Indonesia-Timor commission promotes reconciliation

A joint Indonesia-East Timor "truth and friendship" commission has begun work to search for the truth about events in Timor leading up to the 1999 independence vote and to promote reconciliation, an Indonesian bishop and commission member says.

UCA News reports that the joint commission has held a public forum with former East Timor refugees to get information about violent incidents surrounding the 1999 United Nations-sponsored referendum in East Timor (now Timor Leste).

According to Archbishop Petrus Turang from West Timor, who is one of ten members of the Commission, which comprises five members from Indonesia and five from Timor Leste, the objective of the Commission of Truth and Friendship "is to search for and establish the truth about events prior to and immediately after the 1999 referendum in East Timor, to promote reconciliation and friendship, and to ensure similar events do not recur."

The commission, inaugurated in August 2005, is co-chaired by two members - one each from Indonesia and Timor Leste.

Timor Leste became independent on 20 May 2002, after more than two years of transitional rule by the UN. The former Portuguese colony was under Indonesian control from 1975 to 1979.

Following the 1999 referendum's overwhelming call for East Timor's independence, militias in favour of Indonesian rule went on a rampage, killing hundreds and destroying infrastructure and buildings. An estimated 250,000 people fled to Indonesia amid the violence, but the great majority have returned to Timor Leste.

Most of the 200 people attending the forum were former refugees from East Timor who have become Indonesian citizens. Other participants included local religious and civic leaders, and government officials.

At the forum, Archbishop Turang told the people that even though many have expressed pessimism about the commission's work, "we need to strive together toward truth and friendship." He asked the people to cooperate by providing the commission with relevant information.

Mateus Guterres, a former refugee, told UCA News he welcomes the public forum. "To be fruitful," he said, "the dialogue should involve all East Timorese religious and society leaders."

Elio Caetano, another former refugee, said to find out the truth, the commission has to inquire into not only the period immediately before and after the 1999 referendum but trace events farther back in the history of the country.

Following the meeting, the commission authorised people from nongovernmental organisations and communities of former refugees to collect information and testimony.

According to commission members, the commission will also hold further public forums in Denpasar, Dili, Jakarta and Kupang, and dialogue with high-ranking officials, including Indonesia's former president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie and Timor Leste's President Xanana Gusmao.

Commission seeks truth to ensure East Timor violence never reoccurs, Catholic archbishop says (UCA News, 7/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
ACTJET Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor
Mary MacKillop East Timor

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8 Feb 2007