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East Timor News Digest 11 – November 1-30, 2011

Human rights & justice

Health & education Women & gender Graft & corruption Armed forces & defense Foreign affairs & trade Mining & energy Economy & investment Analysis & opinion

Human rights & justice

Amnesty International urge government to reveal Santa Cruz massacre

Jakarta Post - November 13, 2011

Jakarta – International human right watchdog Amnesty International urged the Indonesian government to reveal details concerning the Santa Cruz shooting in Timor Leste that allegedly claimed the lives of some 200 people.

"The government has failed to mention who should be held responsible for the shootings. This shows that some groups have been granted unlimited impunity toward international law and to some extent justify human rights violations allegedly committed during the Indonesian occupation," Amnesty International Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi said on Saturday as quoted by tempointeraktif.com.

The statement was issued as part of the commemoration of the Santa Cruz shootings, where approximately 200 people were reportedly shot by Indonesian soldiers 20 years ago.

Zarifi cited the 1994 UN report that clearly mentioned the Indonesian military as being responsible for the shootings and should reveal those responsible and put them on trial.

Health & education

Study is the key to freedom for East Timor

Western Advocate - November 24, 2011

Sandra Parker – Father Domingos Gusmao is passionate about education and its role in the development of East Timor.

The principal of the secondary college in the remote East Timorese town of Laclubar is visiting Bathurst this week to thank the Friends of Laclubar for their assistance and to ask for more help to enable him to realise his dream for his country.

The Friends of Laclubar was established by Bathurst residents in 2009 to help develop the town of about 13,000 people.

Father Domingos said it was only through education that East Timor would develop. "Without education, we will do nothing," he said.

Father Domingos' own education was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1975. He survived and worked for a time in the Court of Justice in Indonesia going to The Philippines to study theology in 1994.

Father Domingos also studied in Italy and Portugal. This is his first visit to Australia.

"Your country is very advanced... it is clean and organised, and that is our dream," he said. "It would be wonderful if some of our students could come to study here.

"It is only by studying abroad that we will broaden our horizons and change our mentality. Without education, small problems are ignited into big problems.

"We were oppressed for 24 years and now the Timorese are free to express themselves, but if they don't know the value of leading a good life this expression could be positive or negative in terms of family and society."

The Friends of Laclubar provide scholarships to enable students to complete their secondary education.

When Father Domingos arrived at the school, there were less than 100 students, now there are about 210. The scholarships, valued at $150 each, provide students with three years' tuition.

Salaries paid to dead teachers

The Independente - November 11, 2011

Manuel da Silva, Dili – Education Minister Joao Cancio Freitas has recognized that monthly salary payments are still being made to teachers who have died.

But he declined to reveal who was collecting the wages on behalf of the deceased. Mr Freitas said payments were made to dead teachers because there was no law to regulate them.

"We, in the Education Ministry, have (made payments for dead teachers) since the first constitutional government. We have some professors who are called 'the dead soul professors' – the names are there but those people have died," the minister told INDEPENDENTE yesterday.

In parliament last week, FRETILIN demanded Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao address the issue. Mr Freitas said his ministry had asked the office of the Public Function Commission to investigate the problem.

While there is no law in effect governing the payment of salaries for teachers who have died, the current government has developed a career regulation for teachers that will regulate their rights to a salary once it is implemented. This regulation will end the payments to dead professors, Mr Freitas said.

There were 2000 professors on the Education Ministry's payment list, he said. President of Parliament Commission C Manuel Tilman asked the government to control the salaries of public servants in 2012.

"(The government) must control (payments to) those who have died and (do) not work in the state institutions. (It) must look at it... (and) not pay," Mr Tilman told the government during the 2012 general budget discussion between the parliament and the government led by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao yesterday.

Head of the FRETILIN parliamentary group Aniceto Guterres said on Friday that the public was aware that some ministers and directors employed their relatives and those with the same political affiliations as advisers and office staff. Mr Guterres said his party had asked the Public Ministry to investigate this issue.

Women & gender

Timor-Leste: Mari Alkatiri seeks to raise funds to combat domestic violence

Associated Press - November 24, 2011

Dili – The secretary general of the Revolutionary Front of Independent Timor-Leste (FRETILIN), Mari Alkatiri, will host a fundraising party this Friday to raise fund to help organizations to combat domestic violence in the country.

"Women continue to be unprotected by their husbands, by their parents, both women and children," Mari Alkatiri, who turns 62 on Friday, told Lusa.

For Mari Alkatari, the fight against domestic violence has been "in formal terms" already a part of the policy framework of the state of Timor-Leste, but the law criminalising it has not been implemented in full.

The Secretary-General of FRETILIN said there are associations of private initiative that have sought to support children, adolescents and women who have been the victims of rape and violence.

"It is with pleasure that I do this," he said, noting that it is to help the fight against domestic violence in all its forms and the only goal is to protect those people who are victims of it.

Mari Alkatiri also stressed that the "issue of domestic violence is a vital issue for us."

"In addressing the respect for human rights we must start at home. If there is no respect at home, it will not then not be able to foster this respect in our society generally," he said.

Graft & corruption

MPs call for probe into parliamentary budget implementation

The Independente - November 16, 2011

Agus dos Santos, Dili – FRETILIN and PUN MPs have called on the Anti- Corruption Commission (KAK) to investigate the implementation of previous annual budgets by the National Parliament Secretariat. The MPs said they believed some money had been misused.

The demand came after Parliamentary Commission C asked the government to increase the 2012 parliamentary budget during the discussion between MPs and the executive body led by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao yesterday.

The commission asked for the parliamentary budget of $13.707 million to be increased by $1.862 million.

Commission C president Manuel Tilman said the additional money was part of the parliamentary budget in the original proposal to the government published in the state bulletin, Jornal Republica, before the budget discussion began last week.

