Saturday, November 12, 2011

East Timor’s Santa Cruz massacre - reflections 20 years on


An American social justice and development campaigner who has devoted much of his life to the East Timorese cause and lives in the independent nation, reflects on the struggles since the Santa Cruz massacre in Dili on 12 November 1991. Photo:La’o Hamutuk

By Charles Scheiner in Dili

TONIGHT, I’m honored to be with so many young Timorese people who believe in justice and independence. Twenty years ago, brave people just like you peacefully demonstrated against the Indonesian occupation of your country. Nobody paid them, or ordered them, or told them it would be safe or easy.

The Santa Cruz protesters inspired people around the world, including me. I was in New York, and I heard about the massacre on community radio. Although I already knew about Indonesia’s illegal occupation here, and about the criminal support my US government was giving to it, I hadn’t done much to stop it.

A month after the Santa Cruz massacre, I and some other friends organised a peaceful protest at the Indonesian Mission to the UN. We didn’t risk being shot or tortured, but we knew we had to speak out in solidarity with the heroes of Santa Cruz who risked and lost their lives in the struggle for self-determination.

It was much easier for us than it was for your parents – but it was also hard, because so many other Americans didn’t know or care that our government was complicit with Indonesia in committing crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste.

Our demonstration grew into a movement – the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) – that had more than 15,000 members and 25 chapters all across the United States by 1999.

Through public education, lobbying, demonstrations, outreach, coalition-building and every other kind of nonviolent action we could think of, we turned US policy around.

Washington had provided most of the weapons and training for the Indonesian military from 1975 until 1991, but pressure from American citizens cut it off.

Door opened
By 1998, the United States gtovernment had abandoned Suharto and was supporting self-determination – helping to open a door for the people of Timor-Leste to finally end Indonesia’s occupation.

It’s 12 years later now, 20 years after the Santa Cruz massacre and the founding of the East TimorAction Network.

East Timor has been independent for nine years. You have your own government, your own leaders, your own political debates, your own successes… and your own mistakes.

I feel privileged to live here during this period, traveling that journey with you. Building a peaceful, democratic nation, with economic and social justice for its entire population, may be even harder than throwing out the Indonesian army and police.

We are still far from some of our goals. In particular, the foreigners responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against the Timorese people have not been held accountable.

These were international crimes – the Indonesian invasion of Portuguese Timor (RDTL after 28 November 1975, but Indonesian aggression started before that) violated international law, as did the thousands of massacres, tortures, rapes, killings and other crimes that were part of the occupation.

When people are ordered or paid by one government to commit crimes against people in another country, those are international crimes. When other governments, including my own, give political, military, diplomatic or financial support to these crimes, they also become criminals.

Apology to Timorese
As a US citizen (I am not yet a Timorese citizen, but hope to become one), I have to apologise to the people of Timor-Leste because I and my fellow Americans took so long to stop our government from supporting crimes against you, while tens of thousands of Timorese people were killed.

As a human being, I join the Timorese people – including survivors and victims’ families – in calling for an end to impunity for crimes against humanity.

A hero of my country – ex-slave Frederick Douglass – once said that “Power never concedes anything without a demand.”

If we want justice, we have to demand it – it will not come by itself.

As you know, there was progress a few years ago. Between 1999 and 2005, Commissions of Inquiry established by the United Nations, Indonesia and Timor-Leste recognised the international nature of the huge crimes committed here and called for the prosecution of those who perpetrated them.

During UNTAET, the UN Serious Crimes Unit indicted nearly 400 people for crimes committed during 1999, bringing 87 to trial and convicting 84. But everyone brought to trial was Timorese, and none of them are still in prison.

None of the people who murdered Santa Cruz protesters 20 years ago were Timorese.

Larger problem
A larger problem is the 300 people indicted by the SCU who have never been arrested because Indonesia is sheltering them. And even more fundamental, no action has been taken against those who directed and executed the 99 percent of occupation-related crimes committed during its first 23 years.

