Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Two perspectives on December 7, 1975 and its aftermath

Two perspectives on December 7, 1975 and its aftermath

Do not forget those who suffered on 7 December 1975 and beyond
From Timor-Leste's Asosiasaun Vitima Konfitu 74-99 (National Victims' Association)

7 December is a historic day for Timorese people. An unforgettable day for all, but a day least forgotten by the many people who are still suffering everyday from the bitter consequences of the Indonesian invasion of Timor Leste.

7 December 1975 was the starting point of human rights abuses and suffering for the Timorese people. Suffering that would last beyond the 24-year invasion. 36 years on from this tragic day, little has been done to help those who suffered the most, and continue to suffer. While 7 December cannot be erased from our memories, the date can become a catalyst for a new context, a time of healing.

30 October 2011 marked 6 years since the CAVR report Chega! was given to the Parliament of Timor Leste by the President at the time Xanana Gusmao. That report recommended reparations for the victims who suffered during the Indonesian invasion, yet to date there is no state policy for reparations. Instead, it appears the political position has been to forget the past in an attempt to hide the fact that problems still exist as a result of the invasion.

Last week, President Ramos-Horta (again) called upon Parliament to pass law to grant amnesties to perpetrators of mass violence and human rights abuses to enable these people to live free from fear of prosecution. It is an insult to the to victims of those abuses that they have been abandoned by the state while the perpetrators of the atrocities garner the politicians’ support.

 Indonesian Parachute, 7 Dec 1975. From Timor Archives

International law provides that reparations must be provided to the victims of violations. Reparations are redress provided to victims for the harm they suffered. Reparations can include restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

In July 2010 a reparations law and an Institute of Memory laws were drafted and discussed by Parliamentary Committee A with NGOs and victims. The laws were revised by Parliamentary Committee A, but Parliament voted to consider the original version in September 2010, passing both in principle. Debate about the content of the laws and the revision was scheduled to recommence in February this year, yet 10 months later nothing has been done. Victims are still waiting for these laws to be fully considered and implemented.

On 12 October this year Timor Leste presented its first national report to the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva. In response, many of the world’s nations called upon Timor Leste to both pass in full the reparations and Institute of Memory laws, and implement their provisions immediately.

The National Victims’ Association calls upon President Horta, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and all Parliamentarians to fulfil their obligations to the victims, the Timorese people and the international community and urges Parliament to use the 36th anniversary of the start of the Indonesian invasion to put an end to victim suffering through a state policy of reparations and establishment of the Institute of Memory. You cannot erase our past, only recognise it and its consequences in order to move forward. There is no need to wait any longer; pass the Reparations and Institute of Memory laws in full.

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