Part 1 Timor Sea
Part 2 Timor Sea (cont.)
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The new nation of East Timor is just beginning to recover from its tragic past. Under Portuguese colonialism, the East Timorese people had few opportunities to study, favoring only the children of teachers, civil servants and liurai (traditional kings) while most children were unable to go to school. Under the following Indonesian occupation, children had better educational opportunities, but the regime was undemocratic and corrupt. TNI atrocities in 1999 taught the East Timorese some bad lessons, destroying infrastructure and creating a humanitarian disaster. With great difficulties, East Timor is trying to recover from Indonesian rule. But despite the TNI and militia destruction that devastated the country, the East Timorese people are hopeful.
During the transitional phase, governments that had supported Indonesia’s occupation reversed their policies and came to East Timor to help. These governments want to mend their past: they want East Timor to see them as benevolent instead of remembering their complicity in destroying East Timor. During the transition the UNTAET Administration was established with the objectives to build East Timorese capacity and prepare for independence. However, other interests often interfered with these objectives. With the transitional period over, the East Timorese are being left to deal with their problems themselves. However, on 20 May 2002 everyone celebrated independence at last and were not daunted by the tasks before them.
At this historic time, the donor governments got together for a donors’ conference in the National Assembly building in Dili from 14-15 May 2002. This conference was like the conferences already held in Tokyo (December 1999), Lisbon (June 2000), Brussels (December 2000), Canberra (June 2001) and Oslo (December 2001). Among those giving their visions of how to develop the nation of East Timor were representatives from 28 donor nations, UNTAET chief SRSG Sergio de Mello and Deputy SRSG Dennis McNamara, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta, and World Bank regional director Klaus Rohland. Representing civil society were Joaquim Fonseca from Yayasan HAK and Demetrio Amaral from Haburas. The conference did not offer the civil society representatives genuine opportunities for discussion.
Some reasons for this meeting were:
The donors are giving assistance to prepare East Timor for unassisted self-governance. The East Timorese people appreciate the help from other nations in rebuilding their lives. Unfortunately, however, colonialism, occupation, war and the process of preparing for independence have still left many people in extreme poverty. In many areas outside of Dili there is a lack of electricity, clean water, housing, education or health care. But with the large hopes of this small nation, properly managed support from the donors could help solve the people’s problems.
In order to accomplish this the government needs to lay out good development plans, in sectors that are important to truly reduce poverty in East Timor. During this transitional period there has been progress in developing many sectors, such as security, national government, education, agriculture and health, but there are many things still that need to be improved. (See LH Bulletin Vol. 3, No. 4).
A statement from UNTAET boasted of great successes during the transition, including the Constituent Assembly elections in August 2001 and the presidential election in April 2002. The presidential election was praised for being conducted peacefully in a secure environment. Other areas that were praised for their progress were health, education, agriculture, transportation, and the creation of a government of the East Timorese people. But all these developments were presented to conceal the whole truth, emphasizing only the positive aspects to the international community while hiding the burdens placed on East Timor’s shoulders.
Civil society representatives asked the donors to give more attention to building East Timorese capacity. They called for the development plan process to be more concrete in addressing the people’s needs. They also stated the need for transparency and democracy, and grassroots participation in capacity building.
As at previous conferences, the donors made vague pledges of how they planned to support East Timor in the future. Although it is unlikely that all the donors will keep all the promises they make at these conferences, we hope that the support will be forthcoming. Concrete information about donor commitments is not available at the end of June, but we hope to publish it in the future. v
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International solidarity has played a key role in the struggle for East Timor’s independence. Since the withdrawal of Indonesia in late 1999, thousands of internationals have come to assist in the reconstruction of East Timor. Some were formerly active in East Timor’s international solidarity movement; many more came with little knowledge of East Timor. Today, as East Timor begins its life as an independent nation and the foundations are laid for future government and social structures, it is important for internationals wanting to act in solidarity with East Timorese to examine their own attitudes and priorities. And it is critical to listen carefully to the voices of East Timorese women and men at all levels.
