Subject: JP: Habibie testifies about post-vote violence in East Timor

Also - Indonesia's Habibie blames U.N. for Timor violence

Jakarta Post

March 27, 2007

Habibie testifies about post-vote violence in East Timor

JAKARTA (JP): Former President B.J. Habibie Tuesday gave testimonies about a violence in East Timor after majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999.

Chairman of the Commission on Truth and Friendship (KKP) Benjamin Mangkoedilaga said that Habibie answered all five questions during the questioning by commission's members in Habibie Center building.

"Mr. Habibie is cooperative. He answered all questions without trying to cover certain things," said Benjamin as reported by Elshinta news radio after the questioning.

He, however, refused to come into detail, saying that he would gave press conference about the questioning later.

The commission was established by both Indonesia and East Timor to hear testimonies from a number of figures like former foreign minister Ali Alatas and East Timorese Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

East Timor or Timor Leste voted overwhelmingly to end nearly a quarter century of Indonesian rule in a public referendum eight years ago that triggered a burst of killing, looting and burning.

Only one person has been punished for the violence that left more than 1,000 dead, and political leaders in both nations appear reluctant to press for more trials. The United Nations has said it would consider setting up an international tribunal if justice was not done. (**)


Indonesia's Habibie blames U.N. for Timor violence

By Telly Nathalia

JAKARTA, March 27 (Reuters) - The Indonesian president who allowed the East Timor referendum on independence said on Tuesday the mayhem that followed the vote could have been avoided had the United Nations not declared the result earlier than agreed.

B.J. Habibie, who has lived in Germany since his term ended in 1999, made the statement during a closed hearing in Jakarta held by a truth commission set up by Indonesia and East Timor in an attempt to uncover events surrounding the bloody August 1999, referendum. His comments were relayed by commission officials.

The vote showed East Timorese overwhelmingly wanted to end Indonesia's occupation of the tiny former Portuguese colony.

The United Nations estimates that about 1,000 East Timorese were killed in violence after the vote blamed largely on pro-Jakarta militias backed by elements of the Indonesian army.

Habibie did not speak to the media after the hearing but the commission held a news conference describing the testimony.

An Indonesian commissioner, Achmad Ali, said Habibie had blamed the United Nations, which organised the vote, for stirring up the situation by declaring the results on Sept. 4, 1999, three days ahead of schedule.

"He said that if the scale of violence that had occurred was 100, it actually could be minimised to 10 if Kofi Annan did not break his promise. The agreement with Kofi Annan actually was that before Sept. 7 there would be martial law," he said.

Annan was U.N. Secretary General at that time.

Asked about how Habibie felt when his policy to allow a referendum ended with violence, Ali said: "He regretted it. He said he cried and wondered how it could happen like that."

Commission co-chairman Benjamin Mangkoedilaga said Habibie had denied that Jakarta had a scorched-earth contingency plan for East Timor if it voted to leave.

On Monday, the opening day of the commission's second series of hearings, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Carlos Belo -- Catholic bishop of Dili from 1996 to 2002 -- said Indonesian soldiers had taken part in violence against church and clergy across East Timor before and after the freedom vote.

The current hearings running until Friday are also to hear testimony from victims, from three Indonesian generals connected with operations in East Timor in 1999, and from the only Indonesian incarcerated for his involvement in the violence -- militia leader Eurico Guterres.

Seventeen other men indicted by Jakarta prosecutors over the 1999 chaos received acquittals at various court stages. All were Indonesian soldiers, police or government officials.

Critics say the commission is toothless because it lacks the power to punish those responsible for abuses.

Mainly Catholic East Timor became fully independent in May 2002 after a U.N. transitional administration that followed 24 years of often repressive Indonesian occupation.

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