Subject: JP: Ramos Horta Discusses '99 Atrocities

also: JP: SBY still seeking political support for Indonesia truth body; Human Rights a Nonissue to Elite

The Jakarta Post Friday, February 24, 2006

Hope lives on to get to the bottom of 1999 mayhem

The relationship between Indonesia and Timor Leste has again been put to the test with recent border incidents and the submission to the UN Secretary-General of a report on atrocities during Jakarta's rule. Timor Leste Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta discussed efforts to improve ties between the two neighbors with The Jakarta Post's Tiarma Siboro, who is visiting Dili.

Question: What is your opinion about the border incidents recently and how did Timor Leste handle those cases to prevent them from recurring?

Answer: The two governments, in a mature fashion, and in the spirit of friendship and based on our very positive and solid relationship, handled this incident effectively as we had handled other incidents in the past with the equal serenity and based on our good relations. For instance, last year, in the month of September, there were several cross-border incidents in Oecussi where hundreds of villagers from western Timor entered East Timor, burned crops and houses, attacked our police and destroyed our police posts. We discussed it with Indonesian authorities and the situation has calmed down. The dispute in Oecussi had to do with some misinformation about the border demarcation process. So, in the case of the shooting incident on Jan. 6, we deeply regret the death of three former East Timorese militiamen. Again, we handled it effectively and we will always preserve the trust and goodwill between the two governments.

We have to work with the Indonesian side. Indonesia has to more effectively prevent armed elements, like former militiamen, from entering East Timor, and from our side, our police need to have a better information exchange and coordination with the Indonesian police. Working with the Indonesian side, we can prevent cross-border violence or robberies. Ties between the two neighbors look to depend on settlement of human rights violations against East Timorese during Jakarta's rule.

What do you think about the way leaders of both nations deal with the past, particularly through the joint truth and friendship commission?

I am very pleased with the state of our relations and I am very impressed with the pragmatism shown by the Indonesian side since the time of Gus Dur (President Abdurrahman Wahid) and during the administration of (president) Megawati. Now the relations have been enhanced due to the leadership of our two current presidents, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Xanana Gusmao. I am also happy with the establishment of the commission of truth and friendship, because we believe that this is the best mechanism to address the issues in the past, particularly the 1999 violence, which left many thousands of people displaced, many others killed and between 70 and 80 percent of the towns destroyed. Someone has to take responsibility. Under the 1999 agreement signed with the UN, Indonesia was in charge of security, but then law and order broke down.

Well, I hope the truth and friendship commission will help establish the truth, answering this question: who is responsible? Therefore the victims will know who is responsible, but more importantly, those responsible will apologize to the victims in the interest of the two countries.

Will the commission's decisions affect the ongoing legal process in Dili against several Indonesian senior military officers?

Well, we have to wait and see about the result of the work of the truth and friendship commission. If the process is transparent and credible, then I am sure it will be accepted by the people here, the people of Indonesia and the international community. And then, yes we can really put the past behind us. So, before they conclude their work, I cannot say whether it will have an impact or not into the ongoing trials in East Timor.

Do you believe that decisions of the truth and friendship commission will give rise to border problems?

We have been doing a lot since 1999 to promote national unity and reconciliation. Many thousands of former supporters of autonomy with Indonesia are now in East Timor. Many are serving in positions in the government. Many are in the Parliament, and in our civil administration. Maybe more than 50 percent of former police, who had served with the Indonesians are on our national police force. This is part of our national reconciliation. We have been working for it very successfully since 1999. There are even many former militiamen - hundreds of them - who were less responsible for the 1999 violence, who have returned to our land, and only the hard-liners are still in (Indonesian west Timor), or elsewhere in Indonesia. But most of them (the militiamen) have returned and nothing happened to them. Not one single case of revenge since 1999. And we must remember that there are almost 300,000 people who left East Timor to West Timor, many were forced to go, now there are less than 20,000 people left in west Timor and half of them are children who were born after 1999. So, when we are talking about former militiamen, there are not that many left in west Timor.

How has the Timor Leste government reacted to the submission of the report to the UN about the atrocities that occurred during Indonesia's rule?

The handing over of the Timor Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) to the Secretary-General of the UN was an obligation imposed by our law to our President. But no action is expected from the Secretary-General of the UN to follow up on the CAVR report. The commissioners who produced the report made some recommendations, some of which are acceptable to the East Timorese government, but others are not, like the recommendation for compensation, demanded from Indonesia, Australia and the United States. Well, our government rejected that part because we do not think it is realistic or fair. But the report is very important, not so much in its conclusions that almost 200,000 people died. The important thing is not the data, because the number could be more or less, but the fact that we learn from the past. We, East Timorese and our Indonesian brothers, need to work together to build a far more peaceful and better society for Indonesia and East Timor. This should be a pedagogical process and exercise for us to look into the past. Yes, we are reminded about the horror of the past as a warning and a lesson, so that the two sides can work together to prevent violence in the future.


The Jakarta Post Friday, February 24, 2006

SBY still seeking political support for truth body

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government continues to drag its feet on setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR), despite a law ordering its immediate establishment.

When questioned about the body, State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra said Thursday President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wondered whether there was sufficient "public support" to establish the commission, which was supposed to have been up and running by April last year.

Under the law, the commission will be tasked with probing past human rights abuses that took place from 1945-2000. Many high level government officials and security chiefs from the New Order era are implicated in these abuses.

The KKR will also seek to draw up a truth-telling mechanism to deal with the perpetrators and compensate the victims of past human rights cases.