Those perpetrators were carrying out criminal policies of the Suharto dictatorship, and most of them were soldiers following orders from Jakarta, shooting guns made in the United States, flying bombers from Britain or the US, getting political support from Australia or Malaysia or France.

The United Nations says there must never be impunity for Crimes Against Humanity. In 2002, nations from all over the world established the International Criminal Court to try such crimes when national processes are unwilling or unable to – but unfortunately it has no power to judge crimes committed before the court was set up.

In 2005, this global consensus was reflected by a UN Commission of Experts, who concluded that an international tribunal should be created if judicial processes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste fail to achieve justice for crimes committed during Indonesia’s occupation of Timor-Leste.

But today, the UN runs away – they and the other responsible governments and agencies say that Timor-Leste’s government has the responsibility but not the will to end impunity.

For some of us – Timorese and foreigners – the struggle is not over. We draw courage from people like Argentinian justice activist Patricia Isasa, who visited here last month. She campaigned for 33 years before her torturers and kidnappers were finally sent to prison.

Here, our justice campaign is only 12 years old. Although the UN, other governments, and some Timorese politicians prioritise diplomatic relations with formerly hostile nearby governments over justice, and although some say economic development is more important than accountability, there is no need to choose.

Criminal masterminds
Relations between democratic states can go well even while criminals are brought to justice. People’s economic lives – including victims of past crimes — can improve at the same time that masterminds of those crimes are brought to court. There is no need to choose among economic, social and criminal justice.

We, citizens of countries from around the world who support Timor-Leste’s people, will continue to demand that our governments and the United Nations keep their promises that impunity can never be accepted.

Today, ETAN issued a press release calling “for the US and other governments and the United Nations to commit to justice for the victims and their families. The 1991 massacre was a major turning point in Timor-Leste’s struggle for liberation.

“When we saw and heard about the Indonesian military shooting down hundreds of peaceful, unarmed student protesters, we knew we had to do something to stop the killing. The Santa Cruz massacre inspired many around the world to work for justice for the East Timorese people.”

Earlier this week, former General Taur Matan Ruak said: “Justisa sei iha” (there will be justice).

President Jose Ramos-Horta hopes that a courageous, young Indonesian prosecutor may bring high-level criminals to court five or ten years from now.

But it will never happen if we don’t continue to demand it. People in Timor-Leste, together with our friends in Indonesia, the United States and around the world, should see today’s anniversary as an opportunity – and a challenge – to renew our commitment to struggle for justice.

Since neither the Indonesian nor Timor-Leste governments are yet ready to end impunity, it is up to us.

Obrigado. A luta continua!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Papuan church no longer a safe haven


The Church has traditionally been seen as a non-partisan player in Papuan politics. In this statement, Father Neles Tebay tells of his fear that the Church is no longer respected as a safe haven for all Papuan citizens. Indonesian military and police shot directly at participants of the third Papuan People’s Congress as they tried to escape from a church property on the afternoon of 19 October 2011. Father Tebay, rector of the Fajar Timur School of Theology in Jayapura, tells how he heard Indonesian military (TNI) officers shouting, “We’ve got a runner … shoot!” as they ransacked the church property looking for congress participants. (Photo and story: Engage Media):

ON WEDNESDAY, 19 October, at around 9.00am, armed police officers, Mobile Brigade officers and TNI soldiers arrived to the Fajar Timur School of Theology in Pansers (army tanks), patrol cars and trucks.

They patrolled around the school…

They didn’t tell the campus that they were coming. It made us feel very uneasy and we suspected that trouble was looming. We didn’t want to get dragged in to the mess, so we decided to send home all staff at 10.00am.

At around 11.00am, a fully armed joint security team entered the theology campus. They went around at will without notifying anyone from the campus or the seminaries. They rested in a hut, but students and staff asked them not to disturb the study areas. After [a while], they retreated back to the mountains.

In the afternoon, around 3.30pm, several soldiers and officers entered the buildings that housed the theology students, saying that they were looking for the congress participants who had fled the scene. They broke doors, went inside the computer lab and ransacked the place.