On 23 May 2002, La’o Hamutuk sponsored a meeting with international solidarity activists and East Timorese community activists to discuss: “What does international solidarity mean for an independent East Timor?” At the meeting, all agreed that international solidarity is still critically important, but it will not be the same as it was in the past. A major goal of the meeting was for international solidarity members to listen to East Timorese activists describe their ideas about the new meaning of solidarity and the main issues that need attention. Four main priority areas were identified for solidarity work: international justice and advocacy for an international tribunal, economic justice, social development, and the exploitation of oil and natural gas in the Timor Sea (all of which will continue to be addressed in future Bulletins).
Below, La’o Hamutuk board members and other East Timorese activists who have worked closely with the solidarity movement answer this question. These are only a few voices, but they offer important perspectives for the international solidarity community.
Solidarity with East Timor must align itself with those who are the most marginalized.
Manuela Leong Pereira, Fokupers - East Timorese Women’s Communication Forum
I think that the priority for the international solidarity movement must be to align itself and support those who are most marginalized such as women and all those who are not heard. Civil society groups, including NGOs, are still very weak and marginalized by the government. We are now struggling to build a new democratic nation, free from corruption and collusion – problems which people have gotten used to but want to stop from emerging again. The voices of the people will be greatly strengthened by advocacy and support from the international solidarity movement to challenge what is not right, what goes against our principles. For the women’s movement, we feel that international solidarity is critical. We need solidarity in continuing to support women’s advancement, assist in advocating for the rights of women, and help in developing women’s skills so that together men and women can develop this nation.
We hope that international solidarity will help civil society groups to see the reality of their situation, and work to truly support East Timorese at the grassroots. Please don’t only listen to the rhetoric of our government and political party leaders; you must also look at what they are doing for the people. We need international solidarity to build Timorese women’s capacity; to support our demands for real justice for the victims of the war; and to join our struggle for equality between men and women.
Solidarity is about people-to-people relations and giving new options and alternatives to the dominant, World Bank-led models of development.
Nuno Rodrigues, Sa’he Institute for Liberation
It’s time to redefine what international solidarity means. During the transitional period of the past few years, we didn’t see a lot of grassroots international solidarity here. Instead, we were flooded by foreign governments – such as the U.S., Australia and Japan, which had supported the Indonesian occupation - and international institutions like the World Bank. Our political leaders have not demonstrated their commitment to using the international solidarity networks from the past. In fact, they have sometimes been quite distant to the solidarity movement and have not worked to develop new grassroots solidarity ties. Before the referendum, Indonesian solidarity activists were planning, with support from political leaders, to help East Timor develop an alternative telecommunication system which would be grassroots-based and use frequencies that all East Timorese could access. After the referendum, however, this plan was dropped by political leaders. There are many other examples of grassroots development projects in other countries from which we can learn. People in other southern countries can help us learn how to utilize our local resources to produce things we need like soap, candles, and honey. Solidarity is not only about working against something, such as a repressive military order; solidarity must also work to create something. We must work together now for a model of development that recognizes and prioritizes self-sufficiency over participation in an unjust global economic system. I think that the main role for international solidarity now is to offer experiences and alternative development models that can be developed here in East Timor. Friends in other countries have more experience and thus better understand this current international economic order that we are entering. We need to work together to understand and combat globalization that does not work for common people’s needs. This is a priority for us.
Solidarity with East Timorese women must focus on education, empowerment and justice.
