Saturday, August 29, 2009

IPS: East Timor: Solidarity Activists Press for Justice

Inter Press Service

August 28, 2009

East Timor: Solidarity Activists Press for Justice

by Matt Crook

DILI (IPS) - After three years behind bars as a political prisoner in
Indonesia, British human rights campaigner Carmel Budiardjo saw
firsthand the viciousness of former President Suharto's military
dictatorship. Expelled from the country in 1971, Budiardjo knew there
would be suffering when the Indonesian military invaded East Timor in 1975.

In this capital for an international solidarity conference being held
Aug. 27-29, Budiardjo told IPS that justice must be served for crimes
committed during the Indonesian military?s savage 24-year occupation
that cost up to 200,000 East Timorese lives.

"Justice is really a question of accountability," said Budiardjo, who
founded TAPOL (which means political prisoner in Indonesian), or the
Indonesian Human Rights Campaign, in 1973 with a group of activists
in London to campaign for the release of political prisoners in Indonesia.

"When my organization began to campaign very hard about East Timor,
this became (our focus) along with the political prisoners, to alert
people about the situation," she added.

Budiardjo's late husband, an Indonesian, spent 12 years in prison
without trial. At 84, Budiardjo's hearing may have diminished over
time, but she is still as sharp as a tack.

"I was very acutely aware of the capacity of the military for
brutality," she said.

On Aug. 30, 1999, the people of East Timor voted almost 80 percent in
favour of independence, but rather than leaving quietly, the
Indonesian military left its mark by destroying much of the nation?s
infrastructure and killing about 1,400 people.

After a transitional period overseen by the United Nations (UN), East
Timor became independent on May 20, 2002.

Last year, East Timor relied on Indonesia for 42 percent of all its
imports. The close ties between the two nations have been getting in
the way of justice.

"If you want to make people accountable, they will certainly be
Indonesians, the Indonesian military, (but) there are some people in
the East Timorese government who don?t want to upset the
Indonesians," she said. "The grassroots people don?t agree with that."

"One of the important things is to make sure the Indonesian people
know what happened in East Timor. We from outside can make complaints
about the Indonesian government, but it?s much more important if the
Indonesian people, civil society in Indonesia, understand what
happened," she added.

American John M Miller, national coordinator of the East Timor and
Indonesia Action Network, a non-profit organisation promoting human
rights, also made the trip to Dili to join solidarity activists from
17 countries.

"In many ways, the campaign for justice has proven more difficult
than the campaign for self-determination and independence," he said.
"To succeed in that, we again need to have that partnership between
the people of East Timor and the international solidarity movement."

There has been little in the way of justice for the people of East
Timor. Most of those responsible for human rights violations during
the Indonesian military?s occupation have got off scot-free, despite
the UN?s Serious Crimes Unit indicting 391 people.

The unit investigated the crimes committed in the wake of violence
that marred East Timor?s 1999 independence vote.

Eighty-seven of those people were brought to trial in East Timor,
resulting in 84 convictions, although only one remains in prison
after President Jose Ramos-Horta used his presidential power to cut
many of the sentences and grant clemency.

National Union Party leader Fernanda Borges, whose push for an
international tribunal is opposed by Ramos-Horta, thinks enough is enough.

"These are international crimes that we should prosecute due to our
international obligations and our need to end impunity in this
country," she said in a recent speech.

Amnesty International has weighed in on the debate with a report
titled, "We Cry for Justice: Impunity Persists 10 Years on in
Timor-Leste," calling for the UN to set up an international tribunal.

According to the report, released Thursday, people in East Timor told
the human rights group that the government's favouring of
reconciliation over justice was "very difficult to comprehend and
demoralizing for victims".

The Indonesian government immediately hit back, saying it will not
prosecute alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses in East Timor,
the Jakarta Post English daily reported.

On Apr. 17, victims and families gathered at late independence leader
Manuel Carrascalao?s house, where 10 years earlier, an Indonesian
militia group murdered 12 people. Some 150 individuals had sought
refuge at the house after fleeing violence in East Timor's districts.

This year, those victims and families called for an international
tribunal, as well as for perpetrators of crimes against humanity to
be held accountable for what they did.

These concerns and more are the hot topics at this week?s solidarity

East Timorese solidarity activist Lita Sarmento said, "We see that it
is relevant to conduct this conference because 10 years after the
referendum, we recognize that there are issues we need to take
forward after independence as part of the unfinished struggle of the
solidarity movement of the past."

Speaking on the opening panel of the solidarity conference, Irishman
Tom Hyland, an East Timor activist, closed his speech by saying, "We
have a saying in Ireland: justice delayed is justice denied."

Conference reaffirms importance of solidarity with Timor-Leste

Klibur Solidaridade Timor-Leste/ Timor-Leste Solidarity Group

Xisto dos Santos +670-726-6564
Charles Scheiner +670-734-0965
Manuela Leong Pereira, +670-723-7267

29 August 2009 - On the 10th anniversary of Timor-Leste's historic vote for independence, activists from five continents came together to reaffirm their solidarity with the newly independent country. Meeting in Dili, more than 200 people from solidarity groups in 18 countries discussed the continuing need for justice and accountability. In addition to ending impunity for those who committed crimes against humanity and other human rights violations during Indonesia's illegal occupation, participants developed proposals to address current issues, including economic justice, gender justice and West Papua.

Participants in the three-day conference, "Strengthening Solidarity: The Struggle for Justice Continues," ranged in age from 15 to 85 years. They warmly welcomed long-time supporters of Timor such as Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL in England and James Dunn, a former Australian diplomat sent to Portuguese Timor 48 years ago. Many young Timorese enthusiastically participated, exchanging ideas with veteran activists from Timor-Leste and abroad.