A soldier said, "Bring those computers for evidence". Windows were smashed also. A student begged and said, "Please don’t, this is the house of the mission". Many other students were scared and hid in the back room. Several congress participants who had managed to take shelter at the campus hid in the bathrooms. When they tried to escape, I could hear the soldiers shouting, "We’ve got a runner … shoot!".

Standing in shock
When the soldiers were approaching the back room where students were hiding, there was a command: "There is boundary! There is boundary! Stop action! Retreat!". Then it went silent. After waiting a while, the students were brave enough to leave the room and headed for the house of the head teacher. One of the students was barely standing as he was in shock.

Meanwhile, also at 3.30pm, Father John Jehuru OSA, rector of the Inter-diocesan Seminary, was in his study room when a bullet came flying through his window. He had been watching the events unfold in Zakeus Field from afar. The bullet came close to him, barely a metre from his body.

The soldiers also went into other buildings. They went into the building that houses seminary students from the districts of Manokwari and Sorong. They yelled at the students: "Is this the house of the mission? Where are those priests? Those stupid priests! The priests who hid the fleeing participants!"

In the building that housed seminary students from Merauke, the soldiers apprehended a student by the name of Agus Alua who happened to be standing outside when the soldiers came. Windows were shattered with bullets. The soldiers that went into this house came in from the mountains. It is unclear whether these were the same soldiers who were at the house earlier, at 11.00am in the morning.

The soldiers chased the fleeing congress participants to the housing complex. They shot tear gas. One solider went inside one of the houses and found a lady hiding underneath the bed. The soldier asked: "Who are you?" She said: "I live here!", the soldier said: "Just get out, don’t be afraid", and the lady, as she got out, from under the bed said, "I’m not afraid of you, sir, but I’m afraid of your bullets and tear gas". The soldier left the house.

The Sang Surya Monastery gave refuge to many of the congress participants. Chair of the Papuan Customary Council (and congress-elected President) Forkorus Yaboisembut and Dominikus Surabut were resting there after the congress ended.

Father Gonsa Saur, head of the seminary housing, was awakened by the gunfire. He put on his Fransiscan robe and walked out. There uniformed soldiers and several plain-clothes officers were about to enter the house when he blocked them. They managed to go in anyway and the father saw the men were carrying rifles and pistols. Due to pressure, the father asked the guests of the house to leave the rooms, several did, but others were still hiding inside.

Violent assaults
Father Gonsa said to the soldiers: "you can take them, but please don’t hurt them". The soldiers kept their word … until they left the housing complex, where they began to punch and kick the congress participants.

President-elect Forkorus Yaboisembut was pulled violently and yelled at by armed plain-clothes officers. A woman was also pulled out from the seminary housing.

One soldier suddenly went up to the second floor. Father Gonsa asked him to come down. Around 10 unidentified persons came of the rooms and surrendered themselves. The soldier told them to squat. There were three women among the apprehended persons.

The Yohanes Maria Vianey Seminary was also used as a refuge for participants. Three soldiers in separate occasions pointed their guns to Father Yan You’s head as head of the seminary. They said: "You are hiding them!". Father Yan said: "Just kill me, shoot me, come on!".

The soldiers broke doors, entered rooms and violently pulled out those in hiding. Seminary students asked the soldiers not to hurt the apprehended congress participants. But a student who was trying to help a participant, who’d been shot, was hit with the butt of a rifle. The student fractured his arm, and his nose swelled after he was hit by a rubber stick. He was also detained for a night at the police station and hospitalised for his injuries.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kiwi media crusade against Les Bleus


