Indonesia-Timor Leste spat continues

Updated On: Jan 13, 2006

The transfer of the corpses of three Indonesians shot dead by Timor Leste’s (East Timor) police hit a snag.

The East Timorese government only handed over the bodies of Candido Mariano (26 years of age) and Stanis Maubere (48 years of age) while the third body of Jose Mausorte (38 years of age) would be buried in East Timor itself apparently because of differences arising from different factions of relatives. Some wanted the body to be buried in Cailaco, Bobonaro district his native village to be the site of burial while others wanted the hometown of Haekesak in Belu regency to be the preferred choice. Therefore, the burial of the third is held up as the police are trying to get the relatives to sign the forms for the handing over and is caught in the fray between the relatives.

Meanwhile the East Timorese government had struck back accusing the Indonesians of not self-restraining their citizens from moving across national borders and that their police were ambushed by the three men. Two of the Timorese police were said to be unarmed and the East Timorese government defended the actions of the third who opened fire in time to prevent the Indonesians from attacking them. This is probably one of the most acute crisis faced by the young Timorese government since the UN shot dead Indonesians when the newly-formed state was still under UN transitional authority. In somewhat similar incidents, the UN troops were acquitted of wrongdoing.

Indonesian had backed down somewhat on Monday Jan 9 2006 when the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirajuda agreed to form a joint committee to investigate the incident. However, there are still factions within the Indonesian government who accuse the East Timorese of using excessive force. Such incidents are tests of the young East Timorese diplomacy and are likely to shape future East Timor-Indonesian relations and also East Timor future entry into ASEAN.  

Meanwhile, in IndonesiaEast Timor remains a sensitive topic for the Indonesian government which banned films from Singapore on the subject. "Passabe" is a documentary about isolated village in Timor which witnessesed the worst massacres following in 1999 after the independence referendum. The film shooting lasted more than a year and portrayed the lives of those affected by the massacre nearly four years after. It also depicts a former militiaman who was compelled to kill East Timorese during the senseless violence.

The filmmakers were also sanctioned by the United Nations (UN)-supported Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation to record and capture the "Truth Hearings" and efforts as part of the efforts to bring the truth out into the open for all to see and also hope for reconciliation. But the UN and the filmmakers’ aim were thwarted by the Indonesian government which stepped in to ban the film at the Jakarta International Film Festival in Dec 2005. Two other films shot on the same topic were also disallowed.

James Leong, the co-director of "Passabe" said that the official reason given by the Indonesian government was that the topic was still sensitive and may open up fresh wounds and cause more conflict. However, by covering the massacres and other similar incidents up in Indonesia, it may achieve the opposite effects by not properly acknowledging the mistake made, an argument also made by another co-direction Lynn Lee. They are hoping that the film can be shown in the next Jakartafilm festival.


* Handing Over of Bodies of Three Indonesians Unsmooth (Antara, Jan 11)

* East Timor PM Defends Shooting (Straits Times, Jan 12)

Indonesiabans three films about its occupation of East Timor(Jakarta Post, Jan 11)

* S'pore film on Timorese village banned at Jakarta Film Festival (CNA, Jan 11)