offer the East Timorese a choice between remaining part of Indonesia and independence, the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made it clear that his Government believed that it should be several years before the east Timorese exercised their right to make that choice."
"The actions of the Government of Australia in supporting Indonesia's attempted forcible integration of East Timor was in violation of its duties under the general principles of international law to support and refrain from undermining the legitimate right of East Timorese people to self determination."
Barker: Mr Downer is travelling overseas and unavailable for comment, but his office today said Australia's position on East Timor was clearly articulated at the time, that the Government supported the act of self-determination, but the timing of the independence vote was something to be negotiated between Dili and Jakarta.
The Opposition's Foreign Spokesman Kevin Rudd says he'll be raising the matter in Federal Parliament.
Kevin Rudd: Alexander Downer over the last five years has always tried to depict himself as the hero of East Timor's independence. It would be remarkable if the same hero of East Timor's independence was found to have argued actively against East Timor's independence in his private diplomatic dealings with the Indonesian Government at the time. That's why when Parliament resumes I will be placing a number of questions to Mr Downer precisely about his communications with Jakarta at that time.
The Australian - January 30, 2006
Sian Powell In September 1999, a young East Timorese woman was brought to a militia post in Gleno. In the days immediately after the independence ballot, she was at the mercy of men who had lost the fight to keep East Timor within Indonesia.
A former militia gangster, Francisco Martins, told the independent Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation that he had seen the young woman in Gleno after she had been abused so violently she could hardly walk.
The militia commander had brought her in, and that evening Martins saw four militia gangsters from his Darah Merah Integrasi gang (Red Blood for Integration) take her away to rape her.
The next morning he saw her again, covered in blood. "She cried and asked our help to take her to the church," he said. "It was only then I knew they had raped her because she couldn't walk, she was stumbling." After the rapes, the woman was returned to the militia post, tied up and finally killed.
The cycle of rape and sexual violence, entrenched in East Timor since the Indonesian invasion, accelerated in 1999, according to the commission, which found rape had been used as a weapon of war.
The commission's 2500-page report on Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor carefully documents the tragic history of the executions, the massacres, the torture and the deliberate starvation of the East Timorese. Still to be publicly released, it has already soured relations between Indonesia and its one- time territory. A visit by East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao to Jakarta to present the report to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was cancelled last week.
The report, obtained by The Australian, makes it clear that in many ways the women of East Timor were the real victims of the occupation. Rape, it found, was used by the Indonesian military to splinter the resistance, and the sexual violence sharply accelerated in the months before and after the independence ballot in August 1999.
"Rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence were tools used as part of the campaign designed to inflict a deep experience of terror, powerlessness and hopelessness upon pro-independence supporters," the commission found, noting that 93per cent of sexual violations during the occupation were committed by the Indonesian armed forces and their militia proxies.
Women who supported the resistance were particularly at risk. One wife of a Falantil resistance fighter told the commission she was kept captive in Manufahi in 1981. "We were continually raped for seven months, although I was already old and my daughter-in-law was pregnant," she said.
Based on interviews with nearly 8000 witnesses from East Timor's 13 districts and 65 sub-districts, the report concludes the rapes constituted a war crime, and those responsible were guilty of crimes against humanity.
Although it only heard testimony concerning 853 sexual violations, the true number was in the thousands, the report says.
Unlike the East Timorese men, whose war wounds were honoured by their compatriots, raped and violated East Timorese women were often shunned by their husbands, families and communities, as well as by the Catholic Church.
In a society which values virginity and chastity and abhors any form of adultery, rape victims have tried to keep their shame silent. Yet many, including those who were impregnated by Indonesian soldiers, police officers or militia gang members, have had their lives blighted.
The commission documents the cases of women who were forced to become "military wives", women who were raped in front of their children, and the rapes of pregnant women, the sexual torture of women including the use of cigarettes to burn their nipples and genitals.
"The purpose was also to humiliate and dehumanise the East Timorese people," the commission found. "It was an attempt to destroy their will to resist, to reinforce the reality that they were utterly powerless and subject to the cruel and inhuman whims of those who controlled the situation with guns."
One young woman told the commission she saw her relatives murdered in the Suai church massacre in late 1999. She was then forced into a nearby school building, repeatedly raped by militia members, and forcibly transported over the border to West Timor.
One militia man found her in the West Timor camp. "He said he had been looking for me for two days," she said. "He hit me with his handmade weapon right in the mouth, kicked me in the chest and hit my back in front of several people. That night he moved me to his house and raped me again.
"I was with this man for three months and sixteen days. During the day he would go out and keep me locked inside a room and when he returned he would open the door and do it again."
One young woman was abducted when she was two months' pregnant and detained in a notorious torture centre, the Flamboyan Hotel in Baucau, for six months. "She was stripped naked, electrocuted and raped in a standing position," the commission found. "The torture and rape she endured were so brutal that in the end she agreed to become the 'wife' of a member of Battalion 744 in order to secure her release."
Documenting the sexual slavery, the commission found the "ownership in these cases was either individual or collective," and women were often passed on when troops were rotated out of East Timor. The military kept lists of women who could be used for sex, and handed the lists to their successors.
One woman, forced into years of sexual slavery, had five children from five different military fathers. "The father of my first child, who died, was from the Komando Unit," she told the commission. "The father of the second child was from Unit 412. The third was from Unit 413. I forgot the name and unit of the fourth child's father."
These "military wives" told the commission they felt soiled and shamed. The report notes that one woman had been referred to as a "war prize", another said she "felt like an animal". Many said they felt like whores, and there are cases of mental instability, as well as cases of women who never recovered to marry and live a normal life.
"The victims' testimonies clearly show there was a widely accepted practice for members of the security forces to rape and sexually torture women while on official duty, in military installations and other official buildings," the commission found. "These practices were covered by almost total impunity."
One woman from Mauchiga told the commission she was raped by four soldiers in 1982, when she was heavily pregnant.
"When they finished I was crying. But what did they say? 'Why are you crying? Our penis is the same as your husband's. We did it so your baby will come out quickly'. After saying that they left me. I managed to stand up by holding on to the trees around me and walked back to our place." She gave birth the next morning.
Australian Associated Press - February 2, 2006
The federal government has sidestepped accusations it wanted East Timor to remain a province of Indonesia and delay its bid for independence.
The final report of East Timor's truth and reconciliation commission says Foreign Minister Alexander Downer wanted to delay the 1999 poll by several years.
The commission, known by its Portuguese acronym CAVR, has been collecting evidence from thousands of witnesses for the past three years about Indonesia's annexing of the former Portuguese colony in 1975.
Its 2,500-page report, which shows that up to 183,000 East Timorese died as a result of the 24-year occupation, was handed to the United Nations two weeks ago.
The commission found that Australia "contributed significantly to denying the people of Timor-Leste their right to self- determination before and during the Indonesian occupation".
It also says it was in Australia's interests for East Timor to remain part of Indonesia. Mr Downer wanted to delay the vote, CAVR says.