Laura Abrantes, Rede Feto Timor Lorosa’e - the East Timorese Women’s Network
Women have long been denied educational opportunities. Women need to study many different subjects. One especially important area is political processes. International solidarity can help us to obtain scholarships for study abroad. Most scholarships for international study go to men. Women need knowledge – particularly leadership and management training - in order to be empowered to more fully participate in this new nation. We need international support for the rights of survivors, and we need justice for all victims and survivors of violence. We need the support of the solidarity movement to monitor the justice processes in both Indonesia and East Timor. We need a lot of support for an international tribunal for war crimes carried out in East Timor, which must include crimes against women. We also need the safe return of East Timorese refugees. There are many cases of East Timorese women who are married to Indonesian military officials and although the women wish to return to East Timor, they are not allowed to do so. Without international pressure on Indonesia and the Indonesian military, these women may never be able to return home. There also must be pressure on Octavio Osorio Soares, currently in Indonesia, to return the East Timorese children who were stolen and whose parents wait for them in East Timor.
East Timor now needs to build more solidarity partnerships, relationships which are based on understanding and love.
Maria Dias, PAS Health Clinic
Solidarity is a very good relationship between two communities and all people of the world, in which there is a deep respect for the others’ rights, culture, and identity. While far away, one group works to understand the situation of the other, and from this understanding, solidarity grows strong. Feelings of solidarity will make people open themselves, give of themselves, and give up luxuries in order to help others. Solidarity is based on a great love. Now, as a new self-governing nation, we need to work hard to build even stronger relationships with other nations, both to develop our own nation and also to offer our solidarity to others. If we could build solidarity ties between people of all nations, if we could build a circle of international love, we could live in a world based on principles of justice and peace. One concrete example of this is La’o Hamutuk where East Timorese and internationals are working together, learning from one another to do work that is needed. We must set clear priorities and plans together. With solidarity, we can learn from other countries. Because we still lack needed skills and resources, we must focus on building our capacity and knowledge, starting with small and concrete skills that will help the poorest people in our new nation. While we need money, this is not the answer to our problems. Solidarity is about concrete actions based on understanding and love.
We need international justice in order to reclaim our sense of self-respect and human dignity. And we need friends willing to work together with us, with a commitment to East Timorese self-determination and self-sufficiency.
Ze Luis de Oliveira, Yayasan HAK - Law, Human Rights and Justice Foundation
East Timor is now free from colonialism. But this freedom is only one step in the long process to true independence. As a result of hundreds of years of repression and colonialism, our people now live in poverty, both economically and from a severe lack of skills. And so, we still have a long way to go in our struggle for liberation. We must build up our skills as well as regain the dignity and humanity which colonialism trampled. In this context, we still need international solidarity. We never asked for the destruction imposed by imperialism. The resulting poverty we now face is a responsibility of the international community. An international tribunal is one important way to reclaim dignity for East Timorese. We need international solidarity to help us uncover the past, to declassify official government documents and hold those international leaders who directly or indirectly supported crimes against humanity in East Timor accountable. Our history must not be rewritten in the interests of imperialism and colonialism. We need solidarity based on principles of equality not exploitation.
Today, there are many internationals in East Timor who claim to be working in solidarity with us. I think most of them, however, do not represent the spirit or service of true solidarity, but instead prioritize their own interests: advancing their own careers, salaries or business. Instead of helping us truly rebuild, they exploit our poverty for personal gain. For example, in the legal sector, people from Portuguese speaking countries came “to help” develop a legal system here, but in reality they are simply implementing their own system without trying to learn or identify local potential and then raise that up. This is exactly like during the Portuguese era or when Indonesia came. This is a new kind of colonial system. And it is not only in the legal system, but also in national administration and the economy. Everything is from outside, not processed from the grassroots, not looking at the problem together and using international experiences as a reference only. In our present context, we must remember that solidarity with another community means helping them become self-sufficient and truly independent.
It is now time for East Timor not only to receive solidarity, but to offer solidarity to other peoples around the world and work together for international justice.
João Sarmento, Student Solidarity Council
We value the support from solidarity groups both in the past and present. This support must focus on the most pressing needs of the East Timorese people, such as in the economic sector and in terms of information, media and technology. It is also good for us to become a part of the international solidarity movement and not only look at our own problems. Many of the problems we face here in East Timor, such as structural poverty, underdevelopment, militarism, illness and human rights violations are also problems in many other countries. These are problems in Latin America, Africa and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, the problem of democratization and human rights violations in Burma, and self-determination for the people of West Papua, Aceh and Western Sahara. Here in East Timor, we are struggling to build a nation on a democratic foundation that respects human rights and justice. Our struggle in the future is how can we work together with solidarity groups for an international tribunal for East Timor to give value to the universal principles of humanity. These principles are not limited to East Timor nor to one period of time. Let us struggle in a collective and cooperative manner for a world that is more humane.
