Subject: JP: Progress 'very slow' in truth and friendship body

Jakarta Post


Progress 'very slow' in truth and friendship body

By January, Indonesia and Timor Leste should have a shared acknowledgement of the violence-filled year of 1999. During the recent public hearings of the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) in Dili, The Jakarta Post's Ati Nurbaiti talked to Lt. Gen. (ret) Agus Widjojo, the only commission member with a background in the Indonesian Military. The following are excerpts of the interview with the former chief of territorial affairs.

Question: What's your sense of the process so far?

Answer: The commission is a political process, not a legal one. At first the challenge was in the interpretation of our terms of reference. There were legal terms like amnesty, rehabilitation, while we're not a legal process.

Second, the challenge was to convey to the public that it is political, while most people expect legal results.

Third, how to get a concrete operational agreement. We needed time to convince ourselves and each other that the CTF is a hybrid commission originating from a review of four legal documents, working to reach a non-judicial document.

This is a first-ever inter-country commission not related to a legal process.

What's your personal feeling?

Progress has been very slow; commissioners have had to come to a common understanding despite various backgrounds, especially those from Timor Leste who have a strong emotional attachment (to 1999) given their experience.

Are uncooperative witnesses an additional problem?

Not really. It's how we can manage all the analysis to reach the truth of what happened and why; whether there were gross crimes against humanity; findings on institutional reform (and) the lessons learned to prevent similar incidents as a basis for friendship.

This sounds hard to understand for victims.

We must struggle even with one another and with ourselves to obtain an analysis designed to differ from a judicial one.

When we listen to testimony and study documents, many of us still slip into merely finding who was guilty.

How to prove gross violations, or crimes against humanity; which institution should be responsible for all the violence in 1999 and what are the lessons learned; not all these aspects would be revealed in a judicial process.

We're doing a study, like an academic study, to reconstruct what happened in 1999.

How can it be an academic study when there is the political intention of friendship between the two countries?

We cannot satisfy all parties. There are two misled expectations. One is that the commission is expected to come up with a recommendation of prosecution.

Second, that it can directly handle the healing of old wounds by directly confronting victims and perpetrators.

Third, the CTF is expected to handle victims' compensation. All this is beyond our mandate.

Who will take care of the victims?

Because the commission is bilateral, attention to victims would be materialized through the policies of both countries. We seek to restore the dignity of victims to return to society -- and this also applies to those who are considered perpetrators.

What were your feelings or thoughts of the many accounts involving the TNI?

There were first, baseless accusations. Second, perhaps the accounts were fairly logical and reliable, but there would be a context.

In 1999 Indonesia was in the initial phase of transition, the police were still part of the armed forces (ABRI, now TNI); but the police were the party put in charge of security in East Timor.

Second (ahead of the referendum), ABRI had to quickly change its mindset and mentality; from treating the (independence movement) as a movement disrupting security in the integrated republic to a component to be treated equally in the referendum.

Third, ABRI still upheld the doctrine of "dual function", dwifungsi, which pushed it to the forefront of all national issues. It was used to handle East Timor in its social and political role.

So it could be understood if all this led to excesses.

If such excesses were not limited to one or two cases, wouldn't the violence be better explained by, say, loss of command control over security personnel, or impunity?

If there were cases involving security personnel, every case would have its context; (among others) whether it occurred when East Timor was part of the republic; when the two options (for autonomy or separation) was announced; or at the time of the referendum, and when the results of the vote were announced.

(Also,) the pro-independence and pro-autonomy groups had engaged in armed conflict, after which they both had to adjust in a relatively short time as participants of the vote. ...

The violence during the referendum was undeniably a period of uncertainty as to who was the law enforcer ... There was virtually a vacuum of authority caused by a drastic, unplanned transfer of power which spun out of control.

So both parties engaged in violence based on their own rationale, without the ability to seek a peaceful way out ....

Impunity doesn't exist in isolation, but is a result of a political policy ....

What if the facts show that what happened was largely on the orders of the state or a state body?

State responsibility would follow the hierarchy of authority; we'll see if the TNI can decide for itself what it can do. Maybe the decision of the political authority was right but differed in its implementation, or was it the political decision itself which contained flaws.

Isn't this just repeating statements that it was president B.J. Habibie's fault for announcing those two options for East Timor?

It's not our goal to say who's wrong and not. What we're looking for is where the institutional responsibility lies, a responsibility which is moral and/or political.

Friendship between the two countries cannot be burdened too much by the perception of wrong or not wrong. But it should be placed within the moral and political responsibility, to agree to seek a closure on past mistakes and build friendship based on reconciliation.


Back to October menu
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu