terça-feira, 3 de fevereiro de 2009

Timor-Leste donates $500,000 for humanitarian aid to Cyclone Nargis survivors in Myanmar

Date: 02 Feb 2009

ASEAN Secretariat, 2 February 2009 - Timor-Leste last Thursday announced in Dili its donation of US$500,000 for the ASEAN led humanitarian operations to aid the survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Delta.

Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao made the announcement during a ceremony in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to launch Timor-Leste's "ASEAN National Secretariat", established to organise and coordinate the country's preparations to join ASEAN.

He said that the contribution is Timor-Leste's show of "solidarity" with the people of Myanmar suffering from Cyclone Nargis. "We in Timor-Leste understand the pains and suffering caused by the cyclone. This modest contribution is also Timor-Leste's show of commitment to supporting the ASEAN Community," he added.

He also said the establishment of Timor-Leste's "ASEAN National Secretariat" is yet another special step towards obtaining the ASEAN membership for his country at the earliest possible date.

President Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, National Parliament President Fernando Lasama de Araujo, Foreign Minister Dr Zacarias Albano da Costa, Secretary General Imron Cotan of Indonesia's Department of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Termsak Chalermpalanupap, Special Assistant to the Secretary-General of ASEAN, among others, were at the ceremony.

Source: ASEAN

quinta-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2008

Czech Republic, East Timor offer asylum to Burmese rebels

by Mungpi
Thursday, 18 December 2008 19:53

New Delhi (Mizzima) - East Timor and the Czech Republic have 'in principle' agreed to offer asylum to 34 Burmese ethnic rebels, who are currently lodged in Kolkata's presidency jail in India and facing trial for alleged gun-running.

Soe Myint, Editor-in-Chief of Burmese Independent News Agency – Mizzima – who is appointed by the Calcutta court as interpreter for the rebels said, the two countries have agreed to offer asylum in order to avoid deportation to military-ruled Burma, if they were found not guilty under the Indian law.

"Now that the trial is almost over, and if they are found not guilty, they cannot remain in India… But repatriating them to Burma could be dangerous for them so these two countries have offered to provide shelter to avoid repatriation," Soe Myint said.

But he added that in order to resettle the rebels to these countries, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) needs to intervene and recognise them as refugees.

With the case of the Burmese ethnic rebels - Arakanese and Karen - drawing to an end, 38 Burmese organisations including the National Unity Party of Arakan (NUPA) and the Karen National Union (KNU), of which organisation the detained rebels belong to, have written an appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Refugee in Geneva to intervene into the case.

The 38 organisations include armed resistant groups, political groups and parties that have been living in exile and struggling to restore democracy in Burma.

In their letter to Mr. Antonio Guterres, the High Commissioner for refugees, the groups said, the 34 rebels, even if acquitted of the current charges, if denied UNHCR protection and promised resettlement to third country, could continued to be detained for charges under the foreigners act.

The groups said the worst would be for India to deport them back to Burma, as they would be executed or jailed by the military-rulers, whom the rebels have fought for years.

Akshay Sharma, one of the defence counsels of the rebels, said the prosecution has so far failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove the charge. But with at least three to four court schedules still pending, the trial could continue for another six months.

"Within this period the court will make a judgement," Sharma told Mizzima during an interview earlier.

"We have all the positive prospects," Sharma said.

However, the last court session, scheduled in late November was adjourned to January 15 to 21, 2009 by the court saying the prosecution was unable to bring some of the resources.

The 34 rebels, belonging to armed rebel groups the NUPA and KNU, were arrested in February 1998 by Indian armed forces after they had come to India's eastern archipelago of Andamans.

The rebels, who would be completing 11 years of detention in February 2009, said they had been framed by the Indian military.

They said, they have been associated for long with Indian military intelligence, and have been used to watch Chinese naval activity and movement of northeast Indian rebels on the Arakan coast in western Burma, until India's relations with the Burmese military junta improved in the late 1990s.

According to the rebels, the Indian military intelligence had made an offer to them to come and set up base in the Landfall islands of the Andamans. But when they came in two ships, six of their leaders were killed in cold blood and the rest were arrested and put in jail.
They were arrested and kept in Port Blair without being charged until October 2006, when they were ordered by the Supreme Court to be moved to Kolkata, after a leading human rights lawyer Nandita and her associates filed a petition and to conduct a day-to-day trial.
With defence counsels confident that the charges will be dropped as the prosecution failed to present adequate witnesses and evidence, Soe Myint said, they need a place where they can have asylum, because if they are not convicted under Indian law, and are not resettled to a third country, Delhi might deport them back to Burma.
"If they [the rebels] are sent back to Burma, they might even be executed," Soe Myint added.

Source: Mizzima

quarta-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2008

East Timor uneasiness on troops

Lindsay Murdoch
December 18, 2008

MANY complaints against Australian soldiers in East Timor remain unresolved because there is no formal means to deal with them, Australian MPs have been told.

In one case, the family of a Timorese man killed when his motorcycle and an Australian army truck collided in August 2007 has received no direct condolence or compensation even though UN police found the Australian driver "bore the greater responsibility for the accident as he was speeding".

The victim's family has been unable to pursue civil damages or settlement because Australian soldiers serving in the International Stabilisation Force in East Timor are not answerable to either the country's court system or the UN mission in Dili.

Human rights activists say Australian soldiers serving in East Timor effectively have immunity for any crimes they commit, both on and off duty.

In 2006, the Howard government refused requests by the government in Dili and the UN for Australians troops being sent to Dili to quell violence to be put under UN command.

Under the UN's system of accountability, national forces operating in foreign countries must answer to an outside body.