But, due to a communications problem between the Parliament Secretariat and the government, this money was left out of the general budget document that was taken to the parliament for discussion and approval, Mr Tilman said.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao said his government agreed with the additional budget for the parliament.

"No problem. We agree (to add) $1.862 million (because it is) the final year (budget) but I ask the (Parliament) Secretariat to have good communication with the (Ministry of) Finance," Mr Gusmao said.

Meanwhile, FRETILIN MP Osorio Florindo said some MPs had lost their right to receive funds, including petrol costs, because of problems within the Parliament Secretariat. Sometimes members of the secretariat's staff were not cooperative when it came to looking after MPs' transport costs, Mr Florindo said.

"(To get) the coupon every week MPs have to bow down or almost kiss the feet of staff who (are) responsible for the work. This is the problem," he said. Sometimes staff from other institutions, including PNTL, also used the parliament coupons, he added.

A proper investigation into the issue was needed, because the parliament had to be free of corruption, Mr Florindo said.

Meanwhile, PUN president MP Fernanda Borges said she did not agree with the addition to the parliament budget because she believed the budget was too large and would lead to corruption.

"(I) ask KAK to do (an) investigation into the parliament. If not, every day (the parliament) calls the government corrupt, but the parliament itself is corrupt," she said.

FRETILIN MP Antoninho Bianco said he wanted the government to explain where the additional money for the parliament would come from.

"The prime minister wants to add the money, (but) where to get the money?" Mr Bianco said. MPs from the Alliance Parliamentary Group defended the additional budget. The proposal was approved after 31 MPs voted in its favor, because they believe the increase will better facilitate the work of the parliament.

Meanwhile 18 MPs from FRETILIN and PUN voted against the proposal and seven MPs abstained.

Armed forces & defense

East Timor military interested in Top End training

ABC News - November 25, 2011

Sara Everingham – East Timor says it is interested in taking part in joint military training with the Australian and US defence forces in Darwin.

East Timor's Secretary of State for Defence, Julio Pinto, says the US President Barack Obama's recent announcement of an increased US military presence in the Top End could provide training opportunities for his country's young military.

Australia and the US already hold training exercises with East Timor's military in East Timor.

He says his government is likely to pursue more talks with Australia and the United States about how East Timor's military can take part in any joint exercises in northern Australia.

Mr Pinto says in 2009 he held discussions with Australian officials about the possibility of a deployment of East Timor's military to Darwin for joint training, he says this could now be the chance to make that happen.

"I think in the future we will try to contact with the Australian and United States representatives in Timor-Leste to do joint exercises as well in Darwin if possible"

"We just have 10 years after independence to stabilise our military institutions so we have very low experience in terms of military professionalism, so we try to cooperate with other countries to transfer skills to our military"

Mr Pinto said Australian and US representatives met him in Dili to inform him of the new military arrangements between Australia and the United States He declined to comment on the US strategy of increasing its military presence in Australia.

He says a representative from Australia's embassy in Dili has said there is a possibility for East Timor's military to join in the training in Darwin. "If it is possible we will do it," Mr Pinto said.

Foreign affairs & trade

ASEAN to review East Timor's membership application

InterAksyon.com - November 17, 2011

Chichi Conde, Bali, Indonesia – Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to set up review group that will study the application for membership of East Timor.

The decision was reached during the 9th meeting of the Asean Coordinating Council in Nusa Dua.

According to Philippine permanent representative to Asean Ambassador Wilfredo Villacorta, East Timor has a "strong chance" in having its application to join the 10-member country bloc approved.

The Philippines has earlier committed to push for East Timor's application "provided it is able to comply with all obligations for membership."

East Timor has struggled meeting Asean's criteria for membership because of its underdeveloped economy, inadequate physical infrastructure, and fragile domestic institutions. It also has only four embassies out of the 10 Asean member-states.

The impoverished nation gained formal independence from Indonesia in 2002 after winning its freedom in a 1999 United Nations-backed referendum.

One of the world's youngest and smallest countries, its gross domestic product last year was only a little over $600 million, far behind Laos, Asean's current smallest economy which recorded a 2010 GDP of close to $7 billion.

Ambassador drums up support for Timor

West Australian - November 9, 2011

Flip Prior, Broome – East Timor's ambassador to Australia Abel Guterres flew into Broome last week for a whirlwind round of meetings with Broome Shire councillors and tourism and hospitality business owners before heading to CHOGM in Perth.

It was Ambassador Guterres' third visit to the Kimberley since 2008 and he hoped to forge closer links between East Timor and Broome through business and cultural exchanges.

Over four days, he consulted a variety of businesses about their needs for workers and trainees and where Timorese workers could fill the gaps.

Last month, Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson announced Timorese could work in West Kimberley tourism and hospitality industries to address seasonal worker shortages under the Pacific Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme.

An agreement between East Timor and Australia will be finalised in coming weeks, with the first workers due to arrive in March 2012. "As a priority of the East Timor Government, I plan to make regular visits to the Shire of Broome over the coming year to contribute all that is possible to make our co-operation with the great people of the West Kimberley successful," Mr Guterres said.

"We are heartened by the generosity of the Kimberley business community, particularly Kimberley indigenous leaders."

Mr Guterres also met the first intake of 15 maritime cadet workers in the Timor-Leste Australia Development Facility's successful pilot pearl production program, who have been working with Clipper Pearls.

Facility chief executive Kevin Austin, who accompanied the ambassador, said it was hoped more businesses would come on board.

"In our meetings with hospitality businesses, it is clear labour and skill shortages have created innovative and positive approaches to attracting, developing and retaining workers," he said.

"There are highly comparable advantages for co-operation on youth training, employment and industry development."

Mr Austin said input from Kimberley Aboriginal groups was also sought to develop cultural links with the Timorese visitors.

"There is a connection between Kimberley indigenous and Timorese people that goes back thousands of years," he said. "Kimberley indigenous organisations, youth and their communities are invited to join social, cultural and economic cooperation activities."