"The commission finds that, even when (former president BJ) Habibie was moving towards his decision to offer the East Timorese a choice between remaining part of Indonesia and independence, the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made it clear that his government believed that it should be several years before the East Timorese exercised their right to make that choice and that it would be preferable from an Australian point of view if Timor-Leste remained legally part of Indonesia."
But the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has now said Australia made it clear at the time it supported self- determination for East Timor.
"Australia's policy position at the time was clearly articulated that reconciliation in East Timor be would best served by the holding of an act of self-determination and the issue was essentially a matter for the parties involved to resolve," a DFAT spokesman said.
"Australia consistently urged that the East Timorese be directly involved in the consideration of their future and made it clear that Australia would accept an outcome negotiated between East Timor and Jakarta." The East Timor government had not yet officially released the CAVR report, the spokesman said.
Australia accepted the result of the result of the referendum held in 1999, in which the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to break free from Indonesia.
But the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation said Australia violated its obligations under international law by backing the bigger neighbour's push to take over East Timor in 1975.
Australia was influenced by a desire to get the most it could out of maritime boundary negotiations affecting oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, it found.
"The commission finds that during the Indonesian occupation successive Australian governments not only failed to respect the right of the East Timorese people to self-determination, but actively contributed to the violation of that right."
Labor says it will be raising the matter in parliament when it resumes next week.
Australian Associated Press - February 1, 2006
Canberra Australia wanted East Timor to remain an Indonesian province and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer lobbied Jakarta to delay a vote for independence, a report to the UN has found.
East Timor's truth and reconciliation commission has been collecting evidence from thousands of witnesses for the past three years about Indonesia's annexing of the former Portuguese colony in 1975.
Its final report, which shows that up to 183,000 East Timorese died as a result of the occupation, was handed to the United Nations two weeks ago.
The 2,500-page report was published this week on the website of the United States-based International Centre for Transitional Justice.
In it, the commission says that Australia "contributed significantly to denying the people of Timor-Leste their right to self-determination before and during the Indonesian occupation".
In order to maintain a good relationship with Indonesia, Australia violated its obligations under international law and backed the bigger neighbour's push to take over East Timor in 1975, the commission said.
Australia also was influenced by a desire to get the most it could out of maritime boundary negotiations affecting oil and gas reserves.
"The commission finds that Australian policy towards Indonesia and Timor-Leste (in the lead-up to the invasion) was influenced... by an assessment that it would achieve a more favourable outcome to the negotiations on the maritime boundary in the Timor (Sea) if it was dealing with Indonesia, rather than with Portugal or an independent Timor-Leste on the issue."
In addition, Australia gave Indonesia economic and military assistance throughout the 24-year occupation and advocated on its behalf in the international community, the commission said.
But it also made special mention of the more recent role of Mr Downer prior to the vote for independence in 1999. Mr Downer lobbied Indonesia to delay the poll because it was in Australia's interests for it to remain part of the archipelago, the commission said.
"The commission finds that, even when (former president BJ) Habibie was moving towards his decision to offer the East Timorese a choice between remaining part of Indonesia and independence, the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made it clear that his government believed that it should be several years before the East Timorese exercised their right to make that choice and that it would be preferable from an Australian point of view if Timor-Leste remained legally part of Indonesia.
"The actions of the government of Australia in supporting Indonesia's attempted forcible integration of Timor-Leste was in violation of its duties, under the general principles of international law, to support and refrain from undermining the legitimate right of the East Timorese people to self- determination and to take positive action to facilitate the realisation of this right," it said.
Mr Downer was travelling in London and could not be contacted for comment. The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation found that up to 183,000 East Timorese were killed, disappeared, starved or died of illnesses linked to Indonesia's actions.
Jakarta Post - February 22, 2006
Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta The woman, dressed somewhat provocatively, was conversing with some East Timorese militiamen.
She was there not for a pleasure, but to speak on behalf of dozens of East Timorese children and women hopelessly cramped into massive refugee camps near the border town of Atambua, West Nusa Tenggara.
The woman, Sarah Lery Mboeik, had never thought how thankful people would be until she was given the Yap Thiam Hiem award in 1999 for her dedication to the cause of human rights in this country. The award is granted in conjunction with commemoration of World Human Rights Day, which falls on Dec. 10.
"After the 1999 ballot for independence in East Timor, many East Timorese men changed their mind, from initially joining the Indonesian Military, to supporting the independence of their own land," said the dark-skinned woman, known as Lery to her friends.
"Joining the guerrillas, East Timorese men hid in mountainous areas shortly after the UN announced victory for the proindependence group. Their wives and children, however, were forced to take refuge when massive destruction was visited upon the towns," she said.
In the refugee camps, the women and children were held "hostage" as they were placed in camps controlled by pro-Jakarta groups and were not allowed to go anywhere unless their husbands or fathers showed up from their hideouts.
Male activists would find it difficult to infiltrate the camps to save the women and children, and Lery found herself volunteering to help. "I don't smoke, I don't wear short pants. But if that was the only way out, I was prepared to do it," she recalled.
She began to "traffic" children and women from the camps, while her activist colleagues waited not too far away to take the refugees to places of safety.
It was never easy, though. Some of the children cried bitterly as she tried to take them out, while Lery tried her best to make them believe that she would not harm them.
"Only after the militiamen realized that I was an activist did they try to hunt me down. I faced all kinds of terror since that time," she said, smiling.
Born on the small island of Rote in East Nusa Tenggara province, on Feb. 20, 1965, Lery had a tough family upbringing. Her parents were teachers at local schools who had to support seven children, including her. She struggled against the economic hardship by becoming a hired hand, even though she was still a high school student.
Lery, a mother of three, continued her studies at Nusa Cendana University school of agriculture from 1983 through 1988, and became a part-time worker at a local commodities warehouse for a paltry wage. At other times, she helped friends with their research, to supplement her income.
Only after leaders of a local church, Gereja Masehi Injili di Timur (GMIT), asked her to join the Alpha Omega foundation in 1988 did she begin to see that many others suffered even more than her. Worse still, they could do little to defend themselves because they were powerless against an abusive administration.
This was during the authoritarian regime of former president Soeharto. The New Order ruler granted his cronies the right to exploit millions of hectares of forest across Indonesia, including those supporting indigenous and tribal groups.
As a student with an agriculture background, Lery was concerned at the increase in what she called "land defilement", which occurred in her hometown as well as in southern Central Timor, Amarasi and Amfoang all in West Nusa Tenggara.
In the 1990s, the government established an Industrial Plantation Forest (HTI), which caused degradation and deforestation. For Lery, HTI became a hot issue.
One particular perfidious case occurred in the early 1990s when a local authority granted rights to a 300-hectare plot of land, belonging to villagers in southern Central Timor, to timber tycoon Muhammad "Bob" Hasan, who ran plantation company PT Fendi Hutani Lestari.
Backed by the military, Bob's men instructed the villagers to relinquish their land. Those who stood against the order were detained by the local military, physically abused and intimidated.
"I staged a rally asking the military to free local leaders," she said. Instead of listening to her demands, the military put her in a cell, only releasing her after days of interrogation.
