Monthly Archives: October 2010

Suharto’s No Hero – ETAN

From ETAN’s blog – http://etanaction.blogspot.com/

Suharto’s No Hero
Three short years after his death, Indonesia’s dictator Suharto has been nominated to a shortlist to be designated a “National Hero.” The final decision rests with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. and any honors will likely be announced on November 10, Heroes’ Day. President Obama is scheduled to visit Indonesia around that date.

After Suharto died in January 2008, ETAN wrote:

Indonesia’s former dictator General Suharto has died in bed and not in jail, escaping justice for his numerous crimes in East Timor and throughout the Indonesian archipelago. One of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century, his death tolls still shock…

We cannot forget that the United States government consistently supported Suharto and his regime. As the corpses piled up after his coup and darkness descended on Indonesia, his cheerleaders in the U.S. welcomed the “gleam of light in Asia.” In the pursuit of realpolitik, U.S. administration after administration, fully aware of his many crimes, provided military assistance and hardware, training and equipping Suharto’s killers. The Indonesian dictator sought and received U.S. approval before he launched his invasion of East Timor; ninety percent of the weapons used in this illegal attack came from the U.S.

Indonesia’s human rights, anti-corruption and other activists are opposed. Agence France Presse quotes human rights activist Raharjo Waluyo Jati,

“He caused so much suffering. So many activists were arrested, detained, punished and some even killed without trial during his rule. All the mess Indonesia is in now, with problems of corruption and human rights violations, were his doing. He built this chaos.”

We hope Indonesian authorities do not take their clue from the appalling U.S.’s condolence statement on Suharto’s death by now departed Ambassador Cameron Hume. He observed that while “there may be some controversy over his legacy” Suharto oversaw “a period during which Indonesia achieved remarkable economic and social development.”

At the time, we expressed our dismay that the “condolence statement on behalf of the U.S. government fails to even acknowledge the extraordinary crimes of this brutal and corrupt dictator” or the U.S. role in arming and supporting the regime.

President Obama once understood this. In his book The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote that “for the past sixty years the fate of [Indonesia] has been directly tied to U.S. foreign policy,” a policy which included “the tolerance and occasional encouragement of tyranny, corruption, and environmental degradation when it served our interests.” In Dreams from My Father, he described Suharto’s seizure of power: “The death toll was anybody’s guess: a few hundred thousand, maybe, half a million. Even the smart guys at the [CIA] had lost count.” These “smart guys” had, of course, encouraged and assisted in the coup.

Whether or not the corrupt or brutal dictator receives the posthumous honor, we urge President Obama to apologize to the people of Indonesia and East Timor for the U.S. role in their suffering during the Suharto years and to offer his condolences to Suharto’s many victims throughout the archipelago.

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Thank you for your support.

John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: +1-718-596-7668 Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
Email john@etan.org Skype: john.m.miller
http://www.etan.org

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Timor Leste attempts to avoid famine

16:17, October 22, 2010

Timor Leste Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mariano Asanami Sabino said the ongoing extreme weather would bring negative impact on the peasants as it would appear famine in the country, media reported here Friday.

Wet season ends longer than what it usually happens in April this year, Indonesian Meteorology and Geophysics agency has said. It said the extreme weather will continue by up to the end of January next year.

The minister asked the peasants to grow plants that can grow during the wet season to counter the impact of pro-longed wet season.

“It is impossible for the peasants to plant staples if it will continue raining, because heavy rainy would affect badly to the plantations,” Minister Asanami was quoted by Timornewsline online as saying.

The minister has called on the peasants to plant local staples such as cassava, banana, potatoes and sweat potatoes as those foods could be planted during the rainy season and the heavy rainy would not affect them.

Source: Xinhua

East Timor land law fuels fears of evictions, conflict

21 Oct 2010 17:00:00 GMT

Written by: Thin Lei Win

DILI (AlertNet) – Rights groups in East Timor warn that anger over the threatened eviction of some 500 people from a downtown Dili neighbourhood could spill over into conflict amid fears the government is preparing to take back more land.

Activists and researchers say further evictions could happen if draft legislation on land ownership going through parliament is passed as expected.

Fifty-three families in Aitarak Laran were served with an eviction notice in Portuguese – a language most do not read – a little over a month ago through their local chief, according to Rede ba Rai (the Timor-Leste Land Network), a coalition of 20 non-governmental organisations that work on land issues.

