Subject: JP: Silent protest won't happen again, says Timor commission member

May 09, 2007

Silent protest won't happen again, says Timor commission member

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The surprising silent protest by East Timorese members of the joint Indonesia-Timor Leste commission at its recent hearing is expected to be the first and the last because such action could hamper commission activities.

"How can we look for the truth if we cannot retain a certain level of friendship," East Timorese commission member Maria Olandina Alves told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The East Timorese members staged the protest Friday, the fourth day in a series of Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) public hearings.

During the afternoon of Friday's session, while hearing the testimony of former Suai police chief Sr. Comr. Gatot Subiyaktoro, all East Timorese commission members remained silent in a protest against commission co-chairman Benjamin Mangkoedilaga of Indonesia.

During an earlier session Friday, victim of pro-independence military violence Bertha dos Santos was forbidden by Benjamin from answering a question asked by Olandina.

However, Olandina said commission members from the two countries solved the problem during an internal meeting later that evening.

"We didn't plan the action at all -- it just happened naturally because we were shocked by co-chairman's actions," said Olandina.

"We hope this accident is first and the last, as it might impact our mission to find the truth," she said.

Olandina, a former East Timor provincial councilor from the Indonesian Democratic Party, dismissed allegations from the international community and activists that the commission would provide impunity for those responsible for human right violations around the 1999 United Nation-sponsored referendum.

"Such action would be unlikely," she said.

"Although the commission will recommended amnesty, it has a tight criteria for any such recommendation.

"We may consider a (cooperative admittance of crimes) from the perpetrators to prevent any easy amnesty arrangement."

If this occurs it will mean the perpetrators must admit their crimes and ask for apology, said Olandina.

"Coming to testify before the commission doesn't mean someone is being cooperative.

"We have not reached a conclusion yet, but the public will easily see who has acted in a cooperative manner during the commission," she said.

Olandina also said public testimony was just one of many methods used by the commission to reveal the truth.

Other methods include taking statements and thorough research, she said.

"We are now in the investigation phase, which will show whether a particular act or policy was right or wrong, according to human rights criteria," she said.

The next hearing will be in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara province and in Dili, East Timor. Final decisions on the time frame will be made at CTF's meeting in Bali from May 22-26.

The hearing in Kupang will have a number of former regents and police chiefs as well as referendum observers from the Carter Center and the Independent Committee for Direct Ballot Monitoring.

The commission in Dili will hear testimonies from President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Ramos Horta and East Timor military chief Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak. (02)

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