Subject: RA: Mixed Reaction to Joint Commission

also: FT: Jakarta and Dili move to heal wounds

Radio Australia December 23, 2004 -transcript-

EAST TIMOR: Mixed Reaction to Joint Commission

There have been mixed reactions this week to a proposal by Indonesia and East Timor to set up a joint commission to investigate the violence in East Timor four years ago. The plan was announced on Tuesday after talks between Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his East Timorese counterpart Xanana Gusmao in Bali. US officials have been discussing the proposed Commission on Truth and Friendship with the two countries' foreign ministers.

Presenter/Interviewer: Marion MacGregor

Speakers: Amado Hei, lawyer with East Timor's Human Rights Law and Justice Association; Nagalingam Parameswaram, Malaysia's High Commissioner to Singapore and former chief-of-staff at the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor.

MACGREGOR: In 1999 local gangs supported by Indonesian soldiers went on a rampage, killing about a thousand East Timorese. The violence was triggered by East Timor's vote to break free from Jakarta after 24 years of military rule. Four years later, few have been held to account for what took place.

A special human rights court established in Indonesia in 2000 to try those charged in connection with the violence has convicted six of the 18 people put on trial. Five of those convictions have since been overturned and an appeal on the sixth is still pending.

East Timor has set up a serious crimes unit to prosecute those responsible. It too has been seen as ineffectual, as three-quarters of those indicted are sheltered in Indonesia.

This week's decision by Indonesia and East Timor to set up a joint Commission to draw a line under the hostilities, is seen by many as historic.

Nagalingam Parameswaram is a former chief-of-staff at the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, UNTAET.

He says he's not surprised East Timor's leaders have agreed to the plan.

PARAMESWARAM: I see this as another mechanism that the Timorese are trying to work on, primarily number one to bring those who are involved to justice and number two I think to not jeopardise their existing relations with Indonesia. We should give every attempt that they're trying again.

MACGREGOR: After it was decided earlier this month to create the joint commission at talks between the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his East Timorese counterpart Xanana Gusmao, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries discussed the idea with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.

Mr Annan is currently considering a separate proposal to set up an international tribunal to try the perpetrators of the violence in East Timor.

Indonesia has consistently opposed the plan, and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda says the commission announced this week is meant as an alternative to the UN inquiry.

That's fuelled concerns, echoed by some US officials, that the joint panel could undermine the UN's efforts.

But Nagalingam Parameswaram disagrees.

PARAMESWARAM: I think within the leadership in East Timor, there has not been unanimity in view as to whether or not they should have this UN commission, like Rwanda or former Yugoslavia. So I think this is one of the other ways. We may have different views as to how good or how bad the process within Indonesia has been, but I think knowing the East Timorese to some extent they want to find peace with themselves number one, and they want to find peace with their neighbour. To me this is another mechanism, it's another effort. This is the desire of the country itself, so who are we to sit outside and say this is what they should do. I think now Timor is independent.

MACGREGOR: Nagalingam Parameswaram former UNTAET chief of staff, now Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore.

Amado Hei is a lawyer with East Timor's Human Rights Law and Justice Association, which is a member of the East Timor national alliance for an international tribunal.

He's concerned the joint commission on truth and Friendship won't succeed in delivering justice to the victims of the violence.

HEI: Behind this idea, we think that these two governments try to throw away the idea from the, was the verdict in the security consulate about the commission's expert to accelerate the process. We don't think this commission will give benefit or justice to the victims because really ?, because I think this is one of the strategies from this government to, I think they try to give impunity to the perpetrators. That's what we think.

MACGREGOR: Why would the East Timorese government want to give impunity to the perpetrators?

HEI: It's really hard in political matter if we relate it to the reality in East Timor. You know our country is a small country, poor country and we have many problems inside our country still not resolved like our border between Indonesia and economic dependance to the Indonesians. That's why they would put our ??? position in difficulties. That's why we ... to the international community, not just give this process alone to the East Timor people or East Timorese government. It's really difficult to us to go against the perpetrators even independence country. I think the thing you need to play with a fair political strategy, not put away the victims' demands for justice

MACGREGOR: Do you expect that the Indonesian side will in fact under the new leadership in Indonesia show more of a commitment to pursuing justice?

HEI: I think maybe still the same because you know many people as you know Indonesia involved in the past human rights violations. They're still in the good position in Indonesia and I don't believe even a new President can change, ... for the democratic everything, but I think still in the military, military decision.


Financial Times (UK) December 23, 2004

Jakarta and Dili move to heal wounds

By Shawn Donnan in Jakarta

Indonesia and East Timor announced this week they would establish a bilateral "truth and friendship commission" to heal wounds between the two countries left by the 1999 violence in which Jakarta's military and associated militias laid waste to East Timor.

While on the surface the move appears to be a step forward for tiny East Timor, population 800,000, and neighbouring Indonesia, population 220m, human rights groups have been quick to criticise it.

That is because, as even senior Indonesian officials admit, the plan aims to forestall the appointment by Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary-general, of a "commission of experts" to examine the widely criticised delivery of justice so far.

"We hope that the secretary-general will accept this as part of the closure of the events of September 1999," a high-level Indonesian official told the Financial Times. "We don't want this commission [of experts] to come here and go through all the evidence and interview witnesses. This would create an uproar."

Jakarta established a special court on East Timor which began hearing trials in 2002, but the work of that court has been labelled a sham by the international community.

Of the 18 military officers and civilians tried by the court, all but one have been exonerated. The conviction of the final suspect, a prominent militia leader, is being appealed.

Jakarta has also refused to co-operate with a parallel process in East Timor under which UN-backed prosecutors have indicted almost 400 people, including senior Indonesian military officers.

As a result, human rights activists say the delivery of justice for the victims of the 1999 violence has been left largely on hold.

Indonesia has "succeeded so far in avoiding any accountability", said Joaquim Fonseca, an East Timorese rights activist. "If the UN gives in to the idea of this 'truth and friendship commission', we can give up on seeing justice done."

A diplomat in Dili said if Jakarta was successful in forestalling the experts panel, it could cause damaging delays at a crucial time - the UN-backed prosecutorial team in East Timor is due to disband in May 2005.

East Timor's leadership is keen to smooth over differences with Jakarta, now a key trading partner. This has angered activists and frustrated diplomats and UN prosecutors who have seen political pressure in Dili lead to delays in issuing key arrest warrants.

However, the US, the UK, Portugal and the Netherlands are supporting the idea of a commission of experts and offered to help fund the UN review.

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