Some military officers even branded her with the tried and true label "communist sympathizer", a traumatic way the New Order regime used to stigmatize its opponents. That incident occurred when she was six months pregnant.
Lery later joined the Alpha-Omega foundation and was with them for about four years.
Together with friends, she established the Institute of Information and Advocacy for the People (PIAR) in 1997. PIAR is a non-governmental organization that provides legal advocacy for local people struggling with land ownership problems.
The NGO also provides assistance to the locals in defending their traditions and cultures, and in the sustainable exploitation of natural resources. Under the PIAR banner, Lery also mediated a peaceful settlement for villagers involved in tribal conflict.
Lery has also been regularly networking with other human rights activists abroad. She has participated in international forums and been involved with comparative studies on social and environment issues in several countries, including the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and Brazil.
In cooperation with the environmental organization Yayasan Kehati, Lery once published a local paper that ran stories on the environment. She had hoped that people could get free information and share knowledge by reading it.
"I want them to have the courage to improve themselves for I may not always be there to assist them," Lery said.
Her long, extraparliamentary journey has made her realize that local people need sincere political representatives to fight for their rights against state hegemony.
Lery made her political debut when she joined the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in 1999, but shortly afterward realized that her political stance could not be reconciled with the party's vested interests. "I quit the party due to a difference of ideas," she said.
During the 2004 legislative elections, she contested a seat to represent Rote, Kupang city and Kupang regency, West Manggarai and Belu where all of her real support base existed.
Lery won more than 100,000 votes. But she failed to win a seat on the local council after another politician from a major party got more votes than her.
"I lost the race because I may not have had much money to buy the necessary number of votes. That is the political reality here: Money really does buy power, but I believe that such a situation will cease to exist someday," she said.
Sydney Morning Herald - February 12, 2006
Lindsay Murdoch, Dili Siti Bariah buys bananas and sells them in Dili's crowded markets, barely making enough money to feed eight of her children and her ailing husband.
But seven times now she has borrowed money for the bus fare across East Timor's rugged mountains to Indonesian West Timor, where she has angrily confronted a man she accuses of holding her 21-year-old daughter, Modesta Sofian, against her will.
"I will not give up," Mrs Siti says. "I know that Modesta would return to her family in East Timor if she could."
For more than five years, non-government organisations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have tried to return Modesta to her parents.
She is one of an unknown number possibly thousands, according to East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation who were taken from their parents during Indonesia's 25-year occupation of East Timor. Some have not been returned.
Mahmud Alkatiri, a senior Indonesian Government official, took Modesta, then 15, and her then 13-year-old sister, Daumali, into his home in the West Timor capital, Kupang, after the two girls fled the violence that erupted in East Timor after the 1999 vote for independence.
Mr Alkatiri, a former government official in East Timor, had owned a house opposite the shack where the girls grew up in the Dili suburb of Comoro. He told them that Indonesian-backed militia, rampaging in protest at the vote, would rape and kill them if they did not come to live with him.
But Mr Alkatiri reneged on a promise he made in 2000 to allow Modesta to return home and has since variously claimed she has run away, has already been sent back to East Timor or does not want to return because she is living with a wealthy family in Jakarta.
Daumali, now 19, shakes with anger as she tells how Modesta wanted desperately to return to Dili in March 2000, the last time she saw her. "We were crying. My parents had come to Kupang to collect us from Mahmud," she said.
Mr Alkatiri brought the girls to a ship in Kupang harbour. He allowed Daumali to be reunited with Mrs Siti and her husband, Fernando Morais, who were told the security situation in Kupang was too dangerous for them to leave the ship.
But after ordering Modesta to return to his car, he convinced her parents that he would bring her back to Dili with him in a few months, after she had finished her school term. The family has not seen or heard from her since.
Daumali said that when she and Modesta were living in Mr Alkatiri's house they cooked, cleaned and washed for him. He did not pay them and often became angry when they did not work hard enough.
Daumali said that Mr Alkatiri, who is one of the officers running the department in West Timor that is responsible for refugees, told her and Modesta in early 2000 that it was too dangerous for them to return to East Timor.
"He told us that all the girls in East Timor are forced to sleep with United Nations soldiers," she said. "We had no way of finding out if it was true. I miss my sister very much. I know she misses me."
Mrs Siti has repeatedly confronted Mr Alkatiri at his home. "If you have killed Modesta, please tell us so that we know," she said she told him. "If you have sent her to be a prostitute, please tell us."
East Timor President Xanana Gusmao has raised Modesta's case, as well as others, with Indonesian authorities. It is one of 49 active cases being pursued by Dili's Social Securities Department. Twelve cases relate to children whose whereabouts are unknown.
The department wants to review 1156 cases in which guardianship has been transferred from East Timorese parents.
Indonesian officials have told East Timorese officials that Modesta's case is difficult to solve because she is now an adult and can decide for herself where she wants to live.
But East Timor claims Indonesia is obliged to act under a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries because Modesta was only 15 when she was taken by Mr Alkatiri. "Progress in these cases is painfully slow," an official in Dili said.
Police in Kupang have demanded that Modesta's family produce witnesses to prove who Modesta is and that the matter then be settled by an Indonesian court.
Mrs Siti hopes to scrape together enough money so that Daumali can travel to Kupang to testify. "We don't have much but she belongs here with her family," Mrs Siti said.
Jakarta Post - February 22, 2006
Tiarma Siboro, Timor-Leste Prosecutions of crimes against humanity in Timor Leste will not be affected by the diplomatic approach taken by the country and Indonesia, Timor Leste's general prosecutor says.
Longinos Monteiro's remarks followed a closed-door meeting with the Commission for Truth and Friendship. The team was established by Indonesia and Timor Leste to investigate alleged human rights abuses that took place around the 1999 UN-backed referendum for independence in Indonesia's former province.
"Monteiro told us that the commission and the prosecutors in Timor Leste are playing different roles in dealing with alleged rights abuses. We believe that he (Monteiro) is right because the commission has been mandated not to interfere into the ongoing legal process here," Timorese commission member Cirilo J. Cristovao told The Jakarta Post soon after the meeting Monday.
The commission is on its first visit to the new nation after it was created Aug. 11, 2005.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao have said they will work toward reconciliation rather than prosecute those believed to be the masterminds of the gross human rights violations.
Any prosecutions could involve bringing high-ranking Indonesian Military officers to an international tribunal, as activists have suggested.
Monteiro leads the prosecution team of the UN-sanctioned Serious Crimes Unit, which deals with alleged crimes against humanity.
Cristovao said the general prosecutor had so far handed more than 86 cases involving pro-Jakarta militiamen to Timor Leste's special panel for serious crimes. Eighty-three of the 86 cases have been legally processed.
The prosecutors, however, did not submit cases against several Indonesian Military figures because "they reside outside of our jurisdiction".
Cristovao said the commission would review all the legal documents issued by Timor Leste's serious crime unit. "Similarly, we have already reviewed all the legal documents issued by Indonesia's prosecutors and ad hoc human rights tribunals," he said.
He said the commission's mandate only enabled it to give recommendations to both administrations, "and let them deal with the cases with regards to their own national legal systems".