So far the government has provided no alternative housing, although it says it is willing to offer a small amount of compensation.

“Aitarak Laran is one example of how the government is disregarding basic human rights to land and housing,” said Shona Hawkes from local NGO La’o Hamutuk.

The community has lived in houses used by former Indonesian government officials since 1999, after East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum that led to violence and widespread displacement.

Rights groups say the government now wants the land to build a national library and museum funded by an Italian oil company, and has shown scant regard for how residents will cope.

But Minister of Justice Lucia Lobato told AlertNet the community are unwilling to enter into dialogue with the government, and did not show up to two meetings she attended, sending a local NGO to represent them instead.

Moreover, she said they are demanding compensation for each family member. “We will not negotiate about the price, because they are occupying government land and houses illegally, so we give a little money based on the government’s ability.”

The residents may be moved by force, she added, if they do not comply with the order to leave.

“The risk with eviction cases like the one we’re seeing right now in Aitarak Laran is growing frustration over the lack of clarity regarding rights and protections afforded to those living illegally on state land,” Cillian Nolan, a Dili-based analyst for International Crisis Group (ICG), told AlertNet.

Without an adequate offer of compensation or alternative housing, “there’s a risk of conflict over the issue as frustration grows,” he said.

In a September report, ICG said the draft land legislation will provide the first legal proof of ownership, provide protection in a growing property market, and is an important first step towards better management of disagreements over land. But it will also raise the stakes in ownership disputes and in turn the risk of conflict.

CONTROVERSY OVER STATE OWNERSHIP

A history of displacement since the Portuguese colonial era, which began in the sixteenth century, has left the tiny state of East Timor without a proper legal basis to decide ownership of land.

Most recently, in 2006, factional violence uprooted 150,000 people, mainly in Dili, many of whom have been unable to return to their homes.

More than half the population was made homeless in the aftermath of the 1999 referendum when pro-Jakarta militias destroyed 70 percent of the country’s infrastructure, including some 68,000 houses, as well as land records.

Many, like those in Aitarak Laran, ended up occupying housing abandoned by the Indonesian government, even though living conditions have been far from ideal.

“(The Aitarak Laran community) is living in housing that is well below any definition of adequate, on land that is prone to flooding,” said Rede ba Rai spokesperson Meabh Cryan.

The site, directly opposite the presidential palace, is considered government land under a 2003 law which says that all state land during the Portuguese and Indonesian eras, as well as land abandoned by foreigners or those fleeing to west Timor, should be transferred to the Timorese authorities.

Rights group say this definition is too wide in a country where very few people have land titles, and warn the new legislation could provoke a crisis.

Under the Transitional Land Law, which will replace the 2003 law, anyone who has occupied a piece of land after December 31, 1998, cannot gain title to it. Civil society groups have questioned the controversial cut-off date, as it means “squatters” who lost their homes in the 1999 post-referendum violence have no rights to the land on which they are living.

LACK OF CONSULTATION

There are also concerns over two other laws in the legislative package that have not undergone public consultation, especially the Expropriation Law which would allow the state to take land for any public or private purpose.

Rights groups accuse the legal company that drafted that law of conflict of interest as it represents a Portuguese property developer in East Timor.

And Rede ba Rai’s Cryan said public consultation on the Transitional Land Law was little more than a token gesture as communities did not receive copies of the complex law until the day of the discussions.

Rules for day-to-day land decisions were sent to parliament in December 2008 as part of a new civil code, followed by the rest of the legislation in March 2009. None of these are available in the local dialect Tetum.

“Our concern is that many people, particularly in the rural areas, are unaware of the content of the draft land law, or of its implications for their land security and livelihoods,” said Paul Joicey, Oxfam’s country director for East Timor.

Other criticisms of the legislation include its neglect of the customary land systems based on social hierarchy and clans that have so far defined how most Timorese live, and prioritisation of people with formal land certificates who tend to be the rich.

The government has given some ground, agreeing to consider the Expropriation Law separately because of its far-reaching implications and the lack of public consultation.

But any changes will come too late to help the families in Aitarak Laran who now face losing their livelihoods as vegetable traders, small businesses and civil servants, as well as facilities including their church, schools and health clinic.