AFTER the All Blacks’ achievement of finally winning the World Rugby Cup against a French revolution 8-7 last weekend after 24 years of self-absorbed angst, a sour mood has overtaken the post-final wave of euphoria. And the New Zealand media is deservedly taking the flak for it – especially the New Zealand Herald. In the eyes of many French rugby scribes, the Herald and other media have been waging a vengeful and vindictive smear campaign against France, Les Bleus and coach Marc Lièvremont who has now bowed out from his four-year tenure. The relentless and bitter campaign has been obvious to anybody following the relationship between NZ and French rugby. Of course, it has nothing to do with the embarrassing losses in 1999 and 2007 – or being within a whisker of pulling off perhaps the greatest humiliation of all, a Gallic sacking of the Mt Eden fortress and snatching of the World Cup from under our noses. As Ross Hastie noted in Planet Rugby:

The Fédération Française de Rugby did Lièvremont a massive disservice by naming his successor, another former Bleu, Philippe Saint-André, before the team had even left for New Zealand. As a result, journalists with a score to settle were giving free rein to fire away while the players were given licence to ignore what they didn't want hear from their boss.

But to the credit of the Herald, it has actually run a story highlighting French media criticism aimed at itself. Along with other critical accounts of the NZ media bias, this balanced commentary by Gordon Campbell is refreshing:

RWC Fallout - By Gordon Campbell

One of the rationales for the massive expenditure on the Rugby World Cup – at a time when for instance, every hospital in the country is being run into the ground – is that the tournament is serving as a valuable showcase for New Zealand to the world. Well, if that is the case, could Keith Quinn and his anonymous sources in the All Black camp please shut the f***up with their campaign to vilify the French team?

The rest of the world admired the French efforts in the final. The efforts being made to the contrary are only underlining to the world – and to the other 50 percent of New Zealanders who are not obsessed with rugby – that the All Blacks and their fans can be just as ugly and graceless in victory, as they are in defeat.

About this alleged eye gouging by the French centre Aurelien Rougerie ….no one laid an official complaint that an eye gouging occurred. The player allegedly gouged – Richie McCaw – is not saying that he was deliberately eye gouged. In fact, in the Guardian, McCaw said this about French captain Thierry Dusautoir:

Dusautoir showed what he was made of last night. Every time I have played against him he has had one hell of a game. He has been around a long time and he inspires his team by the way he plays.

That surely, should be the end of it. If you’ve got the evidence, you front up. Instead, some anonymous elements within the All Blacks camp have taken the back door route – they’ve avoided fronting up, while using Keith Quinn as a conduit for allegations of foul play. The attempt to smear Dusautoir has been particularly contemptible, and looks like petulance at him being named man of the match, and IRB player of the year.

Apparently Dusautoir’s sin was that he was “close” to the incident, and did nothing about it. Yep, three minutes before the end of a RWC final, Dusautoir has an over-riding obligation to be offering solicitous comfort to Richie McCaw. Good grief. If McCaw got an eye injury this was no less accidental – and did far less lasting damage – than McCaw’s knee to the face of French flyhalf Morgan Parra [which broke his nose – Café Pacific], far earlier in the game.

According to the French, their team members felt unable to leave their hotel on the night of the victory for fear of being attacked by celebrating All Black fans. (What would have happened to them if the French had won doesn’t bear thinking about.) Later, a photographer harassed the team at a private function and after being ejected tried to shoot photos through the restaurant window – and all the subsequent headlines were about the angry response to this cretin by one French player. Right.

We have lavished millions on this RWC – largely to the benefit of a fortunate few bar owners and hoteliers. No doubt, some business advantages will occur downstream in the wake of this tournament – but you can bet that RWC Minister Murray McCully won’t be ordering an opportunity cost analysis on whether this huge RWC spend-up really was the most effective way of promoting New Zealand as a business and tourism destination.

Footnote: The New Zealand Herald, which prominently featured the Quinn allegations also carried a highly selective story headlined “World Media Reacts : NZ Nailed It” that began with a largely positive report from the Guardian’s Robert Kitson. To get to Kitson, the Herald had to ignore the article in the same issue by the Guardian’s chief sports writer Richard Williams. For the record, here’s what Williams said:

All New Zealand did was win, which was presumably all they wanted to do in order to end their famous 24-year drought. They had hosted the tournament beautifully but when it came to the showdown they derived disproportionate benefit from home advantage, including a few free gifts from a referee who spent the first half infuriating even neutrals by giving virtually every decision to the men in black.