In 2002, Monteiro indicted and issued arrest warrants for several Indonesian generals, including former Indonesian armed forces chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto and former martial law commander Maj. Gen. (ret) Kiki Syahnakrie.
Syahnakrie was assigned to stop the widespread violence, looting and destruction of buildings by pro-Indonesian militias shortly after the independence supporters won the referendum. However, there is evidence TNI troops took part in the violence.
Interpress News - February 13, 2006
Sonny Inbaraj, Dili Jose Ximenes, news editor of the popular 'Timor Post' daily, shook his head in disgust. "East Timor's independence and peace were achieved at great cost. We cannot remain silent while some of our leaders endanger our press freedom and undermine our hard-won democratic accomplishments," he told IPS emphatically.
What irks Ximenes and the whole media community in the world's newest nation is a three-year jail sentence that journalists will face for defamation in the recently amended penal code, as a result of an executive decree signed by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.
On Dec. 6, Alkatiri approved a decree revising the penal code, which had been passed by national parliament. The revisions allow for up to three years of imprisonment and unlimited fines for publishing statements deemed defamatory of public officials.
"This decree-law threatens the fearless nature of a free press," said news editor Ximenes. "It has the frightening effect of silencing not only individual journalists charged but the media community as a whole," he added.
Ximenes is worried that his reporters will be restrained in their efforts to criticise those in power. "My reporters, in particular the ones new to the profession, could be practicing self- censorship motivated by fear."
International press freedom groups point out that criminal defamation laws are unnecessary in a democracy and that prison penalties for such charges undercut the fundamental democratic principle of free expression.
"Criminal defamation is an affront to free speech in East Timor," said the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in a Feb. 10 statement. "The steps to building a democracy are not paved with draconian laws which punish journalists for doing their work," added IFJ's president Christopher Warren.
In a letter to East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York, said the bill threatens journalists whose reports on public officials or government institutions might be considered defamatory, even if the facts are fairly and accurately represented and are reported in good faith.
"Your nation's stated commitment to a free press and to democracy is undermined by measures that provide special protection to public officials," added Ann Cooper, CPJ's executive director, in the Jan. 13 letter to Xanana.
"We believe criminal defamation laws are unnecessary in a democracy and that prison penalties for such charges undercut the fundamental democratic principle of free expression." Cooper appealed to Xanana "not to sign this legislation, and to challenge the political process that allowed such a bill to get to this stage without a full public debate."
East Timor's road to independence achieved on May 20, 2002 was long and traumatic. The people of the first new nation of the century suffered some of the worst atrocities of modern times. A quarter of the population is thought to have died during Indonesia's 25-year occupation that ended in 1999.
Indonesia finally agreed in August 1999 to let the East Timorese choose between independence and local autonomy. Militia loyal to Indonesia, apparently assisted by the military, tried in vain to use terror to discourage a vote for independence.
When the referendum showed overwhelming support for independence, the loyalists went on the rampage, murdering hundreds and reducing towns to ruins. Even the media was not spared; the territory's only newspaper office was burnt to the ground and all printing machines in the capital, Dili, were destroyed.
An international peacekeeping force eventually halted the mayhem and paved the way for a United Nations mission that helped this nation of a million people Timor to get back on its feet.
The rebuilding of East Timor has been one of the UN's success stories. Working with donor agencies, the UN also helped revive independent media outlets in the militia-destroyed territory.
Today, reconstructed media in East Timor grapples with the challenges of rebuilding a nation and have an increasingly important role in developing democracy.
As the campaign to stop criminal defamation in East Timor gathers momentum both in the country and overseas, the ball now lies in President Xanana's court. He has yet to use his constitutional right to veto this decree-law and is awaiting a legal opinion from the appellate court.
"The president has not yet promulgated the penal code as he is awaiting the appellate court's recommendations, and is also considering public opinion on the (defamation) articles," Lusitania Cornelia Lopes, the president's chief spokeswoman told IPS.
But signals from the court have not been encouraging. Court president, Claudio Ximenes, told reporters on Feb. 3 that in his opinion as a lawyer, the defamation articles in the penal code "are not dangerous to democracy" in East Timor. "The situation in East Timor is different from other countries and this article will ensure social stability and democracy in the nation," he also said.
He added that several European countries, such as Spain, Germany and Italy, also have similar laws criminalising defamation. "And these countries are advanced democracies," he pointed out. "So we do not have grounds to say these defamation articles will endanger democracy."
But president of the Timor Lorosae Journalists Association, Virgilio da Silva Guterres, disagrees. Guterres said the law favours public officials and government leaders and protects them from criticism. In his opinion, it offers little protection for reporting facts that may be construed as defamation.
"The chilling effect of this law will be to prevent people, particularly journalists, to pursue the truth because of the three- year imprisonment as stipulated in this decree law," Guterres said.
Local legal experts also point out that this decree law goes against the country's constitution and certain international laws signed by East Timor.
"This decree law violates the East Timor constitution," said Tiago Sarmento, director of the Judicial System Monitoring Programme, a Dili-based legal watchdog.
"It violates article 6, which speaks about the goals of the state, article 40 about freedom of expression and information and also article 41 about freedom of the press and other communications media," Sarmento pointed out.
"It also goes against the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which has also been ratified by the East Timor government."
Green Left Weekly - February 8, 2006
Jon Lamb Journalists and human-rights organisations within East Timor and internationally are increasingly concerned about the consequences of a new penal code on defamation, which includes the penalty of up to three years' imprisonment for defaming a public figure. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri signed an executive decree approving the proposed law in December. It is now waiting to be signed into law by President Xanana Gusmao.
Journalists and legal experts within East Timor are dismayed that the defamation law has got this far without any parliamentary debate or public consultation. According to the South East Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), "The new laws will dissuade journalists from speaking up on good governance and transparency in the conduct of the state affairs" and "It will also stifle the freedom of expression the East Timorese need to participate in and advance their hard-won democracy".
Under Article 176 of the law, the term of imprisonment for defamation has been doubled from one to two years. In instances where the defamation is both through the media and is deemed to have been committed against individuals performing "public, religious or political duties", the term of imprisonment is increased to three years. There is no limit on the level of fines that can be imposed.
In the context of East Timor's relatively new and poorly resourced judiciary and presidential and with national assembly elections due in 2007, SEAPA warned that "Criminal defamation provisions could be misapplied or broadly interpreted, to the detriment of freedom of expression".
The International Press Institute has written to Gusmao stating its concerns over the law, noting that "in seeking to replace the Indonesian Penal Code, the East Timorese government is merely replacing one repressive law with another".
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The Australian - February 23, 2006
Sian Powell, Jakarta Indicted for crimes against humanity by Indonesia and East Timor, feared militia leader Eurico Guterres has now been elected regional chairman of one of Indonesia's larger political parties.
Guterres, previously associated with Indonesia's two main parties -- Golkar and the Democratic Party of Struggle will head the National Mandate Party's (PAN) East Nusa Tenggara chapter, which takes in West Timor.