“The old regimes which threatened the people have already passed,” community members said in a statement. “The people who have suffered do not deserve to be further threatened during independence.”

(Additional reporting by Tito Belo)

AlertNet also has a Q&A on land issues in East Timor and the draft land laws.

Timor Leste is not land for asylum seekers processing center: MPs

Timornewsline, October 19, 2010

Dili,timornewsline,- Fretilin and AMP MPs have totally rejected proposal from the Australian Government, asking the Timorese Government to set up asylum seekers processing center in the country, due to Timor-Lestes situation still volatile and economically it will not benefit the countrys people.
MP Arenio made the comments in relation to the recent visit of Australias immigration minister in the country. We the opposition party totally rejects the Australian Governments proposal of setting up the asylum seekers processing center in the country, Bano said. Bano affirmed that the Australia Government will delegate a team to negotiate with Timorese Government on the proposal and that will make Timorese like Naurus country.
MP Cornelio L-7 Gama said he was concerned about the prime minister, as he opened the door to all countries for the process of negotiation. The reason why, the MPs refused this proposal, because economic conditions of the country does not permit and many of the Timorese people who are living in the remote areas still in poor conditions, L-7 said. L-7 called on the Government to be very careful in making decision and said Australia should accept the asylum seekers, as it is a rich and big country. Jose amelio

President’s warning on Gusmao Government’s wasteful public spending too little too late

FRETILIN

MEDIA RELEASE

Dili, 18 October 2010

On 14 October 2010, Timor-Leste’s President Jose Ramos-Horta formally opened the new parliamentary year with a warning to the Gusmao government over its “waste” in public spending, but former Prime Minister and FRETILIN MP Estanislau da Silva noted that the President’s call for more “prudency, rigor and … sound criterion” is “too little too late”.

Mr da Silva said, “We say too little too late, because the tale of wasteful spending and corruption that has plagued government since 2007 has been already widely and roundly criticized. Yet the President continued to permit such large budgets to be promulgated without raising even the slightest concern. His warning is welcome but belated, and unfortunately billions have now been wasted without substantive benefits to the public”.

President Horta in his speech to parliament said that Timor-Leste now had more funds than it ever had since independence to spend on national development due to petroleum revenues, and called on the government to contain budget increases for public spending. He told MPs and the government who were present: “The development investment needs of the country are also many. The money must be spent prudently and rigorously, because it is not enough to meet all of the needs.

“Public spending is indispensable and may without doubt bring many benefits for the country, when it is done with prudency, rigor and on sound criterion,” he added.

The President said he supported public spending, especially in the form of some public transfers that have in his view assisted to develop the economy, “but I am not convinced that the same can be said in relation to the most part of other public spending. As is the case for example with some infrastructure spending, such as the rehabilitation of government buildings and other spending from budget line items associated with the acquisition of equipment, goods and services. Often, works, equipment and other acquisitions are purchased at exorbitant prices and the ultimate impact on the national economy is less than what it should be given the large amounts spent by the State.”

The President called on parliament to “guarantee greater rigor in budget execution, with respect to development capital spending. Badly invested capital, badly spent public money, is money wasted, and means less money available to be spent on needy projects.”

Da Silva said that the government would be seeking another budget increase, taking this next year’s budget to around US$1 billion, resulting in a total accumulated budget since 2007 of almost US$4 billion.

“This is an astronomical amount of money being spent in the last 3 to 4 years, with very little public benefit. But it has enriched a small socio-political elite linked to this de facto government by either family or party associations. We have been concerned about this trend from day one, and now we are glad to have the President come around to our point of view. But it is a bit late, now that so many billions have been spent. He must take his fair share of responsibility for allowing this to continue to occur until now,” warned da Silva.

Da Silva said, FRETILIN was concerned about the budget proposals, especially because of the waste, corruption and the inflationary impact it was having on the economy, warning that if the government continued to withdraw such large amounts from the Petroleum Fund, then the fund would be depleted within 5 to 10 years.

“All the Petroleum Fund money is going out and there is less and less money coming in from other non-oil and gas sources. As the President says, our people are not getting value for their money, with a few becoming very, very rich. But worst of all, the Fund will go bust if we are not careful,” da Silva warned.

