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Monday, April 11, 2005

All praise Yudhoyono

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) visited East Timor, "during which he laid a wreath at the Santa Cruz cemetery where Indonesian troops massacred civilians in 1991." The paper said that Yudhoyono pledged to respect East Timor's independence.

Max Lane is convenor of the Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference (APISC). He released the following press release over the weekend which paints a less rosy picture of the President's visit. It should be remebered that after Yudhoyono's recent visit to Australia, our political and media establishment have fallen in love once more with our northern neighbour's leadership. The Australian's Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan calls the President "ordinary and extraordinary." Then again, Sheridan was once fond of dining with the military leaders behind the invasion of East Timor.

"Around 200 East Timorese protesters were attacked this morning (April 9) by East Timorese police, including special branch paramilitary forces. The protesters had gathered at the Santa Cruz cemetery, the site of the 1991 demonstration and massacre by Suharto’s military, to commemorate the massacre but also to protest the decision by the government of Xanana Gusmao and Mari Alkatiri to invite President Yudhoyono to visit East Timor. Yudhoyono was scheduled to visit Santa Cruz cemetery.

The police stated that the demonstrators had no permit for a demonstration at the cemetery, although a law requiring such permits had not yet been passed by parliament. After seizing banners and using force to disperse the demonstration, the demonstrators relocated to the offices of the Socialist Party of Timor. They are now sealed off inside the offices of the PST which have been surrounded by police and vehicles from the Rapid Response Unit. The Secretary-General of the PST, Avelino de Silva, told APISC that he had tried three times now to enter his office but had been stopped.

Meanwhile inside the offices, students and youth from activist NGOs and from the Socialist Youth Organsation are putting up a banner outside the office which reads: “No Impunity – Justice for the Victims”.

Now inside the PST office, Tomas Freitas, from the Lao Hamatuk organization, told APISC contacts in Darwin that the demonstration was protesting against the East Timorese government’s policy of “reconciliation” with the Indonesian government, because it involved dropping the demand for an international tribunal to judge human rights violators during the period of the Indonesian occupation.

“Democracy is dead in East Timor,” Avelino told APISC Covenor, Max Lane, by phone. “In Jakarta you can demonstrate against SBY, but they have made him a god here. They have allowed no banners anywhere protesting SBY’s visit but have forced people to put up welcome banners everywhere. When people gathered outside our office just a while ago, they too were dispersed by force.”


Blogger Binnsy said...

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - kinda rolls off the tongue. Indonesia has a way of making presidents sound funny. Remember Prez Habibe? Hehe....

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 1:29:00 pm  
Blogger mobias said...

I just heard about this from my friend C___ who was at the protest.

A few days before SBY arrived Xanana threatened to resign if any protest took place. As C___ said "this is not about reconciliation, this is about arse-licking" (a rough translation).

I, and most of my friends in Timor, respect the need for good relations between Timor and Indonesia. But there is a big difference between necessary diplomacy and burying the truth.

As Xanana should know, Indonesia is not its government. The unchecked power of the military causes suffering for ordinary Indonesians. Giving impunity to generals who were responsible for grave human rights abuses only adds to the military's ability to act as a force unto itself.

Xanana bravely put his life on the line for over 25 years, and it is understandable if he now wants to tread carefully to avoid conflict & protect Timor's economic interests.

But I don't think anyone in Timor, including the protestors, is asking him for bravery - they're asking him for dignity.

Last year Xanana embraced war criminal and presidential candidate Wiranto in a photo-opportunity in the lead-up to national elections. He made no explanation of this to the Timorese people.

One week later, my friend S___'s brother died from the long-term complications of an injury he acquired during a beating by an Indonesian soldier.

For S____, and for a lot of people who lost friends and family during Indonesia's occupation of Timor, the demand for 'justice' is not about revenge, but about truth and accountability.

What is stopping the leaders of Timor and Indonesia from standing together and saying - this happened, it was wrong, and to make sure it never happens again we're going to find out the truth and hold those responsible accountable?

Maybe it’s realpolitik. Or maybe it's a failure of imagination.

NB - a bit of background to this - in Timor the army is under the control of President Xanana, and the police are under the control of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. Mari has been lukewarm on Xanana's extreme take on reconciliation until now. E.g. as far as I'm aware he has not yet come out in support of the 'truth and friendship commission', which is a PR stunt cooked up by Xanana, foreign Minister Horta, and SBY, with no real power to hold perpetrators accountable. However, the actions of the police in this incident make me wonder if he's changed his mind.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 4:36:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Thanks for those insights, Mobias. In our media, Indonesia is fun and friendly again, East Timor is a happy place, and West Papua and Aceh can and should be ignored, again. Do we not remember history?
Pressure should be placed over and over again for past crimes to be tried in an open court, or some kind of truth and reconcilation a la South Africa, though that had many flaws.
A recent report on SBS Dateline detailed the killing of a major human rights activist in Indonesia, quite possibly with the assistance of the govt and certainly Garuda Airlines. Jesus, I reckon that's a big story, and yet it's received virtually no coverage here.
Vigilence is the only way, as ever...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 5:13:00 pm  
Blogger mobias said...

Pressure should be placed over and over again for past crimes to be tried in an open court, or some kind of truth and reconcilation a la South Africa, though that had many flaws.

There already has been one - the commission for truth & reconciliation (CAVR), which mostly dealt with non-serious crimes by Timorese militia members. There is also the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU), which issued a number of indictments of suspected war criminals, both Timorese and Indonesian. Indonesia of course refuses to hand over any of the suspects. The SCU actually indicted Wiranto last year - but the (East Timor) government immediately distanced themselves from it & said that they would not forward the warrant to Interpol.

There's a big group of people calling for a proper tribunal at the ICJ...but I'm not sure what chance there is of that happening now that both countries have agreed on the 'tribunal-lite' version.

I'll stop rambling on now - if anyone's interested in this issue then the Judicial System Monitoring Program has an excellent site with lots of up-to-date info.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005 12:32:00 pm  

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