A nationalist hero to some prominent Indonesians, the 34-year- old, who has so far evaded jail, said his conviction for war crimes was "no problem". "There's no connection with me becoming the leader of the party," he told The Australian yesterday, adding that he had always supported PAN.
Guterres led the Aitarak militia based in Dili, East Timor, in 1999 and publicly incited his followers to kill independence supporters.
His orders were followed with relish, and immediately after his speech at a pro-autonomy rally, he led his gang to attack the house of pro-independence leader Manuel Carrascalao. Twelve people were killed, including Carrascalao's 17-year-old son.
Convicted by the ad hoc tribunal Indonesia established after intense international pressure, Guterres was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
On appeal, this was reduced to five years. A second appeal to Indonesia's Supreme Court has been pending for 20 months, while Guterres has been free in Indonesia. The native East Timorese was also indicted for crimes against humanity by the UN-backed Serious Crimes Unit in East Timor.
As chief of one of the most savage militias in East Timor, Guterres was directly involved in the carnage before and after the independence ballot. More than 1500 East Timorese died in the violence, towns were razed and as many as 250,000 people were forcibly transported to Indonesia.
The militia leaders fled across the border. None of them have been punished for the crimes of 1999, and many, like Guterres, have forged new lives.
In 2001, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Indonesia should move "quickly and decisively against Guterres".
"As I have made clear previously, Guterres is one of the most prominent and notorious of the militia leaders," he said.
"We are deeply disappointed that he has not been brought to justice for his involvement in the human rights abuses that occurred in East Timor."
Nearly six years after the carnage, Guterres has not served a prison term, and he has the support of leading Indonesian politicians, especially those in PAN.
One of Indonesia's larger political parties, with 10 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives, PAN was for a long time led by the highly respected politician Amien Rais, once the speaker of the national parliament and a former presidential contender. Guterres has said that Mr Rais personally invited him to join PAN.
PAN executive Muhammad Najib said Guterres's conviction was irrelevant. "That case is outside our authority, it's the business of the Government," he said. "If later he is found guilty (by the Supreme Court) we will study the case, and there are concrete rules for that."
Agence France Presse - February 20, 2006
Dili Stray pigs roaming free in East Timor's capital are a disgrace and must be dealt with before they affect foreign investment, Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta said Monday.
"I have never found another place in this world, especially beaches, crowded by pigs that roam freely and foul public spaces like the beaches" in Dili, Horta told a press conference on a new hotel investment here.
If nothing was done to rid the coastal capital of the beasts, "it could possibly discourage interest of enterpreneurs to invest in East Timor," Horta said as he called on the city's mayor to take action.
"Dili is a capital. Dili is a barometer of the economy of Timor Leste because about 80 percent of economic activity takes place here," the minister said.
East Timor became the world's youngest nation in 2002 and is one of Asia's poorest countries.
Tempo Interactive - February 17, 2006
Timor Leste Indonesia residents asked that Fretilin's crimes against humanity in the 70's be divulged. "It is what is fair, after Timor Leste reported human rights violation by the Indonesian Army (TNI) from the 1970's," said Mateus Maya, Chief of the Timor Union Aswain in Denpasar, Bali, yesterday, 16 February.
The former Dili mayor (1986-1999) explained, that Fretilin (the Timor separation group, one of its leaders is now president of Timor Leste, Xanana Gusmao) killed about 100 thousand of Timor Leste's people in 1970's. But, in January, Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao submitted the CAVR (Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation ) report to the UN without asking for opinions from pro-integration people. The report contains TNI's human rights violations in the 1970's.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will meet Xanana today in the Tapak Siring State Palace in Bali. Xanana plans to submit and explain about the report to him. Rofiqi Hasan
Wired News - February 9, 2006
Ann Harrison The citizens of East Timor who perished during Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation of their tiny island nation might have died unaccounted for as many civilians do in military conflicts around the world. But a group of determined programmers and statisticians refused to let that happen.
On Thursday, the Human Rights Data Analysis Group released a report documenting over 102,000 civilian deaths in the former Portuguese colony, which occurred from a year prior to the Indonesian army's invasion in 1975, to the country's 1999 independence referendum that formally ended the occupation.
Group director Patrick Ball says the data included an estimated 18,600 people who were murdered or disappeared, and approximately 84,200 citizens who died due to hunger and illness in excess of what would be expected during peacetime.
"If people can't be remembered by name because they are lost to social memory, the least we can do is remember how many people died as a result of the conflict," said Ball. "By having an accurate statistical picture of the suffering, we can draw conclusions about what the causes of the violence might have been and identify likely perpetrators with a claim based on thousands of witnesses."
Ball, 40, has spent the last 15 years building systems and conducting qualitative analysis for large-scale human rights data projects around the world. Constantly on the move, he's worked for truth commissions, non-government organizations, tribunals and United Nations missions in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Peru and Columbia. In March 2002, he appeared as an expert witness in the trial of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague coolly confronting the former leader with statistical evidence of his alleged war crimes against ethnic Albanians.
Ball also helped to design Martus and Analyzer, two open-source software tools that provide secure storage and rigorous statistical analysis of human rights violations data.
To generate the East Timor report, HRDAG researchers spent three years in the country now called Timor-Leste collecting and analyzing mountains of raw data. The group marshaled 8,000 testimonies and developed innovative sources of information, including the first human rights retrospective mortality survey to determine how many people died and why.
They surveyed 319,000 graves and used hundreds of Python, Java and bash shell scripts to build a huge database of mortality data that contained an 80,000-file directory tree.
While prior information about East Timor focused on anecdotal accounts, the HRGAD researchers used comparative analysis of the datasets to uncover patterns of deaths and build objective evidence of abuses. The team also developed an array of descriptive statistical analysis profiling the scale, pattern and structure of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and sexual violations.
In order to estimate what was missing from the data, the HRDAG developed software to link multiple reports of the same death in a technique called record linkage. They then used multiple systems estimation to calculate the deaths no one remembered.
"The Indonesian military has persistently argued that excess mortality in Timor due to its occupation of Timor was zero," said Romesh Silva, a HRDAG field statistician who led the design and implementation of the project's data collection. "This claim can now be tested empirically and transparently with the tools of science instead of merely being debated with the tools of political rhetoric."
The information generated by the HRDAG was originally requested by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) in East Timor, created by the United Nations in 2002 and now disbanded. The Truth Commission's East Timor office was housed in the sweltering cells of a former political prison. When the tropical heat threatened to cook his hard drives, Silva developed a technique of balancing his computers on the caps of water bottles so he could direct air from fans underneath the machines.
The Truth Commission completed a report titled "Chega!" (Portuguese for "Enough!") in October of last year and handed it over to Xanana Gusmao, president of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste who has not yet released it to the public. A draft version of the report posted by the International Center for Transitional Justice charges that the Indonesian armed forces carried out a systematic plan of murder and destruction during East Timor's independence vote in 1999, which was not the work of rogue military elements as Indonesia claimed.
The Commission recommended that the UN renew its special crimes unit to investigate and try human rights violations. It also said Indonesia should provide reparations to East Timor and called on the UN Security Council to set up an international tribunal to investigate human rights violations "should other methods be deemed to have failed to deliver a sufficient measure of justice."
