Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Invasion Day and National Heroes Day

I received my first (and I hope last) abusive phone call today. The very unimaginative Timorese male asked in English: “do you like fucking?” I hung up. He certainly won’t be added to the illustrious list of Timorese National Heroes, whom the country commemorates today with a public holiday (it is also Invasion Day – the day the Indonesians brutally invaded the recently declared independent Timor in 1975).

Unfortunately my respect and admiration for one of the great (if not greatest) heroes of this tiny nation the President of Timor, Xanana Gusmao, has been slowly dwindling since I arrived. He has of late demonstrated nothing but cowardice towards his people. Firstly, he will not pursue justice for the 24 years of brutal occupation his people endured. Not one Indonesian military person has been convicted for crimes against humanity while Timor’s prisons have a number of former Timorese militia members (the small fry) doing time. He will not pursue an International Criminal Court or Tribunal and instead, agreed to the joint creation with the Indonesians of the (powerless to prosecute, but empowered to recommend amnesties for war criminals) Truth and Friendship Commission based in Bali. The latest betrayal has been the handing over of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) report which by law, must be publicly released. (The Commission is an independent statutory authority that inquired into human rights violations committed on all sides, between April 1974 and October 1999, and facilitated community reconciliation with justice for those who committed less serious offences.)

Instead, Gusmao has said that he doesn’t want “his” people to rehash the past and wants the report shelved. Gusmao clearly has no understanding that without acknowledgment of past wrongs and the opportunity to heal not to mention justice prevailing there can be no secure future for this country. Things cannot be just swept under the carpet as if they never happened; to live in denial is unhealthy for individuals let alone an entire nation. Who was it who said, “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”?

When Daniel arrived home from work this evening (the director of his NGO did not know that it was a public holiday and made his staff work!), he told me that the government has now issued a press release in regard to the CAVR report in order to rectify all the “supposed lies” being told about Gusmao not wanting it publicly released! Media sources in Timor and overseas (including Radio Australia this evening) have widely reported that Gusmao did not want the report released but the government is now saying this is a lie. Could it be they are feeling the pressure of numerous human rights organisations who have, over recent weeks, been lobbying the government to release the report?

There was a demonstration of about 300 people outside the Government building today demanding that an international criminal tribunal be established for Timor. The demands of the people fall on deaf ears: political and economic interests take priority over the pursuit of justice.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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