Ideas include developing a sister city relationship with the Broome Shire and inviting a Timorese team to compete in the annual Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge. Riders from Broome would then compete in the annual Tour de Timor, a week-long mountain bike race around the tiny nation.

Mining & energy

Sunrise deal may finally see light

Business Day - November 19, 2011

Brian Robins – A breakthrough may be in sight for the long-stalled development of the Sunrise gas project that straddles the Australia-East Timor border, with Woodside reported to be prepared to cede ground on piping the output to Timor.

According to East Timor's State Secretary for Natural Resources, Alfredo Pires, Woodside's new chief executive, Peter Coleman, has signalled support for piping gas from the field to Timor.

Development of the project has been in abeyance virtually since East Timor gained its independence due to its demand the gas be piped to Timor for processing and transshipment, to maximise the country's economic benefit from the project.

Mr Pires met Mr Coleman in August and it is believed the two parties have held further talks. Mr Pires said this week in Timor's Parliament that, while encouraged by the breakthrough comments by Mr Coleman indicating support for piping the gas to Timor, the Timor government would only support the project on this basis.

Woodside officials were cautious in responding to Mr Pires' comments, saying that all parties were keen for the project to proceed.

"Woodside strongly believes it is not beyond all of us to find a solution to the impasse," a spokesman said. "Woodside recognises the Sunrise joint venture's preferred development concept differs from that of the Timor- Leste government's. We are not underestimating the difficulty of working through this process but we do believe... it is possible."

The emergence of the US as a potential large gas exporter as it taps shale gas assets is an extra factor that may be forcing partners in the project back to the negotiating table.

Woodside's former chief executive, Don Voelte, attacked the East Timor government over the impasse, although Mr Coleman has been more conciliatory.

Rather than pipe the gas to Australia, Woodside had proposed a floating facility in the Timor Sea, which the Timorese ruled out.

Talks spark hope for Timor gas

Melbourne Age - November 19, 2011

Brian Robins – A breakthrough may be in sight for the long-stalled development of the Sunrise gas project which straddles the Australia-East Timor border, with Woodside reported to be prepared to cede ground on the vexed issue of piping the output to Timor.

According to East Timor's State Secretary for Natural Resources, Alfredo Pires, Woodside's new chief executive, Peter Coleman, has signalled support for piping gas from the field to Timor.

Development of the project has been on hold virtually since East Timor gained its independence due to its demand that the gas be piped to Timor for processing and before shipping on internationally, to maximise the economic benefit from the project for the impoverished country.

Mr Pires met Mr Coleman in August, and it is believed the two parties have held further talks since. Mr Pires said this week in Timor's national parliament that, while encouraged by the breakthrough comments by Mr Coleman indicating support for piping the gas to Timor, the Timor government would only support project on this basis.

Woodside officials were cautious in responding to Mr Pires's comments, saying that all parties were keen for the project to proceed. "Woodside strongly believes it is not beyond all of us to find a solution to the current impasse," a spokesman said.

"Woodside recognises that the Sunrise joint venture's preferred development concept differs from that of the Timor-Leste government's. We are not underestimating the difficulty of working through this process but we do believe that... it is possible."

The emergence of the US as a potential large gas exporter as it taps the potential of its boom in shale gas assets is an additional factor which may be forcing partners in the project back to the negotiating table.

Woodside's former chief executive, Don Voelte, publicly attacked the East Timor government over the long-running impasse, but Mr Coleman has been more conciliatory.

Rather than pipe the gas to Australia, Woodside had proposed a $US12 billion floating facility in the Timor Sea, which the Timorese government has ruled out. Minority partners in the venture include Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Osaka Gas. The fields are estimated to contain 5.1 trillion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas and 226 million barrels of condensate.

Woodside, East Timor 'aligned' in wanting Sunrise LNG to proceed, CEO says

Bloomberg News - November 19, 2011

James Paton – Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL), its partners and the governments of Australia and East Timor are "aligned in their desire" to see the Sunrise liquefied natural gas project developed, the energy company said.

Australia's second-biggest oil producer, led by Chief Executive Officer Peter Coleman, is looking forward to further dialogue with the Southeast Asian nation to try to resolve a dispute that has stalled the proposed LNG venture in the Timor Sea, the Perth-based company said in a statement yesterday.

"Woodside strongly believes it is not beyond all of us to find a solution to the current impasse," the company said.

East Timor, which became a sovereign state in 2002 and depends heavily on oil and gas revenue, aims to reach an agreement over how to develop Sunrise by next year, President Jose Ramos-Horta said in an interview in September. The country has been opposed to plans by Woodside and its partners, including Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), to use a floating LNG plant.

East Timor wants the natural gas from the Greater Sunrise field, which straddles a boundary between Australian waters and an area jointly managed by the two countries, to be converted to liquid fuel at an onshore plant on its soil.

Renewed talks

Woodside, developer of the A$14.9 billion ($14.9 billion) Pluto LNG venture in Western Australia, has said that floating LNG technology for Sunrise would be the best commercial option and deliver the most revenue to both countries.

"We are not underestimating the difficulty of working through this process, but we do believe that with the support of the leaders of both governments and the joint venturers it is possible," Woodside said in the statement yesterday.

Coleman, who has visited the East Timor capital of Dili to speak with government officials since replacing Don Voelte as Woodside's CEO earlier this year, said last month that the oil and gas producer had renewed talks with the country.

Economy & investment

Timor-Leste's debt plan

The Diplomat - November 25, 2011

Mong Palatino – With 37 votes in favor, 19 against and 3 abstentions, Timor-Leste's parliament initially approved on November 11 the general terms of the government's proposed budget of $1.763 billion for the year 2012.

2012 promises to be an exciting and significant year for this tiny nation. It will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Restoration of Independence, the 100th anniversary of the Manufahi Revolt and the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the first Portuguese in the country. It will also conduct the third presidential and parliamentary elections since democracy was restored.