Indonesian government officials declined to comment on either the HRDAG data or the Truth Commission report. But Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono told the Associated Press last month that "this is a war of numbers and data about things that never happened."
Mathew Easton, a senior associate at Human Rights First, a New York-based human rights group, says President Gusmao has delayed the report's release partly because the Timorese government is afraid it will disrupt its relationship with Indonesia, its largest economic partner. "The Timorese leadership has been so vocal about the need to let sleeping dogs lie that it makes it hard for the Timorese community and activists to speak out and advocate for the truth," said Easton.
Supported by the Palo Alto, California-based Benentech Initiative, HRDAG has provided technical assistance to official truth commissions in seven countries.
In an issue as controversial as deaths in East Timor, Ball says it's essential that HRDAG release their own complete research findings so the debate can take place on factual, scientific grounds.
Bristol Evening Post - February 2, 2006
A Foreign Office minister yesterday denied that the Government misled the relatives of a Bristol cameraman killed in East Timor. Douglas Alexander also rejected calls to meet senior politicians in Indonesia to discuss the death of Brian Peters and four other journalists in 1975.
His remarks provoked a scathing response from Bath MP Don Foster, who is fighting a campaign to bring Mr Peters' killers to justice.
The 26-year-old was killed by Indonesian troops while filming a clandestine attack on East Timorese soldiers.
Documents released in November revealed Sir John Ford, Britain's ambassador in Jakarta at the time, asked the Australian embassy to refrain from pressing the Indonesians for details on the deaths.
Speaking yesterday during a parliamentary debate, Mr Foster said the then Labour government's reluctance to discover more about the deaths was due to "Britain's sorry role in Indonesia's war on East Timor".
The Liberal Democrat MP said the present Government "has a responsibility to come clean... and to help the relatives find answers and obtain justice".
Mr Alexander replied: "I do not accept that the relatives of the deceased have been mislead and clearly not deliberately. Indonesia continues to maintain that the journalists were killed in crossfire."
He said it was "unlikely" high-level discussions with Indonesia would reveal anything new. But he did admit that it "would have been better" if the Foreign Office had made its own inquiries in the weeks following the deaths instead of relying on the Australian authorities.
The New South Wales coroner in Australia is due to open the inquest into Mr Peters' death in July. It is expected to take three months.
Mr Alexander said the Foreign Office would be "happy to consider" any appeal for information from the coroner. He also promised to release documents about the case to Mr Foster.
But the MP was not impressed, saying: "I thought it was very disappointing. He did not tell us anything we didn't already know. We have an absolute right for the Government to find out what happened."
Kyodo News - February 3, 2006
East Timor's Interior Ministry on Friday summoned Indonesia's ambassador in Dili to express concern over the alleged rape of an East Timorese woman last month by Indonesian soldiers in the border area.
Meanwhile, about 70 people representing civic organizations demonstrated outside the Indonesian Embassy in the East Timor capital, demanding the Indonesian government and military take responsibility for the incident.
Speaking to Kyodo News via telephone, Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato said he demanded an immediate inquiry into the rape case.
"After the incident we received a medical report from Kupang (in Indonesian West Timor) but also a medical report issued by our side that both indicated she was raped," he said after also meeting with the 27-year-old victim to clarify the incident.
The victim was among several people from Oecussi, an East Timorese enclave located some 70 kilometers inside Indonesian West Timor, detained by Indonesian soldiers on Jan. 21 for illegally crossing into Indonesia to engage in illegal trading.
One day later, according to the allegations, the captives were separated for questioning and the woman was raped by five Indonesian soldiers. They were deported to East Timor the following day.
Agence France Presse - February 23, 2006
Nearly 600 East Timorese soldiers have deserted their barracks this month in protest against alleged discrimination and over- zealous surveillance, an officer in the group says.
The officer, who declines to be named, says a batch of 177 soldiers last weekend joined an earlier 404 who initially left their barracks in Metinaro and Baucau on February 8.
The fledgling East Timorese Army has about 1,500 regular soldiers and 1,500 reservists.
The first batch took their grievances to President Xanana Gusmao, a former guerrilla leader. They returned to their barracks but then deserted again shortly afterwards.
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has threatened punishment for the deserters. He has been quoted as saying many of soldiers are former resistance fighters unused to the discipline of a regular military force.
East Timorese guerrilla forces fought against Indonesia during their almost 24 years of occupation of the former Portuguese colony. The country became the world's youngest nation in May 2002.
The officer says the action is not politically motivated. "There was no political pressure from anyone," he said. "It was purely because of the discrimination and the treatment we received from several of our commanders while we were in Metinaro." He did not specify on what grounds they had been discriminated against.
The officer says the men will not return to their respective bases until their grievances are addressed. "There (at the base) we are being treated like dangerous prisoners," he said. "We are under constant observation from the armed security section." He adds that even when they are eating or showering they are under watch.
Military commander Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak was last week quoted by the Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper as saying that the 404 deserters should consider themselves as discharged for disobeying orders to return to work. Military officials are not immediately available for comment.
Radio Australia - February 27, 2006
Reporter: Karen Percy
Eleanor Hall: The Federal Labor Party says it fears there's a security risk right on our doorstep, with reports that hundreds of soldiers from the East Timorese army have left their posts.
In recent weeks the soldiers have been protesting against working conditions and promotion rules within the newly formed army.
But the Defence Minister Brendan Nelson says there's no risk to Australians in East Timor, and no threat to Australia either, as Karen Percy reports.
Karen Percy: Over the past several weeks, tensions have been rising with the 1,500 strong East Timor Army so much so that 400 soldiers have left the main base of Metinaro, west of Dili.
The Federal Defence Minister Brendan Nelson.
Brendan Nelson: It's a kind of a strike, as we understand it, that relates to grievances about conditions of service and the nature of promotion selections, and a little bit of tension, as we understand it, between those who come from the west and then of course the east of the country. The security situation, I understand, is peaceful and stable, and the East Timorese Government has set up a commission of inquiry.
Karen Percy: The Federal Opposition says with such a large percentage of the army off the job, there's a risk that law and order will break down.
Labor's Defence Spokesman, Robert McClelland.
Robert McClelland: Increasingly the issue of failing states, and we've all got to work to make sure that doesn't happen in Timor Leste, is a very, very significant security issue, both from the point of view of any narcotics trades that can develop in countries where there's poor security, or at worst case scenario, potential terrorist bases.
Karen Percy: Labor says this is particularly embarrassing for Australia, because many of the soldiers who were former freedom fighters were trained by the Australian Defence Force. Robert McClelland says the ADF needs to do more to ensure that the proper processes are in place for the smooth running of the military.
Robert McClelland: That's clearly an imperative, just in terms of the management structures, the payment structures, and indeed the general systems, the appeal review structures within the military.
I mean, we've seen military justice here being a controversial issue, but we're not a developing country. Obviously it's far more profound in its impact if the system's not right in the developing country.
Karen Percy: But the Government says it will only intervene if it's asked.
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson.
