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  • » 07/19/2008, 00.00


    East Timor and Indonesia promote a future of friendship

    Mathias Hariyadi

    On July 15, the two countries signed an agreement intended to overcome the crimes and violence of the past. Relief expressed by retired general Wiranto, former head of the army, among those most responsible for the massacres of 1999.

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) - With the formal apologies expressed by Indonesian president Yudhoyono to his East Timor counterpart Ramos Horta, over the atrocities committed by the army and the policy, one of the bloodiest chapters in the recent past of southeast Asia comes to a close. Last July 15 in Bali, amid smiles, handshakes, and mutual satisfaction, the final document was signed that had been drawn up by the commission instituted to assess the events of 1999. The document stresses Jakarta's direct involvement in the clashes that broke out in the former province of eastern Indonesia, following its declaration of independence recognised by the United Nations.

    Indonesian president Susilo, East Timor prime minister Xanana Gusmao, and president Ramos Horta promised closer collaboration between the two countries, leaving behind all of the "errors" and "wounds' of the past ten years. For this reason, the leaders emphasise with one voice that "it is more important to establish relations of friendship" than to "hand over the Indonesian military authorities to justice and have them tried". They also expressed "deep remorse" toward those who had to undergo "crimes and abuses including murder, violence, rape, and forced relocation".

    The new climate of harmony and cooperation was welcomed with relief by the former commanders of the Indonesian army, responsible to a great extent for the atrocities that marked the past of East Timor, including the retired general and army head Wiranto. "I received the news with a deep sense of relief", says Fachrul Razi, one of the loyal followers of the former military leader, at the head of the Hanura party founded by Wiranto himself in 2006. The current prime minister and former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao seems to be of the same opinion, saying he is "satisfied with the signing of the agreement".

    But there are also voices of dissent, which are asking for justice and for those responsible for the crimes to be put on trial. "Wiranto should be handed over for justice", says Usman Hamid, the head of Kontras, the Indonesian commission set up for people who have disappeared or been victims of violence. "The clashes caused killed or injured hundreds, and just as many have had to abandon their homes in the former province of East Timor, and have not received any compensation for their losses". Theo L. Sambuaga, an Indonesian member of parliament, stresses that "justice must be done", and "the wrong done to part of the Indonesian population must be repaired".

    Human rights activists are clamouring for the creation of a mixed international tribunal, which would try those implicated in the 1999 massacre according to UN procedures. The proposal is rejected by the political leaders of the two countries, increasingly oriented toward "closing with the past" and creating a new era of relations between Indonesia and East Timor.

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    See also

    08/04/2005 EAST TIMOR - INDONESIA
    Susilo's historic visit to East Timor
    For the first time since East Timor's independence, an Indonesian President will visit the cemetery of Santa Cruz, where unarmed Timorese civilians were massacred by Indonesian troops. Susilo will also sign a border agreement with East Timor.

    12/11/2004 INDONESIA
    Human rights activist poisoned

    21/12/2005 east timor - indonesia
    East Timor: 183,000 killed under Indonesian rule

    An investigation identifies by name the victims of the human rights abuses, as well as those who carried them out. The abuses described by the report include collective executions, torture and the forced removal of people from their homes.

    13/02/2006 INDONESIA - EAST TIMOR
    Indonesia, East Timor to hold meeting about occupation crimes

    Next Friday in Bali, the two presidents will discuss the East Timorese report which charges Indonesia with over 180,000 deaths between 1975 and 1999. The document was presented to the UN last month by the president of East Timor.

    19/02/2007 INDONESIA – TIMOR
    Truth and Friendship Commission starts hearings
    The commission will investigate atrocities that took place just before East Timor became independent from Indonesia but it will not have the power to prosecute perpetrators. The UN and the local Catholic Church are among the voices of dissent: justice will not be done in this way.

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