During the budget deliberations, civil society groups questioned the abnormal increase in the budget, the country's continued dependence on oil revenues, and the unusually high number of mega infrastructure projects. But the most controversial issue was the decision of the government to obtain foreign debt next year. Timor-Leste currently has no debt from other countries or international financial institutions.

The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis notes that the increase in the country's budget is one of the highest in the world. In nominal terms, the 2012 budget is 35 percent higher than 2011. If adjusted to inflation, it's 25 percent larger than last year, while the budget has grown 273 percent since 2006. The group cited a report from the IMF World Economic Outlook that identified Zimbabwe as the only country in the world whose state budget grew faster during the last four years. Many are concerned about the inflationary impact of rising state expenditures.

Many from the Institute are also concerned that the budget doesn't reflect the need to develop non-oil industries. Income from oil and gas provides 95 percent of state revenues, making Timor-Leste the most petroleum-export dependent country in the world. "In the medium term, our oil wealth can't even pay for provide half the level of services the government will provide next year. That's why we need to develop our non-oil economy."

Meanwhile, some parliamentarians criticized the decreasing budget allocation for the education, health, and agriculture sectors and alleged that the government "prefers investing in mega projects which are beyond its capacity to execute and will end up in misuse of lots of money." One of these huge infrastructure investments is the Tasi Mane Project, which will involve the development of an integrated petroleum infrastructure in the county's south coastal zone in the next two decades.

But the most controversial, if not unpopular, budget-related issue is the plan by the government to secure $33 million in loans for the Dili sanitation and construction of national roads. It's the first time the government has asked parliament to approve a proposal to borrow money from foreign institutions, and it immediately drew opposition from civil society groups who initiated a petition drive signed by more than 137 organizations based in 32 countries urging the government to "keep the nation debt-free and refrain from borrowing money from international lenders to protect its future generations." The groups warned that "Rather than repeat the mistakes of other developing countries that have struggled with debt during recent decades, Timor-Leste should learn from their experiences, which often inflicted great hardships on their people."

Despite the criticisms, the government maintained that the budget is service and development oriented, and will stimulate the local economy while addressing the human development needs of the people. The government also boasted that the budget process is one of the most transparent in the world. Indeed, it created a Budget Transparency Portal that allows the public to access budget documents. It also provides a daily summary of budget deliberations in parliament.

For the government, the budget proposal reflects the renewed optimism in the country's future, but for many civil society groups, the budget could harm the economy in the long run.

Analysis & opinion

Timor in ASEAN

Jakarta Post Editorial - November 18, 2011

When the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gather for their 19th Summit in Bali, they will have a slew of issues on the table. Some to be agreed upon, others merely acknowledged, with one or two likely shelved.

The range covers a wide swath of challenges and opportunities befitting of one of the world's leading regional groupings. These cover the launch of the ASEAN Regional Report on HIV and AIDS, the potential chairmanship of Myanmar as ASEAN chair in 2014, and final preparations for the East Asia Summit.

One issue that has been lingering is the question of an agreement regarding Timor Leste's long-standing request to join the regional organization.

Despite Indonesia's sponsorship of immediate membership, since the 18th Summit in May, the issue has sort of been left on the backburner in typical ASEAN fashion when faced with direct contention.

Most ASEAN members seem somewhat aloof to the idea, neither openly accepting nor rejecting. However, at least one ASEAN member, whose territorial size is a fraction of Timor's, seems adamantly opposed to it.

The contra-arguments to Timor's membership has been based on Dili's readiness to cede to ASEAN's multiple economic obligations and complications that would arise in accommodating a new member when the present members are already struggling to meet their own commitments to the organization.

Although we appreciate these concerns, from a regional political perspective there are intangible values that support membership beyond the simple statistics.

This former Indonesian province is the youngest state in the region fully recognized under the stewardship of the United Nations, which retains a special responsibility in building a robust society in Timor Leste.

It is probably a modern Asian political miracle how that healing process is visible in the growing and intervening bilateral relations between Indonesia and Timor Leste. Not only between government officials in Jakarta and Dili but also in the increasing varieties of people-to-people contacts, which is even more heartening.

Border trade is constantly increasing in terms of value and volume, as Indonesia remains a favorite destination of Timor's young generation to continue their education. About 6,000 students from Timor are now registered in various Indonesian universities.

Of course, the painful events that occurred during the critical period in 1999 will always be inscribed as dark pages in Indonesian modern history. But history does not stop, it keeps evolving.

The evolving history also shows the moral courage of Indonesians to build new bridges reaching out to their brothers and sisters who are struggling to perfect their independent state.

The late president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid is the embodiment of Indonesia's sincerity in welcoming Timor Leste as a new neighbor state.

However, Indonesia's position to favorably consider Timor Leste's request to join ASEAN should not be viewed as merely a nice gesture. Timor Leste's membership is a geopolitical necessity for the region as a whole.

Although two dimensional maps are inadequate visual instruments, a cursory view of Southeast Asia will convincingly show that, as far as Indonesia is concerned, to leave Timor Leste outside of ASEAN is simply not an option.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must clearly convey to his counterparts that all bilateral issues with Timor Leste have been solved or are at the final stage of solution, and that Timor Leste as a new member will not be a burden. And, considering Indonesia's unique geographic shape as the world's largest archipelagic state, it is definitely in Indonesia's geopolitical interest to welcome Timor Leste into ASEAN.

Hopefully, such a clear message from Indonesia will convince those who for whatever reason are still reluctant to welcome Timor in ASEAN.