Attendees both from inside and outside Timor had worked for self-determination for the occupied country. They campaigned together for a decade or more to end the quarter-century of Indonesian occupation and to enable the Timorese to determine their political destiny, which they voted for overwhelmingly on August 30, 1999. Both Timorese and international participants reaffirmed their support for Timor-Leste's development as a new nation based on economic, legal and social justice.

Three Timorese leaders who worked with solidarity activists in exile and later rose to high government positions addressed the conference. President José Ramos-Horta graciously opened the conference, telling stories of his long association with some of the long-time activists present. Mari Alkatiri, Secretary-General of FRETILIN and former Prime Minister, said that "if we don't continue to talk about justice, we shouldn't have thought we could rule ourselves." Agio Pereira, Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers, closed the conference.

Participants enthusiastically endorsed self-determination for West Papua and Western Sahara and ending military rule in Burma and human rights violations in Sri Lanka. They also clearly linked the struggle for justice for Timor-Leste with that for democracy and human rights in Indonesia. Participants felt strongly that others should benefit from the international solidarity extended to Timor-Leste over the decades.

Solidarity activists from Indonesia and Ireland, and two Timorese women, one who worked with the solidarity movement from inside the country and another from Australia, shared their experiences and analysis of their activist campaigns that led up to the referendum. People involved in unfinished human rights and self-determination struggles for Burma, Sri Lanka, Western Sahara and West Papua urged participants to extend their solidarity. Speakers on the second day detailed the consequences of impunity, as well as obstacles to and mechanisms for achieving justice for crimes committed during the brutal Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste.

Workshops then discussed future solidarity actions on several topics. The justice group reaffirmed the need to end the culture of impunity through the creation of an international tribunal and urged more coordination of international and local campaigns for justice. They called for greater dissemination of Chega!, the report of the Timor-Leste truth and reconciliation commission (CAVR). The group on economic justice called for people-centered development that benefits all Timorese citizens, as well as greater transparency and accountability from government. The gender justice workshop called for improving the judicial system to better support victims of conflicts over the years. The People-to-people/religious solidarity group encouraged religious denominations to get more involved in working for justice and accountability and to provide more information about human rights issues. The Solidarity with West Papua group strongly supported self-determination for the Indonesian-controlled territory.

The conference urged the government of Timor-Leste, the international community and the UN to take principled action against impunity, and demanded an international tribunal for Timor-Leste, saying there cannot be impunity for crimes from 1975-1999. The conference urged attention to the victims of sexual violence from the Japanese occupation as well (1942-1945).

The conference called on Timor-Leste's National Parliament to debate the CAVR and the joint Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF) recommendations. We urge the Timor-Leste government to implement the CAVR recommendations. Governments of other nations must also implement the CAVR recommendations that are addressed to them. The Timorese government and parliament must attend to the victims of the occupation and intra-Timorese violence, and the UN must establish the solidarity fund to support victims of the occupation. The conference urged cooperation in resolving the cases of stolen children, and investigation into the question of people disappeared. The problem of the East Timorese "refugees" in Indonesia must also not be forgotten; their living condition is growing from bad to worse.

Attendees plan to amplify the voices of the victims of war, violence and occupation and push responsible governments to improve the living conditions of victims. We need to improve data collection on victims (including victims of sexual violence); NGOs need to consolidate the data they have collected (on present and past victims), and use that data to end the cycle of violence.

The conference demanded an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the killings of Papuan political leaders and human rights activists, including Arnold Ap, Opinus Tabuni, Theys Eluay and his driver Aristoteles Masoka,. The participants urged a peaceful dialogue between the government of Indonesia and representatives of the people of Papua. They urged the government of Indonesia to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the implementation of "Special Autonomy" in West Papua and open its results to public. The conference urged international agencies and governments who support "Special Autonomy" to evaluate and review that support. They also demanded the release of all West Papuan political prisoners wherever they are, including those detained by Indonesian Regional Police of West Papua in Jayapura.

The conference condemned the recent attack by Morocco on Sarawi activists and human rights defenders in Tan Tan, Morocco. The participants extended their solidarity for the implementation of the peace agreement in Aceh, and for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Mindanao.

Participants came from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, the United States, West Papua and Zimbabwe.

Funding was provided by CAFOD, Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Australia, Caritas Aotearoa (New Zealand), Development and Peace, HIVOS, Progressio, and Trocaire.

The conference is part of a series of activities including an exhibition illustrating global solidarity activities over the years now open at Fundação Oriente, Dili, through 5 September. Visiting activists from overseas and Timorese students visited rural communities in Maubisse and Ermera to expand their understanding of people's daily lives and how they are cooperating for mutual benefit.

Klibur Solidaridade Timor-Leste/ Timor-Leste Solidarity Group
Sekretariadu: Oficina Asosiasaun HAK, Farol, Dili, Timor-Leste
Telp. +670-331-3323, email:,


ETAN looks forward to your support. Go to to donate. Thank you.

John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
PHONE IN DILI (until Sept 9: +670-746-7636)
Phone: (718)596-7668 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391
Email Skype: john.m.miller

Web site:

Send a blank e-mail message to to find out
how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet

Winners: John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender Award for 2009


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Interesting Reading

From Lao Hamutuk The tenth anniversary of the 1999 referendum that ended 24 years of brutal, illegal Indonesian military occupation of Timor-Leste is an opportunity to assess where the country is now, reflecting on the past and looking to the future. La'o Hamutuk has written several background papers which assess progress over the last decade, look at the current situation, and suggest what still needs to be done.

How much money have international donors spent on and in Timor-Leste?

Justice for Timor-Leste Remains an Unfulfilled International Obligation

Timor Sea Maritime Boundary: Still not settled!

Democracy in Timor-Leste: Information is required