Subject: TALITAKUM: Interview - General Taur Matan Ruak

Interview: Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak:

They Defend the Criminals, We Defend the Victims

The Atsabe case has become a polemic. The Commander in Chief of F-FDTL has finally produced a statement. His troops were accused of violating human rights. What is correct? Defending the criminals or defending the victims? All is exposed in the exclusive interview conducted by Maini Calado from TALI-TAKUM, with Brig.Gen Taur Matan Ruak, in his office, a few days ago. Below are quotes from the interview:

What do you think of allegations coming from UNPOL and human rights activists stating that Falintil-FDTL violated human rights in handling the Atsabe case?

Ideally Mr. Peter Miller admits his weaknesses in not carrying out the investigation within 72 hours. Since Falintil-FDTL was given the trust by the local people and the police to detain the suspects, as the suspects had not been arrested. Police officers and local officials in charge were present to witness the arrests. They were handed over, yet I wonder why no investigations have been carried out. Instead, they put the blame on Falintil-FDTL, this intrigues me. In my opinion whoever that is them or us; when we talk about human rights we have to take into account other people's fate, freedom, and safety.

Any contradiction with the human rights activists?

There had been a major difference. If the human rights activists defend the criminals, what about us people who defend the powerless do you think that there is any difference? Because if we talk about human rights, we have to consider various aspects, such as legal aspects and the victim's point of view. We can see sinister characteristics radiating from the criminals. If we do not take such aspects into consideration, then human rights activists could be perceived as merely defending the criminals, instead of the victims. On the other hand, if we defend the powerless, the victims, who feared returning to their farms; because those perpetrators forced people give money to them, don't you think that is a violation of human rights? For that reason, through the media I would like to invite the human rights activists to sit together with F-FDTL, and visit Hatolia and Atsabe, to hold dialogues with the local people. I would urge them not only to stay in Dili, and ride cars back and forth while criticising people, without actually helping the suffering of the persons in need of help.

Indirectly this group provides legitimacy to criminals in Atsabe and Hatolia?

If they are taking one side, then yes. The human rights activists only see parts of the overall picture, without paying attention to the victims. They should do the right thing by giving the right reasons for the culprits to stop committing the same crime.

What is the stance of Falintil-FDTL?

Falintil is an institution established more than 20 years ago. Since 1974, until this moment. Falintil is not a newly born organisation without any experience, born only in 1999 or 2000, and Falintil- FDTL is conceived to defend the victims of threats. For that reason I believe that no one can deny that Falintil-FDTL is also upholding human rights. It is true that when everyone in Timor-Leste speaks of human rights, at the same time they neglect the real issue. People from foreign countries would come and talk only about human rights. I don't think they should teach the East Timorese. A lot of countries used to support Indonesia, violating East Timorese' human rights. Now look at them, so proud preaching about human rights everywhere they go.

So, you think that human rights activists should visit Atsabe?

Yes, for how could they defend the rights of those arrested the criminals without really considering the victims who lost their lives, they should think about carrying out an investigation there. And the perpetrators who commit extortion, even evicted people from their homes, their farmland, have they conducted any investigations into that? In brief, we are only defending one principle, the human rights activists defend the criminals, while we (Falintil-FDTL) defend the victims.

Would this answer the doubts of the human rights activists?

In order to answer such doubts, both of us need to work together. I would like to extend my invitation to the activists to hold dialogues with the local people residing in Atsabe and Hatolia. If they were interested, especially the UN, I would discuss with Mr. Hasegawa, to invite him and his staff to communicate with the people there. It is so that they can determine whether or not we went against the people's interests or the minority's interests, or if we defended the interests of many?

Then what is your response to the release of the detained suspects?

We will continue our investigation, if the state needs justice, then we will bring the case to court. Investigations should be ongoing, in order to verify whether data gathered by police officers is valid or not. We also have to find out whether there is someone behind this, allowing criminals to commit crimes and letting them go, without providing support to the victims.

The dead line is long due, but the people insist F-FDTL to stay, what do you think?

This would be a decision to be determined in consultation with UNMISET and our government. F-FDTL would not give up any responsibility. In principle, we strongly reject the presence of armed groups patrolling and terrorising the people. The people feel insecure. We assist the majority of the people, defending the interest of the society. That is the main responsibility of F-FDTL.

So there is a danger when F-FDTL troops are withdrawn?

Investigations are not carried out by F-FDTL alone. The police have conducted investigations. FDTL does not have the intention to carry out investigations. However, we have to gather data and exercise control at the grass roots level. And the culprits did have relations with the militias. If we scrutinise documents from the Suai district coordinator sent here to describe the situation in Fohorem, the documents indicate that they have relations with militia groups. They are organised to terrorise the people, steal livestock, and forcing the people to obey them against their will. That is a sign indicating their links to militia groups.

In the case of Atsabe, do you suspect any involvement of certain leaders in the case?

In my opinion, we cannot hide from reality. If we do not know today, we will find out tomorrow. If tomorrow nothing is proven, we have the next day. Gradually we would be able to identify the person(s) behind the incident. And secrets would be revealed. The secret kept 20 years ago, is popularly known today. Two or three years in the future, we would find out secrets hidden today. The government, the police, FDTL have coordinated efforts to find out who is behind this, since this is closely related to the issue of national security.

East Timor's condition at the moment has not been good with the presence of militia infiltration into the country. Will F-FDTL stay with the people to guard them against dangers?

In my opinion, when we take a look at our 24 years of struggle, there have been close ties between the people and Falintil. Now after East Timor gains independence, naturally the ties have to be even closer. Experiences in Bazartete show that the people are aware of the importance of national security. We can say that popular security is more successful than PKF and FDTL. In general the people have amazing survival skills, defending their own rights to live, to live in peace. Security is a public right, not only the criminals but also other people.

Would you clarify what you mean by that?

Security does not exist when the General is sleeping peacefully at home, while the people in the Suco are feeling unsafe. Or when the UN representative is resting comfortably at his house while people living in remote areas are unable to work at their farms. Security should not only be limited at the cities. Ideal security should reach the people in remote areas. Not only security created by PKF and international staff. When we see an incident in Dili, all parties convene in a location, plan an evacuation program to repatriate to their home countries, how could we call that security? When the people are displaced from their homes, their children have to sleep at the farms, getting mosquito bites, don't you think that violates human rights? If the activists have the courage and sound reasoning, come to us and we will conduct dialogues with the local people. This should be done for them to be aware that driving luxurious cars in town, formulating proposals, receiving salaries, then talk about human rights is not enough

52nd edition, 5-15 January 2003 TALITAKUM 17


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