Reflecting on ETAN at 20

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) - November 12, 2011

John M. Miller, ETAN National Coordinator – On November 12, 1991, Indonesia troops carrying US supplied weapons gunned down peaceful East Timorese demonstration at Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery. And I can still recall vividly the tremor in Amy Goodman's voice in her first reports to Pacifica's WBAI radio here in New York, where she was News Director. Those reports inspired several of us who knew each other from organizing campaigns to begin meeting in New York. Out of those meetings ETAN began.

One detail from those reports was especially striking. Amy and Allan Nairn (also from New York) attributed their survival to the fact that they had waved their US passports at the troops that were assaulting them. The journalists were from the same country that the soldiers' weapons came from.

Amy and Allan were the two US eyewitnesses to the massacre and shared their knowledge with our fledgling group. Our first demonstration was on Human Rights Day 1991 at the Indonesian Mission to the UNorth Many more were to follow.

Reports of the massacre sparked organizing efforts in cities throughout the US. Soon enough, there was ETAN/Rhode Island and ETAN/Los Angeles, then Madison, DC, and San Francisco. Gradually, we found each other and consolidated into ETAN/US (We borrowed our initials – with their blessing – from Canada's East Timor Alert Network.)

We seized the chance to speak out, something that East Timorese could only do at great risk. One early ETAN leaflet bluntly stated that East Timorese could be shot for attending a demonstration, but that we in the United States could at much less risk support them. A simple recitation of the facts was all that was needed to convince many that the US bore substantial responsibility for a grave injustice and that we needed to take responsibility for changing our own country's policies.

We built on the efforts of others who had been working on the issues, some since 1975, many in church groups and Congress. But we brought our own energy and new ideas, at times a confrontational approach.

Early on, we determined to be non-partisan (working with people and politicians with a wide-range of views on other subjects). After all, US presidents of both parties had supported Indonesia. We embraced a wide range of tactics from lobbying and letter-writing to supporting lawsuits against Indonesian generals. We spoke inside (and outside) the UN and organized countless demonstrations at Indonesia's diplomatic offices around the US In New York, there were two and we probably have had an equal number of protests at the consulate and mission to the UNorth Several hundred were arrested in civil disobedience sit-ins. We organized international election observers in 1999, 2001, and 2007. We successfully sued New York City to have the street in front of the Indonesian consulate temporarily renamed "East Timor Way" in 1999.

We always tried to be accurate; the situation was dire enough not to need exaggeration. This approach has helped us build credibility with the media, officials and others that carries through to today.

Our initial focus was on gaining self-determination for East Timor. Our political strategy was ambitious, but simple. We saw the Indonesian military as crucial to the occupation. The US was the military's chief benefactor, and we set out to sever that relationship. Indonesia would value its ties to the US more than its continued occupation of East Timor. Events would bear out this analysis – more quickly than many of us imagined in late 1991.

We won a quick victory when Congress barred Indonesia from IMET military training in May 1992, in response to our pressure. At the time, few other countries were barred from IMET. We learned that while East Timor wasn't on the radar of many, a few voices from a congressional district or state could sway many members of Congress. Some of them became staunch supporters of East Timorese rights.

In the end, there were very few floor votes directly on East Timor and we lost several of them. But each time East Timor was debated on the floor of congress or in committee, more were educated and more concessions were extracted. Bans on the transfer of categories of military weapons and police equipment were imposed throughout the 1990s, either by the administration (always under Congressional pressure) or Congress. Indonesia's dictator Suharto twice refused training or weapons in a fit of pique over US criticism of repression in East Timor. Finally in September 1999, responding to a global outcry at Indonesia's destruction after the East Timorese chose independence, President Clinton announced a full cut off of security assistance. The Indonesian military quickly agreed to honor the result of the August 30 UN-organized referendum and withdraw.

The Congressional and public pressure that contributed to East Timor's independence came from years of organizing within US and the tenacity of the East Timorese people in asserting their rights. ETAN initially built a base of support by borrowing lists from national groups, including the War Resisters League of which I and Charles Scheiner, another ETAN founder, are long time members. These groups allowed us to call their members just once (Brown University students did most of the calling). We also gathered initial support from sign up sheets at talks by Allan, Amy and others and by petitioning at showings of the documentary "Manufacturing Consent," which features early ETAN supporter Noam Chomsky and includes a substantial section on East Timor.

In the early 1990s, the online organizing was coming into its own as an activist tool, both as a source of information and a way to spur action and activism. The internet enabled us to quickly link up with like-minded groups and individuals to compare information and share strategy. East Timorese leaders abroad were soon in touch and offered encouragement. We in turn supported their activities in the US and at the UN as best we could.

We stayed current with events and activities through the reg.easttimor e- mail listserv, begun by Tapol in Britain the previous year. We soon became major contributors to the list and over time took over the major responsibility for the list, now officially the east-timor list. (People often confuse the list with ETAN the organization at times, to our frustration.). In 1999, when I first went to East Timor to observe the referendum, many Timorese knew my name because of my many posts to the listserv. With access to the internet limited, items from the list would be printed out and passed around. Occasionally, I had to explain that I hadn't written most of them, just forwarded the news, analysis and reports from activists and others. Even now, much of my morning is taken up with the list, which has more subscribers than ever (more than 2600 at last count).

Soon after the 1999 vote, ETAN met in Arizona to decide whether to continue and what we should work on, now that East Timor was soon to become independent. Whether to continue or not was only briefly debated. We decided to focus our work for justice for East Timor through an international tribunal and accountability for the US role, return of refugees, and support for human rights and sustainable development. We committed to maintain the suspension of military ties with Indonesia, both to pressure Indonesia on East Timor and to support those still on the receiving end of Indonesian military brutality. We also helped launch the Indonesia Human Rights Network. When that network folded, ETAN changed our name to acknowledge that we were actively working on a number of Indonesia specific issues. In recent years, that has meant highlighting ongoing human rights violations in West Papua and monitoring the impact of US security assistance, which we believe serves to undermine the democratic transformation of Indonesia. We have opposed the lifting of restrictions on US cooperation with Kopassus, Indonesia's special forces, as well as abusive police units

Justice for past rights violations at times feels as distant now as self- determination for East Timor did in 1991. But justice and accountability is not just about the past, it is also about deterring future violations. On the 20th anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, ETAN reaffirmed our commitment to pursue justice: "Ongoing impunity for decades of systematic Indonesian military and police atrocities keeps the Timorese and Indonesian people from consolidating their democracies and moving on with their lives. ETAN will not rest until justice is done." This past year, we have confronted a very visible Henry Kissinger multiple times about his role in giving a US go ahead to Indonesia's invasion and occupation to highlight the need to hold US leaders accountable.

