Subject: AU: Xanana, SBY let shame file slide

Weekend Australian

Xanana, SBY let shame file slide

Sian Powell, Tampak Siring, Bali

February 18, 2006

THE presidents of East Timor and Indonesia agreed yesterday to publicly ignore the conclusions of a damning UN-sanctioned report that found Jakarta committed war crimes during its 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony.

East Timor's Xanana Gusmao and Indonesia's Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would not discuss the findings of the report, which recommended that Indonesia and Australia, among other countries, pay reparations to the fledgling nation.

Mr Gusmao refused to comment on the 2500-page report, and Dr Yudhoyono said the two nations had instead decided to focus on their Truth and Friendship Commission, a body that has frequently been criticised as merely cosmetic.

Indonesia postponed a meeting with East Timor following widespread publicity over the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation report, which found up to 180,000 East Timorese died as a direct result of the Indonesian occupation.

Mr Gusmao, the former guerilla leader, was interviewed for the report, and a letter he wrote to the UN in 1982 is quoted in which he accuses the Indonesian military of atrocities.

Dr Yudhoyono is also in the report, listed as the commander of an army battalion stationed in Dili in the 1980s.

The report found the Indonesian military had used rape and starvation as weapons of war, and that leaders in the highest ranks of the military were guilty of condoning atrocities.

Mr Gusmao presented the report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month, but he has publicly opposed its findings, considering cordial relations with Indonesia more important than a potentially impotent quest for justice.

The two leaders' meeting at the state palace in the Balinese city of Tampak Siring yesterday was their first since the UN report's release.

Dr Yudhoyono would not confirm whether or not he had read the report.

"I fully understand how the handover of the document was done by President Xanana Gusmao to the United Nations," Dr Yudhoyono said.

"Again, reading the speech of President Xanana Gusmao before the UN Security Council, I fully understand also that our commitment in continuing the process in having a Truth and Friendship Commission and finding solutions to our past is still our choice."

East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta criticised the report's recommendations as "outlandish; with no connection to reality". He criticised as unrealistic the recommendation that Indonesia, the US, Britain and Australia - because it assisted Indonesia's military during the occupation - and other nations pay reparations.

"How in reality could a leader from East Timor, a foreign minister for example, go to Australia and ask for compensation?" he asked. Without Australia's help in 1999, he said, "East Timor would not be free today".

Based on interviews with almost 8000 witnesses from East Timor's 13 districts and 65 sub-districts, as well as on statements from refugees over the border in West Timor, the report also relies on Indonesian military papers, and intelligence from international sources.

It documents a litany of massacres, thousands of summary executions of civilians, and the torture of 8500 East Timorese.

The report notes that Western-supplied aircraft, including US-supplied planes, were used against East Timorese civilians, and concludes that the Indonesian military probably killed five journalists, including two Australians, at the East Timorese town of Balibo in 1975.

The military violence in East Timor culminated in the 1999 reprisals for the independence vote, when the Indonesian military and its militia proxies rampaged through East Timor, killing as many as 1500 East Timorese and destroying most towns.

Indonesia has yet to punish those responsible for the violence in East Timor, and of 18 defendants tried by an ad hoc tribunal in Jakarta, only one has not since been exonerated - and he is free pending an appeal.

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