Subject: Indon's Wahid Reiterates Apology for E. Timor Abuses

Also: Gus Dur's Timor Visit

Associated Press 
March 1, 2000

Indonesia Wahid Welcomes Resumption Of Timor Air, Sea Link

JAKARTA (AP)--Indonesia's president welcomed Wednesday the resumption of air and sea links with East Timor and expressed hope that the two countries will have a close economic relationship in the future.

A day after President Abdurrahman Wahid made a historic visit to East Timor, he reiterated his apology for human rights abuses his country committed during its 24-year occupation of the half-island territory.

"We as a nation have made mistakes," he told reporters. "The very significant proof of this is what happened at Santa Cruz where many East Timorese are buried."

He was referring to a cemetery in the capital Dili where about 200 civilians were massacred by Indonesian troops in 1991.

"If we do not apologize as a nation for the mistakes that were made, the problem will never end," he said.

He said the first commercial flight between Dili and Indonesia would start Friday while direct shipping links with several Indonesian cities would also resume shortly.

An Indonesian airline, Merpati Nusantara Airways, is scheduled to begin flights between Dili and Indonesia's tourist island of Bali, while a shipping firm will establish a regular connection between East Timor and the port city of Surabaya.

Wahid said he hoped that Indonesian business people would be able to invest in East Timor and that trade with Indonesian-held West Timor would prosper.

He noted that he had ordered the resumption of an Indonesian-funded scholarship program for East Timorese students to study at Indonesian universities.


Straits Times 
March 6, 2000

Gus Dur's Timor visit

INDONESIAN President Abdurrahman Wahid is a man of surprising gifts, one of which is the capacity for springing surprises. His critics find this capacity confounding, but it is not without its uses, especially when it is coupled with an acute sense of what the historical moment demands. He showed this last week when he visited East Timor, barely six months after Indonesian troops left the territory. He did more to win the trust of the East Timorese in the three hours he spent in Dili than any other Indonesian leader has done in the past three decades. He laid wreaths at two sites -- one, the site of a 1991 massacre of innocent protesters by Indonesian soldiers, and the other, a cemetery for Indonesian soldiers killed during Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor -- and apologised for his country's "sins". Addressing a crowd at Santa Cruz, the site of the 1991 massacre, he said, eloquently and simply: "I would like to apologise for the sins that have happened in the past, to the victims or the families of Santa Cruz and those friends who are buried in the military cemetery. These are the victims of circumstances that we didn't want." His words served at once as a salve and a benediction, a remembrance and a promise.

The Indonesian government must now see to it that it keeps its President's promise of friendship. Mr Abdurrahman signed a communique with East Timor's leaders which promised, among other things, the resumption of commercial flights between Dili and Kupang in West Timor, a transport corridor between East Timor and its coastal enclave in Indonesian territory, and scholarships for East Timorese. A separate agreement called for cooperation between the Indonesian Attorney-General and the United Nations Transitional Authority in investigating the role of six Indonesian generals in the violence which followed the referendum vote last August. Given Indonesia's present economic plight, it would be too much to expect Jakarta to play a significant role in the economic rehabilitation of its former province, but the agreements Gus Dur reached with East Timor's leaders, as well as the personal warmth and sincerity he expressed, will go a long way towards establishing an atmosphere of peace and goodwill without which East Timor cannot prosper. Reflecting on this new atmosphere, the Nobel laureate Jose Ramos Horta described the visit as "a turning point in our common history", and said that it "definitely put to rest the past, which is ugly and violent". A cursory look at the map will suffice to indicate how important Indonesia will be to East Timor's future viability: the country is only one-half of an island, the western half of which remains Indonesian. Unless Australian troops are to remain in East Timor in perpetuity -- an eventuality which neither Indonesia nor Australia, for different reasons, would want -- East Timor must get along with Indonesia in order to get on.

As for Indonesia, it must be seen to be getting along with its former province in order to restore its international credibility. Gus Dur's visit set the right tone, as did his seeming determination to prosecute Indonesian generals allegedly responsible for human-rights violations in East Timor. His government has established a Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in East Timor, whose proceedings and reports have been open and transparent. This process must continue. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. And when it is, Indonesia, as well as the region, will owe a debt of gratitude to the man of many surprises -- Gus Dur.


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