Yudhoyono met the KKR selection team on Thursday, more than six months after it screened and submitted 42 candidates to the President. Yudhoyono is supposed to pick 21 names for the commission, a list which will then be sent to the House of Representatives for approval.

However, Yusril said the President still planned to meet the selection team and senior officials one more time to canvas their political support for the commission. The government was also preparing auxiliary regulations to implement the much-debated law, he said.

"The President will try to meet and consult with heads of state institutions, such as the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court on the working mechanism. (He) needs (more) political backing," Yusril said.

He reiterated the President's commitment to establishing the commission.

"We are aware that the process is overdue ... (but) we are considering the social and political situation. Please understand this," he said.

Human rights observers have criticized the government for delaying the establishment of the commission. They particularly took issue with Kalla's comments on the affair last week.

Comparing the situation at home to that in South Africa, Kalla said there was no need for Indonesia to have such a commission because there were no longer any alleged human rights abuses that needed to be resolved.

Kalla also heads the Golkar Party, the home to many former Soeharto loyalists.

Also on Thursday, Yusril announced the President had selected three police experts and three public figures to join a commission tasked with supervising the police.

Yusril declined to name the six, pending the issuance of their appointment letters.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adisutjipto, Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin and Home Minister M. Ma'ruf will also sit on the Police Commission.


The Jakarta Post Friday, February 24, 2006


Human Rights a Nonissue to Elite

Tony Hotland, Jakarta

Doing the necessary work to address human rights issues has never held much appeal for any administration in Indonesia.

During the many decades that Sukarno and his successor Soeharto were in power, rights abuses of all types occurred.

Subsequent presidents -- B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri -- had little time for such issues.

Indeed, human rights were never discussed when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Megawati were campaigning for the presidency in 2004.

On the legislative side, it does not take a genius to determine the House of Representatives has never lived up to its billing as the representatives of the people, especially regarding rights issues.

While the future protection of human rights in the country remains an uncertainty, settling past atrocities seems to be even less likely.

Already frustrated by a lack of action over the 1998 Trisakti and Semanggi student shootings, families of the victims were dealt another blow last Thursday when the House decided to do nothing about a recommendation issued by lawmakers from the previous term.

Legally flawed, the recommendation says there were no elements of gross human rights violations in the shootings, although an investigation by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) found otherwise. The commission implicated the military in the shootings.

Unlike the commission, the House does not have the authority to make such a determination, and now this recommendation poses a hurdle to the Attorney General's Office as it tries to follow up on the case.

House Commission III overseeing human rights issues promised last June to have the recommendation revoked, providing a glimmer of hope for the families of the victims.

But months passed with no news until Thursday's decision, which was reached in a leadership forum.

House Deputy Speaker Zaenal Maarif quoted fellow Deputy Speaker Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno, who is said to be the person most familiar with the issue, as saying that revoking the recommendation would be unethical.

Speaker Agung Laksono says there is no precedent for revoking earlier House recommendations.

It can be dangerous to make assumptions, but let's try these:

Fact No. 1: Soetardjo is a top figure in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which has close ties with the military, at least when it was the ruling party under Megawati's administration.

Fact No. 2: Agung is the vice chairman of the Golkar Party, an inseparable ally of the military during Soeharto's reign.

"Funny, even the Constitution and laws can be revised and revoked," said National Awakening Party legislator Nursjahbani Katjasungkana, who dealt with human rights cases before moving into politics.

"The idea that a decision by a commission can be overruled by four people is ridiculous. The leadership forum is only a substitute for a House consultative meeting, which deals only with scheduling issues."

Another avenue for probing past human rights cases, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR), is still a long way from being formed, almost a year since the April 2005 "deadline" for its creation passed.

The KKR eventually will investigate alleged human rights abuses that occurred between 1945 and 2000, with its main tasks being to seek the truth behind alleged abuses, facilitate a reconciliation between perpetrators and victims, and provide compensation and amnesty for both parties.

Stuck with the President is a list of 42 names to be screened for possible inclusion on the commission, as he is too busy to arrange a meeting with the screening team.

Yet, the President has time to travel the world. He even plans to visit Myanmar to preach democracy in another country accused of gross human rights abuses, as well as to South Korea to help reconcile the two Koreas.

He can spare time to play golf with colleagues and even has time to meet with a group of librarians to discuss a private library at his residence.

It is again shaky to make assumptions, but who's to blame?

Fact No. 1: The President, infamous for his indecisiveness, is a retired military general.

Fact No. 2: Vice President and Golkar leader Jusuf Kalla has openly expressed his objection to the KKR, calling it unnecessary.

Still waiting for justice are hundreds of families and victims of the 1984 Tanjung Priok massacre, the 1989 Lampung incident, the 1997 forced disappearances of government critics, the May 1998 riots and others.

This makes one wonder if the President's show of interest in the Commission of Truth and Friendship jointly formed with Timor Leste was only a result of international pressure.

Yet the House remains more interested in toying with political issues rather than questioning the President's commitment to the national truth commission that has eluded the country.

Usman Hamid of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence said no one had the courage to hold people accountable for past abuses.

Ifdhal Kasim of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy agreed.

"Reform isn't only about clean governance. It's also about respecting the right to speak up, as well as coming clean about the past," said Ifdhal.

With all the human rights cases so far heard in court having ended with the acquittal of the accused perpetrators, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission looks to be the last chance for victims and families of atrocities to seek justice.

The writer is a journalist at The Jakarta Post.

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