Following are excerpts from an interview with The Jakarta Post's in Dili, with the writer of Timor: A People Betrayed, conducted while militias were on trial in both Dili and Jakarta.
Question: How far do you think the tribunals in Dili can go in bringing justice to Timorese regarding the war crimes?
Answer: Tribunals can only deal with the people it has access to -- the militia in Timor. There are no extradition agreements with Indonesia (to bring back suspects from Indonesia). I admire (Attorney General) Marzuki Darusman (whose office is looking into alleged war crimes). He has an important role to play.
I fear (court proceedings) are going to be difficult (in Indonesia and in Timor) with the Indonesian Military (TNI) being protective (of its members implicated in war crimes). Militia here will get 20 years or more only for obeying orders. What about the TNI officers living in their large houses?
Who planned the (1999) operation? Who gave those kinds of orders (to kill and destroy property, infrastructure)?
It is important for Timor to have a truth and reconciliation commission. Indonesia should have one also, for "democratic purification". Timor (cases of war crimes) will linger like the 1965 Gestapo case in Indonesia; we can't go very far until we can talk to the key actors. I would really like to know what happened and where the differences lay in the military.
Surely there were generals who didn't agree (with operations). It wasn't everybody in the military (who was responsible).
With no investigation in Indonesia, the nation will be blamed until those responsible are identified.
Like the case of the Aborigines in Australia, it really hurt when we started to talk and the issue is still unresolved, but in addressing the issue we became a better people (than before).
Regarding differences in the TNI, the late Col. Dading Kalbuadi, a former high ranking officer in East Timor, was quoted as saying that he felt guilty for the deaths of many Indonesian soldiers.
Thousands of Indonesians died, it's a terrible story which could have been avoided. So it's important to take a close look at what transpired. It's not only for knowing ourselves better, but to improve ourselves for the future.
You said earlier that, in the Timor issue, there's also a lesson for Australia.
We have involvement. If Australia had acted more responsibly in 1975 I don't believe Indonesia would have used military means to invade East Timor. We knew Soeharto was reluctant. His military was eager but some generals were also reluctant. What happened in 1999 has its roots in the past.
Is the report you're completing focusing on 1999?
Yes, and, in relation with the TNI, what happened between 1975 to 1999 (in East Timor) regarding the involvement of sections of the military which were never really discussed (in Indonesia).
So when (alleged crimes against humanity in) 1999 happened (it involved) those who felt confident that they would never be subjected to exposure.
I'm impressed by the report of KPP HAM (the Indonesian government-sanctioned Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations) in East Timor. It was a noble attempt by concerned Indonesians to deal with ugly realities.
Do you think it is lack of international pressure which has led to the slow follow up of the Committee's investigations?
Indonesia is going through a very difficult time. Other issues, not only Timor, have been very destructive ... (to the degree) that it has become difficult to forge unity.
I feel Indonesians really want democratic change, but they also want integration.
Could the courts here request extradition agreements?
That's a political decision. A key element is the reform agenda in the military getting more support in Indonesia.
I would like to see a successful Indonesian tribunal (ongoing in Jakarta) along the general lines of the KPP HAM's report (which implicated TNI involvement in serious crimes in East Timor). If not, will we have the same problem as in Bosnia; will we let the (perpetrators) get away?
There has to be some (further) investigation. Or there will be calls for an international tribunal. And we'll have this contradiction of Timorese (on the) operational (level) getting sentences.
This presents a serious dilemma in achieving justice. This is an old argument. Then the one giving orders might say they ordered that no one got killed (in operations involving civilian populations).
In 1999, whoever gave such orders should have given a red light (to subordinates). We're forced to conclude that they didn't mind the bloodshed.
Their culpability is pretty obvious. Commanders should be saying that (operations) should be stopped, that it's getting out of hand.
It is very disturbing that no one has been charged for the killing. Then those giving orders are not charged. (This is the) long history of an arrangement to abuse, simply because of no legal action or brakes being applied on the military.
So no problems were expected (by those giving orders). Actions (replacement of generals, investigations) after Santa Cruz and Liquica (massacres of 1991, 1999) were very rare experiences.
A further problem into proving crimes would be the lack of bodies.
Yes, then the courts would have no case. This is a very complex scenario. It would be wonderful if we had a truth and reconciliation commission, even without penalties. It is important to know what happened. Not much has really been documented.
How many actually died in 1999?
Figures of 800, 1,000 have been mentioned. We might never know about cases of alleged dumping of bodies into the sea and so on.
Many bodies were found in villages, buried by their families and then not talked about for fear (of reprisal).
I would say there were over 1,000 deaths. But there was forced deportation of some 250,000 people, out of which some 170,000 have returned.
What is your report focusing on?
I can't say much now. It's nothing special, it may be reflecting similar concerns in the report of KPP HAM. I hope this will lead to legal action but also the sort of political change that ends this sort of behavior.
Legal change would bring justice to relatives of the victims. Political change would bring medication (to the nation).
It seems it's very hard to change impunity.
It has been appalling to hear Timorese women who have been raped; thousands have been raped and no one has been charged. I hope to see a change in that it would be good for military officers' careers to have to speak the truth.