Subject: Wahid coy on Manning's killers

The Christchurch Press

June 28, 2001



Prime Minister Helen Clark is optimistic that Private Leonard Manning's killer will be punished, despite Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid's own pessimism over his nation's justice system.

Prosecuting the New Zealand soldier's killer loomed large when the two leaders met in Christchurch yesterday.

Indonesian authorities have apprehended a former militia commander, Jakobus Bere, but there are doubts about how strenuously his case will be prosecuted.

"We believe we owe it to the memory and family of the young soldier who was killed to see a thug like that is put away," Ms Clark said.

Encouraging reports had been received indicating that Indonesia was prepared to pursue the matter, she said, after meeting President Wahid.

"It is understood that the West Timorese authorities will be sending an investigative team to Dili next month to collect direct evidence from witnesses."

While Ms Clark portrayed this as a "significant movement", President Wahid himself stressed the difficulties in meting out justice.

"I told the Prime Minister ... that now we have difficulty in taking those people to court ... we have to find honest judges."

Scepticism over Indonesian justice standards surfaced when three men convicted of murdering United Nations aid workers in West Timor received 20-month prison sentences this year.

President Wahid assured Ms Clark that his Attorney-General was appealing the lenient sentences.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab affirmed his commitment to bring murderers to justice in West Timor.

Yet he also pointed to a "paradigm of the past" which existed in Indonesia, a reference to the lingering hold of the previous Suharto political culture.

"We cannot change attitudes overnight, even though the Government is committed to the supremacy of law," Dr Shihab said.

Such past attitudes were linked by Dr Shihab to the detention of foreigners, including New Zealander Maire Leadbeater, at a labour conference in Jakarta.

Despite tight security, President Wahid, whose New Zealand trip was arranged just 10 days ago, was not challenged by human rights protesters on arrival at Christchurch International Airport.

A more hostile reception awaits the frail and almost blind President Wahid on his return to Jakarta, where he faces an impeachment vote on August 1.

Before leaving Sydney yesterday morning, Indonesia's first democratically elected leader defiantly said that he might resort to a paradigm of the past himself to head off the impeachment threat.

"It is easy," he said. "I just declare an emergency."

In Christchurch, President Wahid dismissed critics of his emergency threat.

"They can say what they want," he said. "I know Indonesians. The people as well as the armed forces are behind me."

Asked what his chances were of surviving the threat to his presidency, he replied, "100 per cent".

Dr Shihab's discussions with New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff yesterday touched on the registration of refugees in West Timor and the recently announced ad hoc tribunal on war crimes there.

Mr Goff emphasised that the responsibility for atrocities at the time of the 1999 independence referendum rested with the previous administration.

Ms Clark expressed support for President Wahid's proposal for a Western Pacific Forum.

Its members would include New Zealand, Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Brunei, the Philippines, and East Timor.

Aside from regional issues, the forum would facilitate dialogue between Indonesia and East Timor.

Ms Clark said that New Zealand would try to encourage more Indonesian students to New Zealand.

At present there were under 700, compared to the 18,000 in Australia.

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