Progress 'very slow' in truth and
Progress 'very slow' in truth and
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
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
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
This is a first-ever inter-country commission not related to a legal
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
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
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
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
(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
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.
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