In addition to campaigning for justice for the past, ETAN monitors human rights issues in the new country. Since East Timor became the independent nation of Timor-Leste, ETAN has supported the new country's efforts to gain control over petroleum resources that are rightfully theirs. Working with groups in Timor-Leste and elsewhere, ETAN has raised concerns about plans by the government to take out international loans.

As ETAN continues our work, we face a number of challenges. ETAN has never been very large or well-funded. We sometimes joked that our work was done with smoke and mirrors. While many in both East Timor and Indonesia continue to ask a lot from us, money and other resources have become harder to come by. Our staff has shrunk over the years and we had to close our Washington office. There are only a few active chapters. Many of those most active in the past have moved on to other issues and other priorities. We have more ideas and possible projects than we can possibly implement. But a core of people remain committed to ETAN and our issues, even as we work to develop new supporters. And we try get the most out of the resources we have.

The US activist Mother Jones is credited with the saying, "My business is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." For the past 20 years, ETAN has to work to afflict the powerful and pressure them to change their destructive policies. We will continue this work and by doing so we hope that we provide some comfort to the victims of those policies.

East Timor's Santa Cruz massacre – reflections 20 years on

Cafe Pacific - November 12, 2011

Charles Scheiner, Dili – Tonight, I'm honored to be with so many young Timorese people who believe in justice and independence. Twenty years ago, brave people just like you peacefully demonstrated against the Indonesian occupation of your country. Nobody paid them, or ordered them, or told them it would be safe or easy.

The Santa Cruz protesters inspired people around the world, including me. I was in New York, and I heard about the massacre on community radio. Although I already knew about Indonesia's illegal occupation here, and about the criminal support my US government was giving to it, I hadn't done much to stop it.

A month after the Santa Cruz massacre, I and some other friends organised a peaceful protest at the Indonesian Mission to the UN. We didn't risk being shot or tortured, but we knew we had to speak out in solidarity with the heroes of Santa Cruz who risked and lost their lives in the struggle for self-determination.

It was much easier for us than it was for your parents – but it was also hard, because so many other Americans didn't know or care that our government was complicit with Indonesia in committing crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste.

Our demonstration grew into a movement – the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) – that had more than 15,000 members and 25 chapters all across the United States by 1999.

Through public education, lobbying, demonstrations, outreach, coalition- building and every other kind of nonviolent action we could think of, we turned US policy around.

Washington had provided most of the weapons and training for the Indonesian military from 1975 until 1991, but pressure from American citizens cut it off.

Door opened

By 1998, the United States government had abandoned Suharto and was supporting self-determination – helping to open a door for the people of Timor-Leste to finally end Indonesia's occupation.

It's 12 years later now, 20 years after the Santa Cruz massacre and the founding of the East Timor Action Network.

East Timor has been independent for nine years. You have your own government, your own leaders, your own political debates, your own successes... and your own mistakes.

I feel privileged to live here during this period, traveling that journey with you. Building a peaceful, democratic nation, with economic and social justice for its entire population, may be even harder than throwing out the Indonesian army and police.

We are still far from some of our goals. In particular, the foreigners responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against the Timorese people have not been held accountable.

These were international crimes – the Indonesian invasion of Portuguese Timor (RDTL after 28 November 1975, but Indonesian aggression started before that) violated international law, as did the thousands of massacres, tortures, rapes, killings and other crimes that were part of the occupation.

When people are ordered or paid by one government to commit crimes against people in another country, those are international crimes. When other governments, including my own, give political, military, diplomatic or financial support to these crimes, they also become criminals.

Apology to Timorese

As a US citizen (I am not yet a Timorese citizen, but hope to become one), I have to apologise to the people of Timor-Leste because I and my fellow Americans took so long to stop our government from supporting crimes against you, while tens of thousands of Timorese people were killed.

As a human being, I join the Timorese people – including survivors and victims' families – in calling for an end to impunity for crimes against humanity.

A hero of my country – ex-slave Frederick Douglass – once said that "Power never concedes anything without a demand." If we want justice, we have to demand it – it will not come by itself.

As you know, there was progress a few years ago. Between 1999 and 2005, Commissions of Inquiry established by the United Nations, Indonesia and Timor-Leste recognised the international nature of the huge crimes committed here and called for the prosecution of those who perpetrated them.

During UNTAET, the UN Serious Crimes Unit indicted nearly 400 people for crimes committed during 1999, bringing 87 to trial and convicting 84. But everyone brought to trial was Timorese, and none of them are still in prison.

None of the people who murdered Santa Cruz protesters 20 years ago were Timorese.

Larger problem

A larger problem is the 300 people indicted by the SCU who have never been arrested because Indonesia is sheltering them. And even more fundamental, no action has been taken against those who directed and executed the 99 percent of occupation-related crimes committed during its first 23 years.

Those perpetrators were carrying out criminal policies of the Suharto dictatorship, and most of them were soldiers following orders from Jakarta, shooting guns made in the United States, flying bombers from Britain or the US, getting political support from Australia or Malaysia or France.

The United Nations says there must never be impunity for Crimes Against Humanity. In 2002, nations from all over the world established the International Criminal Court to try such crimes when national processes are unwilling or unable to – but unfortunately it has no power to judge crimes committed before the court was set up.

