Indonesia to accept blame for East Timor atrocities

July 11th, 2008 - 4:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, July 11 (DPA) Indonesia is set to take the blame for arming pro-Jakarta militias that brought death and destruction to East Timor both before and after the 1999 United Nations-supervised referendum that gave the tiny half-island its independence, an Indonesian official said Friday. The acknowledgement that officials and army officers engaged in an “organized campaign of violence” is contained in a report prepared by a commission set up by both the Indonesian and East Timor governments that was leaked to The Sydney Morning Herald and confirmed Friday by Teuku Faizasyah, spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry.

“Past history has been a burden for a long time, we have to get rid of it so that we can look to the future better,” Faizasyah told reporters in Jakarta.

“Because this is a mutually agreed (commission) then we will accept the whole report,” he said.

The report says Indonesia should take “institutional responsibility” for the murder, rape, torture, arson and forced deportations that followed the independence vote.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed the territory the following year.

The subsequent protracted insurgency and violence prompted Australia to muster an international force which, with Jakarta’s permission, supervised the exit of Indonesian troops and the transfer of authority to the UN.

The Commission of Truth and Friendship Report is due to be released jointly by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta next week.

It says that Indonesia’s military, police and government systematically supported, funded, armed and cooperated with anti-independence militias at the time of independence referendum in 1999.

Faizasyah said Indonesia has given its “trust” so it had an “obligation and moral necessity towards the contents of it.”

He added that the report would be handed over to the Indonesian president and his East Timor counterpart next Tuesday in Bali.

Militia gangs, supported by the Indonesian police and military embarked on a scorched-earth policy of murder, burning and looting, forcibly evacuating many East Timorese residents to West Timor. The United Nations claims more than 1,000 people were killed in the carnage.

Indonesia consistently denied any role in the unrest. Several senior Indonesian army and police generals have been acquitted of any involvement in the violence in trials in Indonesia, and the Jakarta government refused to hand over any suspects to a UN-run tribunal in East Timor.

As many as 200,000 civilians are estimated to have died during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of East Timor.

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