Military must Take Responsibility for 1999 Violence

DILI, East Timor ~ An East Timorese who was a pro-Indonesia activist during the tiny nation’s 1999 independence vote said this week that Indonesia’s military should be held responsible for violence occurring then.

Fransisco de Carvalho Lopes, who now holds Indonesian citizenship, was the only Indonesian to testify at the fifth and final round of hearings of the Indonesia-East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) here.

Other sessions have been held in Indonesia.

The CTF has no prosecution powers but has a mandate to uncover the truth behind the 1999 violence that left some 1,400 people dead as Indonesian-backed militias wreaked havoc across the former Portuguese colony.

During Indonesia’s 24-year rule, Lopes belonged to two pro-Indonesian groups that organized public figures backing Jakarta’s administration, as well as the militias that unleashed the unrest when East Timor voted to break away.

“I think that all the people of Timor-Leste agree with what I say. That is, TNI (the Indonesian armed forces) must take responsibility for all unrest and the scorched earth policy in Timor-Leste,” Lopes told journalists on Wednesday after testifying to the commission, referring to the nation by its formal name.

He said that as the military was only an organ of the state, the Indonesian government should also take the blame for the violence.

“I think that there should be an international tribunal… because the ad hoc tribunal was incapable of providing justice, and truth was not established,” he said, referring to an Indonesian tribunal that tried several Indonesians over the violence but acquitted all but one.

Justice for the 1999 violence “is what we, the little people, want,” he said.

Both governments however have taken a reconciliatory stance since East Timor finally became independent in 2002. East Timorese leaders argue that good relations between the fledgling republic and its giant and more powerful neighbor are crucial to its future.

The United Nations has criticized the mandate of the CTF and refused to let its officials testify, saying it should not issue amnesties for those responsible for human rights crimes.

The CTF commissioners are set to draft recommendations to Jakarta and Dili when this week’s hearings end.

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