Voice From East Timor


Greetings from inside the territtory, East Timor (ET). It is a pleasure to share a few thoughts here online after being absent for a while. Organisers of this site/conference should be congratulated for their efforts at securing the participation of a number of posters from a wide spectrum of human rights (HR) issues: reseachers, students, peace activists, government officials, and professionals.

Let me briefly emphasize the continued importance of human rights in East Timor as one of my interests. Over the past few years, much of this territory has witnessed extraordinary rates of violance, rates that are alarming, despite dramatic achievements in physical development terms.

With this rapid deterioration in HR situation, the younger generation has become the target of any conflicts that emerged. Evidences suggest that there are constant fear and uncertainty in the youth's psyche. Without elaborating in details the potential sources of conflicts between the young Timorese and the security members, suffix to say that there is indeed an escalating violence in Dili and elsewhere throughout the territorty. It's indeed a matter of concern for human being !

As a result, the long-tradition of holding functions such as weddings, anniversaries and other social functions in the evenings is at stake. Such functions are out of scene since late last year. Nowadays, activities are held mostly in middays till afternoon (by 6 PM) in the outkirts of Dili. A very thoughtful move indeed, by ordinary Timorese to avoid risking their lives. This phenomenom, surprisingly, has become a new form of cultural enforcement which is unusual for East Timorese. No other alternative as such exists, and for how long this long standoff prevails, hard to tell. Ironically, those who deemed to have the power to change it, appear to be ambiguous in tackling these issues, let alone prevent it indefinitely for unknown reasons.

As many of you are aware, over the last few days, a few actions took place in Dili in commemorating the 1991 Santa cruz incident (a formal expression in Indonesian referring to the shootings of unarmed students in the Santa cruz cemetery). Many of us here inside ET and around the world, I believe, have learned this tragic and traumatic event. The event has become an annual 'Black November' for the young Timorese. Not surprisingly, under such extreme circumstances, many students decided to light their candles in front of the University of East Timor, in front of the Cathedral, Kristal High School and in some other parts in the vicinity of Becora, Dili. In Java, particularly in Jogyakarta, it is reported that hundreds of students went to deliever a protest letter to the Local MPs marking the anniversary of the Santa Cruz incident. This movement has been due to primarily to rapid increases in the awareness of young Timorese and their simpathisers elsewhere.

Furthermore, a series of seminars on East Timor in various Universities across Java recently carried out by the Timorese students association (IMPETTU), in conjunction with the PIJAR foundation provide a new momentum of openness and courage of the younger generation to show their care to their homeland. Generally speaking, this increase in public awareness should be applauded, given the low frequency of the dialogue among the government, armed forces and the youth. The government of the day has made its contribution by adopting policies and development funding that encouraged its efficient implementation in different areas. However, program for youth-oriented is a MUST and should be more intensified.

My own and only conclusion is that, it has achieved a counter productive point where HR issues have become unique and uniquely inseparable in modern democratic values. The momentum of openness has arrived for these young and courageous Timorese to discuss and defend the truth, and justice for their fellow Timorese. Perhaps it is high time and for the government to listen and the the wisest thing to do is to dialogue with them more often, with the hope to minimise the long-standing 'Eas Timor Fatigue' phenomenom. More importantly, there should be a genuine recognition that imposing hardline policies towards the youngster would serve no benefit for one another. It only brings more polarised views among all of us inside the territory.

Fri, 14 Nov 1997

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