Accessibility links

Breaking News

Gusmao Testifies Before East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission

East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao has testified before the Indonesia-East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission. The hearing marks the first day in a week-long session in East Timor's capital, Dili. The commission is gathering testimony on the deadly violence that marred the birth of one of the world's youngest nations. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta.

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao testified behind closed doors Monday on what he knew about the unrest that accompanied East Timor's vote to separate from Indonesian rule in 1999.

Dozens of witnesses have testified in Jakarta and Bali about the violence, but this week's session, the fifth and final hearing, is the commission's first session in East Timor.

Indonesia and East Timor established the Truth and Friendship commission in 2005 with an eye toward reconciliation, but the panel does not have the power to prosecute those responsible for crimes.

The United Nations accuses Indonesia of employing militias that took part in arson and violence that killed hundreds of people following East Timor's vote for independence.

Associate Professor Damien Kingsbury from the School of International and Political Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia says Mr. Gusmao and President Jose Ramos Horta have long supported building ties with Indonesia.

"And their commitment to the Truth and Friendship Commission, I think, is evidence of that commitment to building a good relationship," he said. "Unfortunately, what that does, though, is that it means that issues of justice, of actual truth around the events in East Timor are not going to get a good airing. And many people in East Timor remain deeply disappointed about this."

Indonesia says only about 100 people were killed in violence surrounding the independence vote. No high-ranking Indonesian officials have been charged in connection with the killings and other violence.

In July, the U.N. said it would not take part in the Truth and Friendship Commission's hearings unless the panel rejected the possibility of granting amnesty to human rights violators.

Kingsbury says that although the hearings are a sign the two nations can put the past behind them, the commission will not satisfy the international community.

"The fact that the United Nations has said that it doesn't regard the process as credible means that there will be a long-standing international position that the issues concerning violence in East Timor, perpetration of violence by the Indonesian military, was never adequately resolved, and that this process did not contribute to any sort of resolution," said Kingsbury.

Mr. Ramos Horta had planned to attend the hearing in Dili, but canceled because of a conflicting trip to New York.

Public hearings in Dili are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.