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On 22 May, Bishop Carlos Belo demanded that Antonio Sampaio, a Portuguese journalist working for Lusa, be expelled from East Timor. The Bishop was angry about an article that described the Catholic Church as the most powerful institution in the country and Belo as a more influential figure than Xanana Gusmão. The article also stated that the Church had become more conservative under Belo’s leadership. In response, government officials quickly rejected Belo’s demand. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri stated that he would personally “guarantee that the media have freedom in this country, because that’s what we fought for,” and Foreign Minister José Ramos Horta pledged that he would “never ask for the expulsion of a journalist from my country.” More than a month later, the Bishop wrote an article for a Portuguese newspaper which paid tribute to Portuguese people, including journalists, for their support of East Timor’s struggle. The Bishop recounted the difficulties and risks he had endured, begging pardon for his occasional impatience with the media and other foreigners.
On 4 and 5 June 2002, East Timorese men from across the country gathered in Dili to establish the Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violensia (Association of Men Against Violence). The meeting was organized by men who had participated in an international exchange on gender-based violence in March and April 2002. (See LH Bulletin Vol. 3, No. 4) Over the two days, representatives from nine districts created the Association and laid out priorities and specific plans for a five-year campaign against gender-based violence, to be conducted with East Timorese women’s groups. The Association plans to hold grassroots workshops with men in the districts to discuss issues of power, gender and violence. There are also plans to raise awareness using street theatre, posters and radio programs, and some district-based groups have already begun local campaigns.
The East Timor Ministry of Health presented a draft National Strategic Plan for the prevention and care of HIV/AIDS on 7 June at the opening of East Timor’s first national AIDS conference. According to Health Minister Dr. Rui Maria Araújo, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country is low, but the number of cases is rising and social factors exist that could lead to a rapid increase in HIV infection. For such reasons, Araújo called upon the government, NGOs, and donors to take remedial action.
La’o Hamutuk comment: Although there is no program for HIV testing of East Timor’s population, the World Health Organization reported in June 2001 that 1.3% of blood donations collected at Dili and Baucau hospitals were infected with HIV. In other countries, this would be considered high, deserving immediate attention.
Indonesia’s Attorney General announced on 13 June that he did not have enough evidence to prosecute the murder of Sander Thoenes, a Dutch journalist believed to be slain by Indonesian troops in East Timor in September 1999. A Netherlands Foreign Ministry spokesman responded “We don’t think there is any reason to drop this case. We know what the evidence is, and we think there is more than enough reason to bring this case to court.”In a 20 June press release, Tapol, the London-based Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, described the decision not to prosecute as demonstrating Jakarta’s “lack of commitment to justice for the victims of atrocities in East Timor.” It is also “connected to the fact that it exposes the role of army officers in systematic abuse against civilians.”
On 15 June, a former provincial secretary for the Indonesian government in occupied East Timor testified to Indonesia’s ad hoc human rights court that the provincial government diverted between 10% and 20% its budget to anti-independence efforts, including those of the militia. Nevertheless, former Bali-based regional military commander Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri and former Indonesian police chief for East Timor Timbul Silaen told the court three days later that the Indonesian authorities were not responsible for the violence surrounding the 1999 ballot. “There were not enough military and police personnel on the ground to calm heightened tensions between conflicting community groups,” asserted Damiri. “We were undertaking mission impossible.”
La’o Hamutuk comment: Gen. Damiri’s statement shows the absurdity of Indonesia prosecuting military and civilian officials only for failing to prevent crimes in East Timor in 1999. It is long past time for an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute Damiri and other Indonesian generals for planning and directing the military/militia destruction of this country, since Indonesia has consistently shown its unwillingness to do so.