Brendan Nelson: At the moment I'm advised that things are peaceful. The discontent amongst some elements of the East Timorese soldiery has been expressed in a peaceful and lawful manner, and the East Timorese Government has established its commission of inquiry to investigate the grievances that the soldiers may have, and as far as we're concerned, we will only provide any assistance if we are asked to do so.
Karen Percy: Is it embarrassing though, for the ADF program that some of their trainees, as such, have gone off in this way?
Brendan Nelson: Well, I certainly wouldn't describe the East Timorese Army as, if you like, trainees of the Australian Defence Force. I think the East Timorese Government itself would be quite rightly offended by that.
We need to understand that many of those who have joined the East Timorese Army fought over a long period of time to secure the independence of their country. There are cultural differences, between one side of East Timor from that of the other, and not surprisingly, some of those issues permeate to the development of its new army.
And we would expect, with sensible management of these issues, that in the medium to long term they'll be successfully managed.
Karen Percy: A spokesman for the Department of Defence says the nine ADF personnel based at Metinaro were temporarily moved from the site, but have since returned to the base.
Eleanor Hall: Karen Percy reporting.
Sydney Morning Herald - February 27, 2006
Mark Dodd More than 400 mutinous East Timorese soldiers a quarter of the country's army will be dismissed for deserting after protesting over poor conditions and selective promotions.
The mass sacking is a great blow to the strength of East Timor's fledgling defence force and poses a potential security risk.
At large is a volatile, undisciplined group with military training who were previously seasoned guerilla fighters against the Indonesian occupiers.
Their dismissal is also an embarrassment for Canberra because most of the rebel troops received training from the Australian Defence Force as part of the Howard Government's $26million defence co-operation program with East Timor.
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson last night declined to comment, with a spokesman saying the minister needed more information.
But a Defence Department spokesman told The Australian: "The situation has disrupted Australia's training and infrastructure development activities at Metinaro base (west of the capital Dili). "We have moved ADF advisers normally based at the Metinaro facility to Dili, until the situation is further resolved."
East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has threatened further punishment for the mutineers, including civil and military justice. Dr Alkatiri said many were former resistance fighters "not used to the discipline of a regular military force".
Most of the 400 are former Falintil guerilla veterans of the bloody 24-year struggle for independence against Indonesia.
Ambiguity remained yesterday over the timing of the dismissals. According to one senior Western military source, the rebel troops had been given until tomorrow to end their "strike", while other reports suggested the sackings had already occurred.
East Timor's army commander, Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak, was quoted in one of Dili's mainstream newspapers, Suara Timor Lefte, as having "thanked" the rebels for their service and considered them dismissed for refusing to meet a deadline to return to base.
The standoff began on February 8 when the soldiers deserted their barracks and arrived in Dili to present a petition to their commander-in-chief, President Xanana Gusmao, asking for their complaints to be investigated.
Mr Gusmao accepted the petition and ordered the troops to return to base. The order was refused despite the rebels winning a government inquiry into their grievances.
East Timor human rights group Yayasan-HAK said the army lacked a "transparent" code of military conduct, and disciplinary problems within the ranks of the 1500-strong force were increasingly widespread.
"We found there was no regulation or disciplinary code and no regulations concerning promotion," Yayasan-HAK spokesman Jose Oliveira said. The ADF has played a key role in training the F- FDTL.
Lusa - February 22, 2006
Dili A group of about 350 troops in East Timor who remain AWOL in a dispute with military and civil authorities will be disciplined for their actions, which do not constitute a threat to national stability, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said Wednesday.
Many of the rebel soldiers in the East Timor Defense Force (FDTL) are ex-members of the Fretilin resistance who "are not used to the discipline of a regular military force", noted Alkatiri.
"We have to acknowledge some neglect on the part of the government and the FDTL high command in their training and the creation of conditions to make them feel useful in peacetime".
Alaktiri added that the Dili authorities would have to review and possibly alter the structure and objectives of the new nation's fledgling Armed Forces.
The mutinous troops had mounted their protest against alleged discrimination and other grievances over working conditions Feb. 8 when they assembled next to the presidential palace in Dili.
About 25% of a total 1,800 FDTL troops were involved in the initial revolt and the force's commander, Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, told Lusa this week that 350 troops were still "self-excluded" from active service.
Timor's military still lacks a full disciplinary code, permanent barracks and bases and a national defense policy remains to be defined in the world's newest nation.
Prime Minister Alaktiri said last week that it was crucial to find a peacetime role for Timor's Armed Forces, other than training exercises, and said he would seek assistance from Portugal to make the force "more professional".
Lusa - February 14, 2006
Dili A crisis among East Timor's Armed Forces that erupted last week after hundreds of disgruntled troops left their barracks is still a long way from being resolved, military sources said Tuesday.
Just over half a group of 400-odd unarmed troops who went AWOL Feb. 8 to protest alleged discrimination and ill-treatment by officers have heeded calls from military and civil authorities to end their action and return to barracks.
These members of the East Timor Defense Force (FDTL), numbering about 220, are presently quartered at an Army instruction center at Metinaro, about 40 kms from the capital, the military sources told Lusa.
An inquiry commission of senior officers and lawmakers had been due to begin taking evidence from the mutinous troops at the Metinaro base last week, however, military sources told Lusa that these hearings have yet to get underway.
A visit to the Metinaro military base is of the agenda of Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio on an official Timor visit beginning Feb. 21, his last overseas trip before standing down. After twice meeting with the 404 protestors last week, President Xanana Gusmco said he believed he had defused the crisis by promising no reprisals if the troops returned to barracks and by promising an official inquiry into their grievances.
The protest, which involved about one-quarter of the new nations defense force, came in the wake of a written petition sent to the president several weeks ago.
As supreme commander of the defense force, Gusmco had been expected to deal with the simmering unrest and related military issues on March 9 at a scheduled meeting on the Superior Council of Defense and Security.
Timor's fledgling Armed Forces still lack a disciplinary code and strategic defense concept, as well as permanent bases and equipment.
Lusa - February 10, 2006
Dili An inquiry commission began hearings Friday on the complaints of hundreds of East Timorese soldiers who went AWOL to protest alleged discrimination and ill-treatment by commanders.
A military source told Lusa the hearings were taking place at the army instruction center at Metinaro, located some 40 kilometers outside, Dili, where they held their unauthorized, day-long protests Wednesday at the presidential palace.
President Xanana Gusmao, who twice met with the 400 unarmed demonstrators, defused the crises by promising no reprisals if the troops returned to barracks and pledging an inquiry into their grievances by a commission of army officers and lawmakers.
The demonstrators alleged discrimination in promotions and ill- treatment by commanders.
The protest, which involved about one-quarter of East Timor's fledgling Self-Defense Force, came in the wake of a written petition sent to the president several weeks ago.
As supreme commander of the defense force, Gusmao had been expected to deal with the simmering unrest and related military issues on March 9 at a scheduled meeting on the Superior Council of Defense and Security.
The newly independent country's fledgling military still lacks a disciplinary code and strategic defense concept, as well as definitive installations and equipment.