In 2005, this global consensus was reflected by a UN Commission of Experts, who concluded that an international tribunal should be created if judicial processes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste fail to achieve justice for crimes committed during Indonesia's occupation of Timor-Leste.

But today, the UN runs away – they and the other responsible governments and agencies say that Timor-Leste's government has the responsibility but not the will to end impunity.

For some of us – Timorese and foreigners – the struggle is not over. We draw courage from people like Argentinean justice activist Patricia Isasa, who visited here last month. She campaigned for 33 years before her torturers and kidnappers were finally sent to prison.

Here, our justice campaign is only 12 years old. Although the UN, other governments, and some Timorese politicians prioritise diplomatic relations with formerly hostile nearby governments over justice, and although some say economic development is more important than accountability, there is no need to choose.

Criminal masterminds

Relations between democratic states can go well even while criminals are brought to justice. People's economic lives – including victims of past crimes – can improve at the same time that masterminds of those crimes are brought to court. There is no need to choose among economic, social and criminal justice.

We, citizens of countries from around the world who support Timor-Leste's people, will continue to demand that our governments and the United Nations keep their promises that impunity can never be accepted.

Today, ETAN issued a press release calling "for the US and other governments and the United Nations to commit to justice for the victims and their families. The 1991 massacre was a major turning point in Timor- Leste's struggle for liberation.

"When we saw and heard about the Indonesian military shooting down hundreds of peaceful, unarmed student protesters, we knew we had to do something to stop the killing. The Santa Cruz massacre inspired many around the world to work for justice for the East Timorese people."

Earlier this week, former General Taur Matan Ruak said: "Justisa sei iha" (there will be justice).

President Jose Ramos-Horta hopes that a courageous, young Indonesian prosecutor may bring high-level criminals to court five or ten years from now.

But it will never happen if we don't continue to demand it. People in Timor-Leste, together with our friends in Indonesia, the United States and around the world, should see today's anniversary as an opportunity – and a challenge – to renew our commitment to struggle for justice.

Since neither the Indonesian nor Timor-Leste governments are yet ready to end impunity, it is up to us.

East Timor and me: A response to Noam Chomsky

Lowy Interpreter - November 3, 2011

Gareth Evans – Noam Chomsky, in Sydney on 2 November, repeated his familiar attack on my handling, as Australia's foreign minister from 1988- 96, of relations with Indonesia over East Timor. It is one that he, along with his fellow Sydney Peace Prize recipient John Pilger, has been making now over many years in many different forums around the world.

I have learned from long experience that Professor Chomsky is not especially responsive to moderate and reasoned argument (as, for example, when he opposed me in a head-to-head debate in the UN General Assembly in 2009 on the "responsibility to protect" doctrine I have championed and which he continues, including in his Sydney lecture, to mis-describe, notwithstanding its central role now in the international response to mass atrocity crimes).

But perhaps I can restate for the record (in the following extracts from a longer piece I wrote in September 1999, Indonesia and East Timor: Looking Back and Looking Forward) just why I, and the Labor Government I represented, acted as we did on this extraordinarily difficult and harrowing issue, and why our actions at no stage constituted either "robbery" nor any kind of betrayal of the people of East Timor:

Successive Australian Governments certainly pursued good relations with Indonesia. That was obviously true of those of Hawke and Keating all the years I was Foreign Minister. But we didn't pursue "Good Relations" as a policy end in itself. It was rather a means to multiple other ends, both realistic and idealistic in character. Ends like protecting our security. Advancing our prosperity. Solving problems like Cambodia, where Indonesia's regional leadership mattered. Helping the fourth-biggest country in the world, and the biggest Islamic country, manage its own social, economic and political transformations. And, not least, helping the people of East Timor.

Clearly not all these objectives, particularly the last, were fully realised. Part of the reason is that Labor and Coalition Governments both made some mistakes, the biggest probably being our congenitally overoptimistic belief in the Indonesian military's capacity for redemption. But when things went wrong it was overwhelmingly for reasons beyond our capacity to influence. Understanding past mistakes is the key to not repeating them. But when identifying Australian candidates for the rack, or self-flagellation, it is important to separate fact from fiction and to understand just what it was possible, and not possible, for Australia to achieve at each step along the way.

First, Australia was in no position militarily to stop or reverse Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975, any more than we could by ourselves have moved in against Indonesia's will to stop the carnage in 1999. There is still an argument as to whether the then Labor Government could have done more to discourage Suharto. While the record is absolutely clear that Whitlam was firm and unambiguous throughout in opposing Indonesian military action, additional diplomatic representations could and should have been made after Portugal abandoned the territory in August. But there is no reason to suppose they would have made any practical difference: Suharto, and even more his generals, knew all too well that the international mood of the time was absolutely against involvement in another Asian imbroglio.

Second, there was nothing morally offensive about the Coalition Government's decision in 1979, later endorsed by Labor, to extend de jure recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor – a decision triggered by the need to advance the Timor Gap international boundary negotiations. The critical point (which used to make Ali Alatas enormously irritated with me whenever I made it – which I did long before the 1998 ALP Conference resolution) is that Australia continued to recognise East Timor as a non-self-governing territory entitled to self-determination. This was its status under Portuguese sovereignty and continued to be the case under Indonesian sovereignty. Two other legal/moral points just for the record. Australia was not the only country to give de jure recognition: thirty-one other countries did the same expressly or by implication. And East Timor was never disadvantaged by the Timor Gap treaty: in the event that it became independent, the new country was always going to inherit Indonesia's revenue rights under it. When the oil and gas flows, the new Dili Government won't be missing out on any royalties.

Thirdly, before the economic crisis of 1997 and its political aftermath changed everything, we all had to live with the fact that there seemed no realistic chance of Indonesia ever agreeing to a fully fledged act of self-determination in which independence was an option. Hindsight vision is always 20-20, but the most that then seemed achievable – and East Timorese leaders with whom I discussed this at the time didn't disagree – was significant political autonomy, combined with a massive wind-back of the Indonesian military presence, and other measures of cultural recognition and development assistance.