For further information please contact Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080

Ramos-Horta supports Burmese Generals

http://www.unpo.org/article/11758

Why Not Now? – President Ramos-Horta of East Timor Talks of Bringing Change to Burma
The European Parliament listened this week to President Ramos-Hortas perspective on East Timors growing international role and how he believes change could be brought to Burma with elections scheduled for November 2011

Below is an article published by UNPO:

As heads of state gather for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Brussels, the issue of Burma and the countrys forthcoming parliamentary elections on 7 November 2010 loom large. Against this background, the European Peoples Party (EPP) convened a conference, Toward Peace and Democracy in Burma in the European Parliament on 5 October 2010 with President Jos Ramos-Horta of East Timor leading discussions on how the European Union (EU) should engage with Naypyidaw.

President Ramos-Horta, speaking of the tremendous progress that had been made in expanding East Timors infrastructure and economy, noted that this was helping a country deeply wounded in its dignity after decades of struggle to regain its unity and stability. Eight years after independence, East Timor was now living by a constitutional calendar and with the help of the international community was overseeing remarkable reductions in crucial societal indicators such as poverty and child mortality, although much still remained to be done he conceded.

It was against this background that East Timor was increasingly in a position to take a leading role in promoting peace in the Asian region. The failure of President Obama of the United States to raise the issue of Burma in the United Nations was a clear sign that small nations such as East Timor had a clear role to play in discussing international problems with greater flexibility than so-called Great Powers. That change in East Timor had come as the result of local initiatives in which we had to create conditions on the ground was clearly an experience relevant to Burma President Ramos-Horta noted.

Change in Burma therefore rested on the shoulders of the Burmese. In this regard, sanctions in general are politically correct but in Burma, as in East Timor, they were doing more harm than good, President Ramos-Horta concluded. Such sanctions cut off contacts to the outside world when what was needed in such cases were initiatives that could give local actors the jobs and training to bring peaceful, gradual change.

Local actors also had to assume new assertiveness President Ramos-Horta commented. Aung San Suu Kyi was a very pragmatic leader but could no longer be considered the political mover she had been in previous years. The Philippines and Indonesia should also be considered interlocutors given their experience in resolving conflict but key to any success was to realise that you talk, you listen, and then sometimes you understand why they do the things they do President Ramos-Horta stated.

Joseph Daul MEP, Chair of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, had opened the conference with remarks on how he continued to admire his [President Ramos-Hortas] effort in support of the people of Burma and stressed that we must all speak with one voice on the issue of Burma.

Vice Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, Ioannis Kasoulides MEP, noted that the EPP was following events in Burma closely and hoped that after the pure masquerade of the last Burmese elections that the military junta might allow the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi in the elections. Reflecting on the experience of East Timor, Mr. Kasoulides noted that the country has found its way to freedom and was now fighting for the freedom of others.

Co-chair of the conference, Maria da Graa Carvalho MEP, recognised President Ramos-Horta as a very good friend of Europe and a national hero for the Portuguese people who had overseen enormous progress in East Timor since its independence. Speaking of the situation in Burma, Ms. Carvalho called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was someone to provide an inspiration to the world but recognised that the opposition of the Peoples Republic of China and the Russian Federation in the UN Security Council remained a major stumbling block to a solution in Burma.

In the following roundtable, Views on the Developments in Burma, Bishop Emertus Gunnar Stlsett reiterated that local people must own the solution in Burma. Burmese youth were increasingly inspired by other countries and the internet was playing a key role in this shift. But the EU must wait until the results of the election are known, only based on this should the EU review its strategies. There was also a need for the United Nations to convene a conference on Burma to generate new, innovative, thinking to bring change.

Director of Association Fairness International (AFI), Lon de Riedmatten believed that after the army reshuffle in Burma we could see [the] situation differently but presently dialogue is not in the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] dictionary. Focussing on the question of ethnic nationalities, Thierry Falise, AFI Field Officer, reminded those present that Burmas troubles lay in the armys failure to countenance a federal governance structure that could accommodate the countrys many nationalities. The ceasefire agreements that had been concluded with ethnic nationalities were increasingly fragileand detrimental but the April 2009 border force concessions could be interpreted as a sign of weakness from the junta. Five decades on, the question in Burma remained one of introducing meaningful federalism.