France’s fans were unable to make themselves heard in a stadium draped in black but their team’s display was full of spirit, generosity, creativity and adventure… and were hugely unfortunate not to become the first side from their nation to capture the Webb Ellis Cup.

The All Blacks were grim, pragmatic and joyless: a caricature of a stereotype. Nothing they did in the 80 minutes truly illuminated the game. Their try was a gimme, tinged with a hint of obstruction, and they never came close to scoring another…"I’m tremendously sad but tremendously proud, too,” [coach Marc
Lièvremont] said during a dignified post-match press conference. He made no reference to the collision between Richie McCaw’s knee and the temple of Morgan Parra in the 11th minute, which forced the early removal of France’s own influential flyhalf.

For the Guardian’s overview article on how New Zealand had successfully hosted the tournament, go here. It ends with this paragraph, which should also be kept in mind alongside the hosannas of praise for our hosting of the RWC, when assessing the tournament’s tourism legacy:

Abiding memory : A nation so immersed in their sport that it was possible to watch rugby 24 hours a day even if the down side was trying to dodge questions about England in every bar and restaurant visited. It was almost possible to forget the rip-off prices. Almost.

Rugby World Cup: France denied by a fate that once defied New Zealand


Self-taught videographer Jared Brandon says he is "blown away" by the success of his video on the World Cup final - the agony and the ecstasy as NZ defeats France 8-7.

Decisions went against France, the better side, in the final – just as they did for the All Blacks in 2007

By Paul Rees on The Guardian's SportBlog

DIMITRI YACHVILI summed up 45 days of Rugby World Cup 2011 when asked a few hours after the All Blacks had lifted the Webb Ellis Cup whether he thought the better team had lost the final.

The France scrum-half had predicted after the All Blacks had convincingly beaten France in the group stage that the two sides would meet again in the final. "We had the luck against Wales in the semi-final, but not tonight. The referee did not want us to win but you have to say that the best team in the tournament won."

France had a legitimate grievance with referee Craig Joubert and his two assistants, just as New Zealand had with Wayne Barnes and his two touch judges in the 2007 quarter-final in Cardiff. The decisions went the way of the hosts. What goes around comes around, as it is said, which is bad news for those countries that will never be able to stage the tournament.

France were outstanding in defeat, led by the indomitable Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy, two players who unquestionably deserved to be in the final. The All Blacks had the ideal start, scoring a try after 12 minutes, but as Piri Weepu wasted penalty opportunities, a combination of nerves and resolute opponents reduced New Zealand to virtual all-out defence.

Much had been made of the All Blacks' determination to learn from their failed campaigns of 2003 and 2007 but France also had players who had missed out in those years, even though it passed without comment in the build-up. Their resolve was as hard as New Zealand's, but their quest for the World Cup had not become an obsession and the final was an occasion to enjoy rather than endure.

Veterans took the edge
Veterans like Nicolas Mas, Lionel Nallet, Yachvili and Aurélien Rougerie all got the better of their opposite numbers and France's loose trio was the more effective back row unit. The All Blacks had to defend a one-point lead for 32 minutes, and if Richie McCaw's influence as an open-side was compromised by the foot injury that has plagued him for most of the tournament, his fighting spirit ensured there was no choking this time.

The All Blacks will go to England (and maybe Wales) in 2015 with, as the chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union Steve Tew put it, King Kong off their backs, even if they still have to win the World Cup on foreign soil. There was a fear that this tournament would fail because New Zealanders, so desperate for an end to 20 years of World Cup heartache, would be too wrapped up in their own obsession to embrace 19 visiting teams and more than 100,000 supporters.

