Subject: Eurico ready to apologise
ABC News Online
Wednesday, March 28, 2007. 11:00pm (AEST)
E Timor militia leader ready to apologise
By Geoff Thompson
The jailed East Timorese militia commander, Eurico Guterres, says he is prepared to apologise for the violence of 1999, if East Timor guarantees it will accept his apology.
Guterres is currently serving a 10-year sentence for human rights abuses.
Supporters applauded often as Eurico Guterres spoke rapidly, passionately and continuously before another sitting of East Timor and Indonesia's Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF).
The CTF was warned by the former Aitarak militia commander to prepare for failure because he says human rights abuses in East Timor date back much further than 1999.
Eurico Guterres was embraced by the commission's chairman as he offered an open letter to Indonesia in which he apologised for tarnishing the nation's human rights image, suggesting sarcastically that perhaps he should have supported East Timor's secession and burned the Indonesian flag.
Jailed militiaman calls for closure on Timor chaos
By Telly Nathalia
JAKARTA, March 28 (Reuters) - The only Indonesian jailed for involvement in the violence surrounding East Timor's 1999 freedom vote, militia leader Eurico Guterres, said on Wednesday an investigation into the events would do more harm than good.
He was speaking during a public hearing by a truth commission set up by Indonesia and East Timor to examine what happened around the bloody August 1999 referendum.
The commission's second series of hearings began on Monday, with ex-Dili bishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Carlos Belo saying Indonesian soldiers had taken part in attacks on church property and clergymen before and after the vote.
In testimony on Tuesday, B.J. Habibie, who as Indonesia's president at the time gave the green light for an independence referendum in mainly Catholic East Timor, blamed the United Nations for helping to stir violence.
The U.N. estimates that about 1,000 East Timorese died during the post-vote mayhem, which was blamed largely on pro-Jakarta militias backed by elements of the Indonesian army.
Guterres, who led the notorious Aitarak militia gang that wreaked havoc in the East Timor capital Dili, told the commission it would fail, especially when it was looking at just one specific period.
"The commission will only prolong, sharpen and add to the pain, hatred and hostility among the East Timorese people," said Guterres, an East Timor native who chose Indonesian citizenship after the referendum and who was later convicted of leading gangs responsible for violence and death.
"I believe we no longer need to dig up the past misery suffered by the East Timorese people that has been buried by time. We will never find truth by blaming others and searching for the mistakes of others, especially when we limit ourselves to a certain period," said the bearded, long-haired Guterres.
He wore a red tie and white shirt, Indonesia's national colours, but despite that display of patriotism, he put some of the blame for the 1999 chaos on the Indonesian government.
Guterres said blame must also be shared by the United Nations and by Portugal, which ruled East Timor as a colony for centuries before abruptly pulling out in 1975 amid revolution at home.
Critics said Portugal had done little beforehand to build the territory's infrastructure and administration, leaving behind a power vacuum that invited trouble.
Indonesia annexed East Timor later that year and made it a province, maintaining a huge and sometimes harsh military presence and fighting rebels for more than two decades.
The United Nations, Indonesia and Portugal all bore responsibility for the violence, Guterres said, "because they did not ensure the referendum was conducted in a normal and conducive situation".
East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to split from Indonesian rule but some pro-Jakarta voters say the referendum was rigged by the U.N., despite the presence of numerous independent observers who concluded the ballot was largely fair.
East Timor became fully independent in May 2002 after a U.N. transitional administration.
Guterres began serving a 10-year sentence at a Jakarta jail in May 2006 following a lengthy judicial process.
Some of the 17 other defendants over the 1999 events received jail sentences at certain court stages, but all were eventually acquitted by the appellate court or Indonesia's Supreme Court.
Critics of the truth commission say it is toothless because it lacks the power to punish those found responsible for abuses.