From Burma, Ma Nilar Oo spoke of the peoples lack of ownership in the coming elections and general lack of interest in their outcome this was just one indication of the daily material struggle facing Burmese people. Privatisation had not brought benefits to the mass of Burmese citizens who faced high inflation, growing transport costs and the risk of increased levels of indebtedness. To bring any change the United Nations remained the only organisation acceptable to the Burmese junta but any piecemeal approach is doomed to failure. Harn Yawnghwe, Executive Director of the Euro-Burma Office, urged those in a position to do so, to please engage with the government of Burma despite their bad behaviour. The risk remained that ethnic nationalities were being pushed to fight, a development that would negatively effect all of Burmas neighbours. Laime Andrikien MEP believed that privatisation offered new opportunities as Burmas generals increasingly took off their uniforms and could be found more and more in civilian roles. The emergence of a strong-man leader in the mould of General Than Shwe seemed more unlikely while the roles of India, China, and the United States remain key China in particular was playing an enormous role in terms of economic development. However, the EU remained the missing actor in attempts to bring democratic change to Burma.

Drawing his conclusions, Elmar Brok MEP, EPP Group Coordinator in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, spoke of his belief that patience does not mean not to do anything and that the EU should make clear we do not allow them [the Burmese junta] any democratic legitimation[or]alibi of democracy and rule of law. The EU had reinforced its targeted measures against the Burmese junta but it had to stand ready to respond to positive developments and to take the Burma question in a broader concept. Mr. Brok said. Closing the conference, co-chair Paulo Rangel MEP spoke of President Ramos-Hortas standing as not only a friend of this housebut a friend of civic rights around the worldand of Burma and showed his admiration to Maria da Graa Carvalho who was committed to this cause of encouraging democratic change in Burma, of which the conference convened was a clear demonstration.

* * *

President Ramos-Horta also addressed the European Parliament plenary session on Wednesday 6 October 2010 in which he stressed the support that European countries had given during East Timors struggle for independence. The attention of assembled deputies was also drawn to East Timors cordial relations with Indonesia and growing network of embassies that were going to play an increasingly role as Dili hoped to continue social progress at home and encourage solutions to the effects of climate change abroad.

Note:

East Timor is a former member of the UNPO, having been represented in the organisation since 1993 until the countrys admission to the United Nations General Assembly in 2002.

FRETILIN: Timor-Leste Not Ready to Have Asylum Seeker Centre on its Shores

RENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMIOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE

FRETILIN

Media Release
 

Dili, 12 October 2010

In a meeting held in Dili on 12 October 2010, at FRETILIN headquarters, between a FRETILIN delegation headed by party Secretary General and former Prime Minister of the RDTL Dr. Mari Alkatiri and the Australian delegation headed by His Excellency The Honorable Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, the issue of a proposal by the Australian government to establish an asylum seeker processing centre in Timor-Leste was discussed.

Dr. Alkatiri presented the following points to the Australian delegation as to why Timor-Leste does not have the conditions to accept the Australian government’s proposal of an asylum seeker processing centre:
 

1) The Asylum Seeker Processing Centre is an issue of a regional and international character and should not be the focus of bilateral discussions.
 

2) Citizens from around the world flock to the region in which Australia and Timor-Leste exist for social, economic and political reasons.  They search for an “oasis”, and that is Australia.  It makes no sense to bilaterally frustrate the dreams of these world citizens to seek a better life for them and their kin.  The Timorese state is conscious of its obligations under international law, but, institutionally, Timor-Leste does not have the conditions to accommodate them.
 

3) Timor-Leste still has numerous very serious issues to resolve, including the following three; the question of land and property rights; the issue of security and the administration of justice; chronic poverty for much of its people, in all forms.  An asylum seeker processing centre set up amongst such inadequate conditions will generate conflicts with unforeseen consequences.
 

4)  The unanimous rejection by the National Parliament of the Australian government’s proposal to establish such a centre must be respected by the Timor-Leste government.
 

Dr. Alkatiri reiterated in the meantime that Timor-Leste remains committed to complying with its regional and international obligations.
 

For further information please contact Filomeno Aleixo on +670 734 0383


Jose A. Fernandes Teixeira
Deputado da Bancada Parlamentar da FRETILIN
Parlamento Nacional da Rep. Dem. de Timor-Leste
Telemovel: +670 728 7080