On 19 June, farmers from Aituto village (near Maubisse) wrote to the NCBA coffee project complaining about run-off from the CCT/NCBA coffee processing plant in nearby Aitalo. The farmers have regularly voiced complaints to the plant coordinator over the past two years. Every harvest season, discarded pulp from red coffee cherries fills the stream that serves as the village’s main water source. The farmers’ families are getting sick from the polluted water and the mosquitoes it attracts. The run-off has also harmed local animals and the farmers’ crops. The farmers are asking NCBA to provide them with piping to get clean water to the village, and for the coffee pulp to be collected properly for use as organic fertilizer. The processing plant in Aitalo discards some coffee cherry pulp at the roadside, but waste water from the plant flows into nearby streams and heavily pollutes the water in villages several kilometers downstream. (For more on the CCT/NCBA coffee project, see LH Bulletin Vol. 3 No. 2-3.)
On the evening of 6 July, the United States Embassy in Dili held a reception to celebrate U.S. Independence Day. Outside the Embassy, East Timorese, Americans and others held a quiet candlelight vigil to remind the celebrants of U.S. government support for the Indonesian military invasion and occupation of East Timor. A statement released by the United Committee for the Establishment of an International War Crimes Court condemned “the hypocrisy of the fact that the United States, a huge nation that speaks highly and constantly of democracy and human rights, could give their full support to such actions that so completely oppose humanity.” The group made three demands to the U.S. government: to apologize to the East Timorese people, not to re-establish military ties with Indonesia, and to allow an international war crimes tribunal for East Timor. The statement also noted that “immunity from the law for American troops, recently advocated to protect them from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, also demonstrates the arrogance and tyranny of the United States.”
Inside the reception, a few people distributed “Get Out of Jail Free” cards. In a parody of the popular U.S. game Monopoly, the card guarantees impunity for Crimes Against Humanity committed by U.S. citizens after 1 July 2002, the date the International Criminal Court came into being. The U.S. is withdrawing its Military Observers from the U.N. Mission in East Timor as part of its pressure campaign to exempt U.S. soldiers from international accountability for future acts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
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Our weekly one-hour Tetum language news and commentary program, Radio Igualidade, is broadcast over Radio Timor (formerly Radio UNTAET) every Saturday morning at 1 p.m.. Hear La’o Hamutuk staffers and other experts discuss the issues reported in our Bulletin, and more.
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La’o Hamutuk is seeking East Timorese and international researchers to join our staff in East Timor. One-year commitment required, women preferred. For the job descriptions and application procedures, look at our web site, contact our office, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Positions available immediately; please apply as soon as possible.
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La’o Hamutuk (Walking Together in English) is a joint East Timorese-international organization that monitors, analyzes, and reports on the principal international institutions present in Timor Lorosa’e as they relate to the physical, economic, and social reconstruction and development of the country. La’o Hamutuk believes that the people of East Timor must be the ultimate decision-makers in the reconstruction/development process and that this process should be democratic and transparent. La’o Hamutuk is an independent organization and works to facilitate effective East Timorese participation in the reconstruction and development of the country. In addition, La’o Hamutuk works to improve communication between the international community and East Timorese society. La’o Hamutuk’s East Timorese and international staff have equal responsibilities, and receive equal pay and benefits. Finally, La’o Hamutuk is a resource center, providing literature on development models, experiences, and practices, as well as facilitating solidarity links between East Timorese groups and groups abroad with the aim of creating alternative development models.
In the spirit of encouraging greater transparency, La’o Hamutuk would like you to contact us if you have documents and/or information that should be brought to the attention of the East Timorese people and the international community.
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La’o Hamutuk, The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis
P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia)
Mobile: +61(408)811373; Land phone: +670(390)325-013
Baucau office: +61(438)143724; email@example.com
International contact: +1-510-643-4507, firstname.lastname@example.org