La'o Hamutuk, a Timorese non-government organisation, told the Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence the Australian forces in East Timor should be integrated into the UN peacekeeping force chain of command.

La'o Hamutuk told the committee's Inquiry into Human Rights Mechanisms in Asia-Pacific there needed to be a "clear, independent and transparent process for Timorese citizens to report to resolve complaints against the Australian military".

La'o Hamutuk's submission cites repeated efforts by human rights lawyer Natercia Barbosa de Deus to arrange a meeting between the ISF and the family of the dead motorcyclist, but each time the meetings were cancelled.

Ms de Deus was told the driver of the ISF vehicle was scared of meeting the family and left the country soon after the accident.

The man's death meant his wife could not meet rental payments for where she was living with five children. They now live in a shack with 20 to 30 others.

La'o Hamutuk also criticised the Australian soldiers for the way they patrol the streets.

"Carrying long arms at all times, on and off duty, even where there is a low security risk, such as speaking to small children, playing sport, shopping in supermarket, eating at a restaurant or relaxing at the beach, is inappropriate and insensitive to a population traumatised by a brutal military occupation," it said. "It makes people feel unsafe."

About 750 Australian soldiers are deployed with New Zealand troops in the ISF.

Source: The Age

sexta-feira, 12 de dezembro de 2008

On Alatas' Cambodian glory, E. Timor humiliation

By: Kornelius Purba

It is very easy to say bad things about a living person, no matter how much we love or hate them. But immediately after the person dies, the bad things disappear and memories of the good things suddenly emerge. Unfortunately the dead person no longer has the chance to hear the loving choir.

When we heard of the death of former Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas -- affectionately known as Alex -- a colleague spoke about the aforementioned tendency. But Alatas often heard symphonies of adoration about his achievements as a diplomat from many people in the world during his life.

Journalists, including myself, who covered his actions during his 11-and-a-half-year ministerial tenure, definitely also played the pleasant music for him. The internationally respected diplomat and statesman won our and the media's hearts and mind.

However, I strongly criticized him once when he launched his book, A Voice for a Just Peace, in December 2001. I told him that he had practically ignored Soeharto and had not included a photo of himself with his former boss in the book. It was disappointing for me, because Soeharto deserves major credit for Alatas' success story.

One of the funnier memories I have of him is of a moment that occurred several years ago. At the time, although he was irritated, Alatas tried to remain calm when answering questions set to him by Michael Vatikiotis, the Jakarta correspondent of the weekly Far Eastern Economic Review, who persistently questioned him about human rights abuses in Indonesia's colony -- according to the UN standard -- East Timor.

Alatas gave lengthy answers, much to the boredom of the other journalists attending his weekly press briefing at the Foreign Ministry.

Alatas then turned his attention to one of the tape recorders being waved under his nose by the journalists. The machine was making an obnoxious "tic, tac" sound. It was my tape recorder.
"What is going on with that tape?" Alatas asked.

"The tape was designed to record only valuable remarks," I joked.

He laughed, realizing that he had been talking too much. And to the relief of the other reporters, Alatas stopped "preaching" at Vatikiotis.

No doubt, some of the most frequent and irritating questions put to him by reporters during his tenure as Indonesian foreign minister, which expired in September 1999, had to do with East Timor.

Other Indonesian diplomats were also tasked with -- according to current Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda -- telling "the truth but not the whole truth" about East Timor.

And the most painful period for him as Indonesia's chief diplomat was likely when he served then president B.J. Habibie's short-lived government from May 1998 to September 1999.

Not just because he had to compete with Habibie's advisor Dewi Fortuna Anwar, who was playing the role of "de facto" foreign minister, but mostly because Habibie did not consult him before deciding to hold a referendum in East Timor in 1999.

Internationally, Alatas is probably one of -- if not the most -- successful and respected Indonesian career diplomats in the country's history, thanks in part to the great deal of trust imparted on him by president Soeharto during the 10 years they worked together.

All of Soeharto's succeeding four presidents, including Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, depended on him as their foreign affairs advisor.

His successor, Hassan Wirayuda, is a very eloquent diplomat, but Hassan lacks the charisma and the strong public relations capacity that allowed Alatas to build such a health rapport with the media as well as his international counterparts.

Among the incumbent leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen spent the most time working with Alatas.

Alatas worked very hard for years to help encourage Cambodian warring parties to agree to a peace agreement.

Vietnam installed Hun Sen as its prime minister after it invaded Cambodia in 1978. The Paris International Conference was held in October 1991, but Indonesia had to share the glory with France, which joined in the final stages of the peace negotiations.

In contrast to his predecessor, Mochtar Kusumaatmadja, who often clashed with Indonesian generals, especially military chief Gen. Benny Moerdani, on several issues, especially East Timor and Cambodia, Alatas was more flexible and persuasive.

At the time of the Cambodian invasion, Indonesia's and Vietnam's armed forces were working together closely as the two countries attempted to counter China's growing influence on the region. Indonesia reopened its international relations with China in 1990 after 25 years of tense silence.

Soeharto enjoyed some glorious moments at various international forums, including when Indonesia successfully hosted the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in 1991 and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 1994. Human rights abuses by the military continued in East Timor and in many other parts of this country, but because Indonesia's economy was peaking in the 1990s before collapsing in 1998, the international community tended to ignore Soeharto's grave economic mismanagements.

Alatas was lucky, Soeharto concentrated most of his time on domestic affairs, although he also enjoyed international appearances, declaring himself the "champion" of developing countries.
The Foreign Ministry has produced many brilliant diplomats, including minister Hassan. But it will be very difficult to find a diplomat as charismatic and capable as Alatas.
Source: The Jakarta Post