Subject: Gusmao, Yudhoyono meet in Bali

Also - Reuters: Indonesia says East Timor will not sacrifice friendship

Friday February 17, 2006

East Timor, Indonesia agree to look forward despite bloody history

BALI, Indonesia (AP): Indonesia's president embraced his East Timorese counterpart Friday, and said a report detailing atrocities committed by Indonesia during its occupation of the tiny nation would not affect ties.

East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao did not address the report, which was submitted to the United Nations last month, but said he was looking forward to "living in peace'' with his giant neighbor.

The report says at least 102,000 East Timorese were killed, abducted, starved or died of illnesses under Indonesia's occupation from 1975-1999. It also describes sexual violence, and the use of napalm and torture by Indonesian forces, among other abuses.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the report, which was prepared by local and international experts working for East Timor's truth and reconciliation committee, was "an internal matter between the United Nations and East Timor.''

"In the future, it will become a piece of history in the relationship between the two countries,'' he said after talks with Gusmao on the resort island of Bali.

The report's findings were in line with other published accounts of the decades-long occupation, but it put a fresh spotlight on Indonesia's history there, triggering anger in Jakarta, which accused East Timor of trying to "open old wounds.''

East Timor's leaders have repeatedly said that building good ties with Indonesia was more important than supporting efforts to prosecute military officers implicated in the violence.

But East Timorese and international rights groups are still calling for justice.

"Indonesia bears primary responsibility for the illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor,'' said John M. Miller, from the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network. "Instead of seeking to bury the past, Indonesia should ensure that those responsible for crimes against humanity are brought to justice.''

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and ruled the former Portuguese colony until 1999, when a U.N.-organized plebiscite resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence.

A final orgy of violence by retreating Indonesian troops left more than 1,500 dead. No Indonesian official has been punished for crimes committed during the occupation.

In response to international pressure, Indonesia and East Timor established a joint Truth and Friendship Commission in August last year to probe the 1999 bloodshed. The body cannot recommend prosecution for officers implicated in the violence Yudhoyono said the commission's mandate would be extended by a year from its original deadline of August 2006.



Friday February 17, 8:04 PM

Indonesia says East Timor will not sacrifice friendship

TAMPAK SIRING, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Friday East Timor will not sacrifice its relations with his country despite controversy over a report on atrocities during Jakarta's occupation.

Yudhoyono made the comments after meeting East Timor President Xanana Gusmao for the first time since the former guerrilla leader submitted a report detailing alleged widespread atrocities to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month.

"Problems must be resolved in a fair manner for truth and reconciliation. But we must not sacrifice the need and hope of the two countries to establish better relations in the future," Yudhoyono told a news conference on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The report by East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, based on 8,000 interviews, said Indonesia was responsible for as many as 180,000 deaths in tiny East Timor during its 1975-1999 occupation by Indonesia.

It said Indonesian forces used napalm, which Jakarta denies, and describes poisoning of food and water, incidents of torture, and sexual mutilation and rape of pro-independence supporters.

Gusmao had few comments after the meeting, saying he had expressed his views at the U.N. headquarters last month.

After submitting the report, Gusmao had said East Timor was not seeking punitive action against Indonesia, and expressed his opposition to the report's call to do so.

Yudhoyono said the two countries were committed to resolve their past issues through a joint truth commission set up to probe bloodshed surrounding East Timor's independence vote in 1999.

Critics have called that commission toothless and want legal action that would lead to punishment for rights violators.

On Friday, Yudhoyono said the joint commission would study all available reports in carrying out its duties to come up with a fair and good resolution.

Indonesia withdrew from East Timor -- one of the world's poorest countries but with energy resources that have only begun to be tapped -- in 1999 after a referendum showed an overwhelming majority of Timorese wanted independence.

The period around the referendum was marked by a wave of violence blamed largely on pro-Jakarta militias backed by Indonesian military elements.

Since then, the Indonesian and East Timorese governments have generally pursued policies of friendship and reconciliation, playing down pre-independence violence and Indonesia's lack of action against those accused of atrocities.

That attitude has drawn fire from international human rights groups, as well as criticism from rights advocates in both countries.

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