Lusa - February 9, 2006
Dili Most of the 400 East Timorese soldiers protesting against alleged discrimination bowed to President Xanana Gusmao's ultimatum to return to barracks and dispersed early Thursday from around the presidential palace.
A column of army and police trucks ferried some 200 military demonstrators to the army instruction center at Metinaro, 40 kms outside the capital, in mid-morning.
Officers told Lusa most other protesters had dispersed of their own accord overnight Wednesday, complying with an ultimatum given by Gusmao in a meeting with them.
Defense Force sources estimated "only 10 to 15" of the total 404 soldiers remained AWOL, but said a final tally would only be possible once the unarmed protesters reported back to their respective barracks.
As the truck convoy departed Dili, it drove past the president's Cinzas Palace without stopping in a sign of respect and thanks for Gusmao's role in resolving the affair.
After a second meeting with the AWOL soldiers Wednesday night, Gusmao promised an inquiry into their grievances and no reprisals if they returned to barracks by Thursday morning.
The soldiers, who spent most of Wednesday in and around the presidential complex, were protesting alleged discrimination in promotions and ill-treatment in the Defense Force.
Much of the anger centered on the commander of Baucau's 1 Battalion, Colonel Falur, whose replacement the protesters demanded.
A five-member inquiry commission, comprised of officers and lawmakers, has been set up to investigate the soldiers' accusations.
Lusa - February 8, 2006
Dili Hundreds of East Timorese troops who gathered outside Dili's presidential palace Wednesday to demand the dismissal of a senior commander have left the complex and will meet President Xanana Gusmao later today to discuss their grievances, officials said.
Some 404 unarmed members of the East Timor Defense Force (FDTL) had assembled next to the presidential palace Wednesday morning to demand the replacement of Colonel Falur, commander of 1 Battalion FDTL, based in Baucau, a presidential source told Lusa.
The troops were invited to a patio inside the palace for talks with President Gusmao, who promised that a special committee would be set up to investigate their complaints and solve them if they returned to barracks.
However, these discussions with the Timorese leader did not satisfy the dissident troops who remained inside the presidential palace until Wednesday afternoon before leaving after a promise of a second meeting with Gusmao later in the day.
In comments to Lusa, Gusmao said his initial encounter with the soldiers "had gone badly", declining to give more details of the meeting.
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Alkatiri declaration not something new
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's comment last week that the Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party are like frogs is not new, according to PSD MP Lucia Lobato. She said that PSD has become "immune" to such statements, though she believes that a leader should not say such things. She said that Alkatiri should try to lose that attitude, but her party will not become preoccupied with the remark and will focus on their preparations for the 2007 General Elections. PD MP Jose Nominando or "Buras" also expressed similar sentiments, remarking that he regrets that such statements do not contribute to educating the people. He said that as "frogs", the opposition will continue to crawl forward to compete with the "buffalo" in the upcoming elections. (STL) UNDP donates US$1.25 million to support president's office
Head of UNDP Sukehiro Hasegawa signed a project document budgeted at $1.3 million to support the President's office After the signing, Hasegawa stated that as the leader of a new nation, President Xanana has an important role in encouraging a viable democracy here. For this reason, the assistance from UNDP will play an important role in the democratisation process here. He said that the funds will be used to, among other things, improve on the policy analysis skills and the capacity of the President's advisors, and enhance communication capabilities and managerial performance in the Office of the President. (STL)
Australian police donates speed readers to PNTL
The Australian Federal Police led by Coordinator Mick Duthte on Monday officially donated six speed readers to the Transit Section of the PNTL.
The handover ceremony for the new equipment began with speeches from the Police Transit Commander Sub-Inspector Antonio Soares, Coordinator of the Timor-Leste Police Development Program Mick Duthte, and Vice-Minister of Interior Alcino Barris. The equipment was handed over to the interim PNTL General Commander Inspector Ismael da Costa Babo. Speaking after the ceremony, Barris said that the new speed readers would benefit the transit police in detecting vehicles travelling over maximum speed. (STL)
Lack of subsidy would not affect parties
The leaders of the opposition parties, PSD, PD and ASDT are of the opinion that if there are no subsidies for the 2007 elections it will not affect them. On the contrary, they feel that they will be stronger and have the trust of the population to vote for them. According to Timor Post, leaders of the three parties stated on Monday that political parties that emerged during the UNTAET period without a subsidy are now represented in the National Parliament. Joao Gongalves of PSD cited as an example the general campaign elections in 2001 when PSD managed to get six seats in the Parliament without any subsidy from UNTAET. ASDT President Francisco do Amaral agrees that the lack of subsidy will not affect his party. PD representative in the Parliament, Rui Menezes, said that his party came in second with seven seats in 2001 elections and that political party legislation made no mention of subsidies. He is, however, of the opinion that parties with representatives in the National Parliament should be entitled to an annual subsidy as well as one granted for general election campaigns.
In a separate article, the head of Fretilin in Parliament, Francisco Branco, reportedly said that the use of state-owned equipment such as cars to carry out political party activities at grass roots level is not a mortal sin. In response to public concerns regarding this issue, Branco said that the political party in power must use state assets to better their activities.
He added that these activities draw on plans that work for the nation and the people. Fretilin's President, Francisco Guterres said that some people are using the state-owned equipment for political activities because they have been invited by the party.
The media also reported that the chefe suco/head of head of village in Fatubessi does not want the flag of the political party KOTA hoisted in that area because he considers it to be illegal. The head of the village reportedly threatened to smash the car, take the flag pole and chop it into pieces because only Fretilin members are entitled to go there. Those who are not Fretilin should get a machete and clear the grass, he said. Regarding this issue, the majority of the MPs suggested a team look into this case but Parliament's President disagreed saying it was up to each political party to educate their militants. (TP)
According to media reports, some of the F-FDTL members involved in the protest against discrimination within the institution have left the headquarters without taking part in the investigation process. On Monday, Lieutenant Colonel Salsinha reportedly said that the investigation process is not transparent because those officials that condemned the petition are also part of the investigation team. Salsinha said the number of the protesters had increased from 404 to 581. He added that they would only take part in the process if three F-FDTL officials, one lieutenant- colonel and two majors, are removed from the investigation team. He claims that the investigation must follow the demands of the petition, pointing out that the team is not focusing on the actual problem that led the soldiers to abandon their headquarters and that it does not involve military police. In the meantime, members of the Superior Council for Defence and Security met with President Gusmco to try and find a solution to the problem. (TP, STL)
Recommendation for dialogue between CVA and 1999 Victims
Dili Diocese Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva has recommended that the joint Timor-Leste-Indonesia Truth and Friendship Commission open an intensive dialogue with the 1999 victims, in order to uncover the truth and achieve justice in accordance with the hopes of both the people of Timor-Leste and the international community.
During a visit to Timor-Leste on which commenced on 20 February, the Commission has met with President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, head of the National Parliament Francisco Guterres, Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro, Dili Diocese Bishop Alberto Ricardo, and SRSG Hasegawa, among other government and community figures, NGOs, the diplomatic corps and academia. The Commission also made a visit to Liquica District to meet with representatives of the victims and witnesses of crimes against humani