From the moment that Tonga arrived in Auckland and were welcomed by some 10,000 supporters, that concern melted away. Everyone knew here what the World Cup meant: inclusiveness. Those who were around in 1987 recalled an inaugural event that was underwhelming, shared as it was with Australia. A crowd of some 20,000 turned up for the opening match at Eden Park between the All Blacks and Italy, media interest was muted and it hardly sparked a tourist boom.

The Rugby World Cup is now big business but New Zealanders also grasped that rugby union being their best export, this was a chance to showcase a country that is, for most of the major rugby playing nations, on the other side of the world. And they did it superbly.

The France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski may not have been allowed to take his young children on to the Eden Park pitch after the semi-final against Wales and one of Graham Henry's sons had the police called when he tried to join his father on the field after Sunday's trophy presentation, but this has been a tournament when the officious have taken a holiday.

Volunteer army
An army of 6,500 volunteers, clad in aquamarine World Cup jackets, has been on call around the two islands to help visitors at airports, in towns and cities and in and around the stadia. Some gave up their holiday entitlement to do the unpaid work and they all contributed richly to the undoubted success of the tournament, something for England to take on board in 2015.

Using choirs to lead the singing of the national anthems was another idea that worked perfectly. New Zealand has done the little things well, making the fears of some on the International Rugby Board that it was not just a financial mistake to bring the tournament here unfounded. The only question is when – not if – it will return.

The colour was provided in the group stage. The tier two and three nations complained, rightly, about the short turnovers they had to endure between matches, something that will change in 2015, if only because the broadcasters like the idea of the top countries playing in midweek, but they all had their moments, even Namibia who showed flashes in their opening match against Fiji.

The schedule became too much for most of them, but Russia continued attacking to the end, becoming the first side since Wales in 1987 to score three tries against Australia in the World Cup. They did not have a line-out and their defence was not the tightest, but they looked to move the ball.

Romania had one of the best scrums in the tournament, Japan were dangerous in broken play, Canada and the United States were organised and Georgia showed glimpses of life beyond a 10-man game.

Fiji disappointing
Fiji were a disappointment, politics blighting their campaign, but Tonga defeated France and Samoa might have made the quarter-finals. Their Gloucester centre, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, twittered against any perceived slight, and more, but at least one of his complaints may have been taken on board by the International Rugby Board.

He was angry that Samoa's final group match against South Africa was refereed by a Welshman, Nigel Owens. It was a game that was likely to have a bearing on Wales's progress to the quarter-finals and the fuming Sapolu felt that nationality should have been taken into account when the appointment was made. Italy had the same grievance in their penultimate group game against the United States, which was refereed by George Clancy of Ireland, the Azzurri's final opponents.

The International Rugby Board is considering shaking up the process of appointing referees. The power currently lies with a committee which is chaired by a Welshman, David Pickering, but there is a proposal to achieve greater transparency by having an independent chairman.

The knockout stage gripped without stimulating. England were sent home early having been fortunate to beat both Argentina and Scotland, whose ambition to play expansive rugby was not matched by their ability to do so; Ireland failed to take advantage of their epic victory over Australia and fell to Wales; age caught up with South Africa and the Pumas took it to the All Blacks.

The semi-finals and final yielded a mere four tries, but they were not a repeat of the kicking contests of 2007. The intensity was at times frightening and rugby union at the top level has become a place where footballing skill shows itself infrequently. The stand-out players in the tournament were mostly sevens and eights reflecting the way the breakdown has come to dominate the game.

Rightful winners
New Zealand were the rightful winners, unbeaten throughout and overcoming the loss of their leading back, Dan Carter, in the group stage. With McCaw limping through the knockout stage, they looked vulnerable.

Four years ago they may have cracked, but by persevering with the coaching team that took them to the 2007 World Cup, they had insured themselves with experience. And that, in the final reckoning, is what helped them in the final minutes when they were one kick away from another World Cup inquest.

France had felt guided by destiny all tournament, a notion quickly disabused on Sunday by some of the decisions that went against them, but fate, in exactly the same manner it defied them in 2007, was with the All Blacks.

Graham Henry, the redeemer redeemed.

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