Subject: ASAHI: Japanese activist fights corruption in East Timor

Japanese activist fights corruption in East Timor 
Takeshi Kashiwagi is free after a charge he threatened to kill Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao is dropped.

Asahi Evening News


October 26, 2000 Several years ago, Takeshi Kashiwagi decided to take the road less traveled. It led him to East Timor.

Kashiwagi, 40, has supported East Timor's independence movement since 1990, when the emerging nation was under Indonesian rule.

Since he distrusts government and private organizations, he has worked on his own, like a hermit, to help the Timorese. He uses the money he received from an inheritance to help his friends, and teaches Timorese children English and Japanese.

Active resistance to Indonesian occupation led to his arrest in February and June last year. He was deported both times.

In August last year, when the United Nations held a referendum giving East Timor a choice between independence and integration with Indonesia, 79 percent of the Timorese voted for independence.

The territory has since been transferred to the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which is preparing for the birth of the new nation within a few years.

Kashiwagi was pleased with the outcome of the referendum, for it brought his dream of a free nation that much closer.

But on Aug. 22-almost a year after the vote for independence-Kashiwagi was arrested by civilian police under UNTAET command.

Kashiwagi was charged with defaming and threatening to kill Xanana Gusmao, the independence movement leader who some observers believe will become the nation's first president.

Kashiwagi denied both charges and protested his arrest as ``illegitimate.'' He began a hunger strike while in solitary confinement at a detention house in Dili, East Timor's main city.

The reasons for Kashiwagi's arrest remain unclear.

He said he had met Gusmao face to face only once, in 1991. According to Kashiwagi, that meeting took place when Gusmao was leading a guerrilla war against Indonesia.

One day, a Timorese instructed Kashiwagi to walk along a coastal road. A taxi covered in dust pulled up and its door swung open, as if someone was urging him to get in.

Upon seeing Gusmao inside the car-the first time he had seen him in person-Kashiwagi told him of his support for the independence forces and promised to donate money to Gusmao's Fretilin guerrillas.

Over the next two years, he gave the guerrillas money on seven occasions, using the friend who had introduced him to Gusmao as a middleman. Kashiwagi said these donations totaled at least 5 million yen.

``It was impossible for me to threaten Gusmao because I had not talked with him since 1991,'' Kashiwagi said in a telephone interview with Asahi Evening News.

Kashiwagi also noted that the defamation complaint never came from Gusmao himself.

After his arrest, the U.N.-backed Dili District Court ordered Kashiwagi to serve 30 days in detention while U.N. civilian police sought a formal indictment, but only on the defamation charge. The court has not explained why the death-threat charge was dropped.

In arriving at its detention order, the court applied the Indonesian penal code for defamation, since there is no U.N. body of law.

Kashiwagi protested that the code should not apply in a democratic society since the code's purpose was to ban freedom of expression under the oppressive regime of former President Suharto, which ordered the invasion of East Timor in 1975.

In Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry dispatched a Dili-based liaison officer to visit Kashiwagi and look after his needs.

But Yayoi Matsuda, deputy director of the ministry's Second Southeast Division-which has been assigned responsibility for the East Timor issue-told Asahi Evening News during Kashiwagi's detention that Tokyo would not press for his release.

``If a Japanese national was treated cruelly in the detention house, we would protest to the relevant authority,'' she said.

``But Mr. Kashiwagi's case falls under U.N. jurisdiction, and he is being treated properly according to the international standards.''

Matsuda added that the ministry could do nothing until the court in East Timor handed down its judgment.

``It is not for us to judge whether a Japanese national obeyed the law in a foreign territory,'' she said.

On Sept. 9, after 18 days in detention, Kashiwagi was released on the condition he leave his passport with the U.N. civilian police who arrested him and that he regularly report to them.

Kashiwagi then contacted UNTAET's human rights monitoring arm where he learned that two days before his release the chief U.N. delegate in East Timor had signed an executive order stating that defamation ``is of a non-criminal nature in East Timor'' and should never be the basis for criminal charges.

The order-signed by Sergio Vieira de Mello, the special representative appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to oversee the transition-was to take effect immediately and had the force of law.

The reasons for Kashiwagi's arrest and detention had suddenly been nullified. He lost no time bringing the executive order to the court's attention, and on Sept. 20 the conditions placed on his release were lifted. He is now free again.

Given the executive order's date, the delays in his release and the withdrawal of conditions limiting his freedom of movement exposed the bureaucratic confusion inside the U.N. authority.

Kashiwagi is now demanding compensation. A deputy to de Mello has apologized for the detention and agreed to consider Kashiwagi's compensation claim via e-mail.

``I want a clear explanation of why I was arrested on false charges,'' Kashiwagi said.

Prior to his arrest, Kashiwagi had accused ``strong forces'' within the National Council of Timorese Resistance-the main coalition of pro-independence forces-of having colluded with foreign interests to secure a powerful role in the upcoming national government.

``They consider me a nuisance and tried to get me kicked out of East Timor by providing false evidence that I had made a death threat and committed defamation,'' Kashiwagi said.

He claimed that someone in the leadership had allowed Stanley Ho, the dominant figure in Macao's casino world, to acquire the first-class land where a five-star hotel stood before it was destroyed by rampaging anti-independence militias in September last year.

Kashiwagi, born in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, was a diligent student at private junior and senior high schools before passing the University of Tokyo's entrance exam.

``To me, school was the epitome of this competitive world,'' Kashiwagi said. ``Studying hard just to be accepted into the best university cost me many friends and the trust of my peers.''

Three months into his freshman year at university, he stopped attending classes, and spent his time reading books, watching movies, and going to plays. After eight years, he was expelled.

He then moved to Okinawa and founded a day laborers' union with about 50 members in 1987. Gradually, the union was infiltrated by extreme left-wing activists and Kashiwagi became disenchanted.

``They were like machines, marching in lock step and protecting the organization from whoever they thought were their enemies,'' said Kashiwagi. ``I couldn't go along with them.''

It was in 1989 that Kashiwagi met an East Timorese independence activist who was invited to Okinawa by a citizens group and began to get involved in the struggle himself.

Having lost everything in Japan, Kashiwagi seems to have finally found a cause in East Timor to which he can devote his life.

At the end of last month, Kashiwagi returned to Japan to get his passport renewed but he headed back south this month.

``I have to be back in East Timor to raise my voice against corruption within the leadership,'' Kashiwagi said. ``Otherwise real independence will never come for the people at the grass roots, including my Timorese friends.

``The lives of many of those people's relatives were sacrificed for independence, and they deserve much better in their new nation.''

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