As Foreign Minister, my persistence in pursuing this package and related human rights issues again regularly irritated my Indonesian counterpart (not least when I was praised on ABC radio in December 1995 by Jose Ramos Horta after some of my unpublicised UN efforts came to light). Such an autonomy package in fact seemed imminent on several occasions, never more so than in 1994 – until a well-intentioned statement from President Bill Clinton in Jakarta designed to pressure Suharto into acceptance produced, as this kind of diplomacy sometimes does, precisely the opposite result.

Fourthly, after 1997 the impossible suddenly seemed possible. It had nothing to do with the change of government in Canberra. Rather, the economic crisis saw Indonesia coming under international pressure as never before and desperate to garner international support. That and Suharto's downfall opened up brand-new options for the resolution of the East Timor situation. John Howard correctly called one of them when he wrote to President B.J. Habibie in December 1998, urging Indonesia to grant East Timor significant autonomy immediately and to hold out the possibility of a full self-determination ballot at an unspecified later time.

The trouble was that Habibie's response – inspired more by pique than high principle, and insufficiently canvassed with his military – went a quantum leap further than Howard had proposed, by throwing open the prospect of independence if autonomy were refused. It was at this point that alarm bells should have jangled for Howard and Alexander Downer: East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao, in a December 1998 statement later echoed by Ramos Horta and bishop of Dili Carlos Belo, had called for up to a decade of autonomy before a referendum on independence was held. The East Timorese leaders knew all too well the potential for catastrophic violence if things were rushed. But the genie was now out of the bottle and no one in Australia raced to stuff it back in. The Government's only scramble was for credit, with the Prime Minister happily claiming – right up until the post- ballot carnage – that he had been the architect of East Timor's independence.

The position I took throughout my period in office, from 1988 to 1996, was that our quarrel in East Timor was with the Indonesian military, not its government or people. This was essentially the position I had taken eight years earlier in response to the Dili massacre, when I did very strongly condemn the local military's horrific actions, but described them, on the evidence available to me, as 'an aberration, not an act of state policy'. And it was language I used again in my 1999 piece:

The condemnation being heaped on the military for its appalling behaviour in East Timor – whether directed, tolerated or unable to be controlled from the top – is abundantly deserved. Our efforts over the years to help train and professionalise the military officer caste – which I supported and defended – have conspicuously failed and it is right for us and the world to break off relations with the military until a sea-change occurs and to pursue war crimes allegations wherever they lead.

But we should not blame the whole country for the misbehaviour of its soldiers: disgust with the military is now enormously widespread in Indonesia itself, especially since the shooting of students in Jakarta last year, and its role and influence is eroding. The present civilian government has not covered itself in glory – either in the cynicism with which it initiated the East Timorese ballot or in its talking down the military's role subsequently – but it hasn't been the major villain any more than the people have been. To burn Indonesian flags, picket their embassies, ban Garuda, boycott Bali and cancel aid are all understandable reactions, but all they do is feed the chauvinist nationalist sentiment on which military hardliners thrive, and make even harder the democratic transformation now struggling to take wing.

That democratic transformation has now taken place, and all this is now history. The whole post-1975 East Timor story needs to be told more fully than it has by anyone so far, including me, not least the extent to which during the Suharto years Australia was on common ground with East Timor's exiled representatives (and had real support in Jakarta from figures like Ali Alatas) in seeking real autonomy for, and an end to military repression of, the territory. Plenty of misjudgments were made, and there is plenty of blame to go round. But Chomsky's lurid characterisations don't even begin to get it right.

Gareth Evans for the defense - A response to Noam Chomsky

Damien Kingsbury - November 6, 2011

This is not the first time that Gareth Evans has recognised that his, and Australia's, policy on reforming ABRI (Later TNI) was mistaken. As he says, it is wise to learn from one's mistakes. It is a sadly indictment, then, that Australia continues training with the Indonesian military generally and its Special Forces (Kopassus) in particular when we continue to see a range of gross human rights abuses in West Papua. It is tempting to dissect Evan's response piece by piece, but that will no doubt be done by others. His comments on the Timor Gap Treaty are particularly questionable. However, I agree with Evans and disagree with Chomsky on the issue of the doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect", of which Evans was a key global architect. Although that doctrine was formalised some years later, one of its major precedents was the intervention by Interfet in Timor-Leste in 1999. That was a good and necessary intervention then and continues to stand as an example of how the international community can, sometimes, get things right. Evans' leadership on "R2P" in a small way shows he is not a cartoon-character villain.

Regarding "Solving problems like Cambodia, where Indonesia's regional leadership mattered", it is worth noting that while Indonesia's involvement was necessary to ensure other ASEAN states, especially Singapore, were on board, it is well to remember that Australia's support for the Cambodia initiative was perhaps less idealistic than Evans portrays. As Evans' predecessor as Foreign Minister, Bill Hayden, says: "I also suspected then, and became firmly convinced over time, that [Prime Minister, Bob] Hawke had encouraged the Indochina initiative as a red herrings to distract the Party, especially the Left, from the vexatious and difficult to manage issue of East Timor. The suspicions were well-grounded" ("Bill Hayden: An Autobiography",1996:382). Perhaps, as Foreign Minister, Evans deserves opprobrium for sometimes insensitively articulating Australia's profoundly compromised policies. But it might also be worth remembering that he was a minister in a Cabinet who not only inherited a bad policy he was unable to change but was subject to the whims and preferences of others in the Cabinet, not least of whom was the Prime Minister. Focusing on individuals is simple and satisfying, but it rarely exposes the complexity of the circumstances that lead to tragedies such as that of Timor-Leste from 1975.

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