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Original source of article:
Patrick Walsh, Dili

Timor-Leste needs the ‘great teachings’ of the CAVR Report

Rev Agustinho de Vasconselos, Executive Director, Post-CAVR Technical Secretariat

The CAVR Report Chega! is about our past but the tragic events and crimes of recent weeks have shown that it is also very much about our present and future. The contemporary relevance of Chega! was strongly underlined by President Xanana Gusmao in his televised address of 20 June in which he referred more than once to CAVR’s recommendations. Our new Prime Minister, Dr Jose Ramos Horta, made the same point in his inauguration address on 10 July. Referring to Chega! he said; ‘We must utilise its great teachings’. This view is widely shared among those who have seen the Report. The Inter-faith Conference held in Baucau 20-23 June recommended that religious institutions of all faiths in Timor-Leste should actively engage in the dissemination of Chega! to ensure that its message reaches deep into the community. Others have gone further and claimed that the violence of recent weeks would not have occurred had Chega! already been disseminated. They believe that Timorese, both at the top and at the bottom of our society, have repeated the mistakes of the past because they have not studied and learned from the painful history presented in Chega!

The CAVR Report addresses the past responsibilities of many different parties, including Indonesia and other members of the international community. Without  wishing to ignore these issues, I suggest that the current situation in Timor-Leste requires us at the moment to focus on the teachings that relate directly to ourselves and the new society we are trying to build. Most of the 204 recommendations in Chega! are domestically focussed. They are all rooted in our experience and are intended to contribute to nation-building and an end to violence. As our leaders have acknowledged, it is time to discuss these ideas in the Parliament and elsewhere and to implement them.  This process should be an integral part of the new reconciliation project announced by the Prime Minister in his inauguration address. The Post-CAVR Technical Secretariat has already distributed the CAVR Report to many institutions in Dili and next week, following recent improvements in the security situation, it will begin distributing the Report and related materials in the districts with the help of Japan and other donors. We hope everyone will read the Report and, following the example of religious institutions, will assist with its propagation.

What are the ‘great teachings’ in Chega?  Here are some that I believe are important:

1.  All Timorese, whether from the East or the West, suffered violence in different ways at different times. CAVR’s report shows that violations were indiscriminate and not related to the ethnic identity of victims or where they were born. Districts with the highest number of killings during the years 1974-1999 were Ermera, Baucau, Lautem and Manufahi. Ermera had the most reported killings. Districts with the highest number of non-fatal violations (detention, torture, sexual violence, forced displacement and social-economic violations) were Dili, Ermera, Manufahi, Viqueque and Lautem. 

2.  Lasting reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships cannot be achieved without establishing the truth, striving for justice, and providing reparations to victims. Reconciliation and impunity are mutually exclusive.  There can be no lasting reconciliation when perpetrators are not held accountable and impunity is tolerated. 

3.  Non-violence should be a national hallmark of our new society. Because Timorese know better than most the horror of violence, we should become a world leader in the practice of non-violence. As the CAVR Report recommends, this will require a long-term focussed effort by every institution from the top down to the home and individual relationships. I would add that this must be accompanied by development, not least for urban young men, because extreme poverty is often the basis of violence. 

4.  All human rights are the birthright of all Timorese. The CAVR Report calls for a systematic and sustained program of human rights education and particularly emphasises the right to security of person especially for women and children. 

5.  The state and its agencies have the primary responsibility to uphold and promote human rights. The CAVR Report strongly emphasises the importance of the political impartiality of the military and the police and their accountability to the law and civilian control. It also emphasises the importance of a responsive and effective public service. 

6.  The Parliament should consider establishing a follow-up institution to the CAVR. 

The Chair of CAVR, Aniceto Guterres Lopes, presented the CAVR Report to President Xanana Gusmao on 31 October 2005. He commented at the time that the deepest wish of all at CAVR was that the Report would convince all who read it of the need for “an almost fanatical commitment to non-violence and a determination never, ever to let any of what is in this Report happen again to our beautiful country and people”. With our President and Prime Minister, let’s give it another try.

Rev Agustinho de Vasconselos
Executive Director
Secretariado Tecnico Pos-CAVR
723 4935

Media article on relevance of Chega!

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