Vengeance for Indonesia’s past deed remains alive today. Little incidents can seemingly invite retaliatory violent acts.
In early January 2006, a shooting incident took place on the Indonesian-Timor Leste border where three Indonesians were gunned down by a group in East Timor. The Indonesian government fumed and asked for a proper inquiry and explanation into the incident which involved five Indonesians fishing in Malibaka River. One of out of the five decided to go up a river bank to pocket corn. When the East Timorese authorities proceeded to arrest him, the Indonesian individual resisted arrest and this resulted in the shooting.
The Indonesian authorities have made a formal request to Timor Leste to ship back the bodies of the three Indonesians. The family members were hysterical upon receiving the news but has since been calmed down by the government. Dili has meantime asked for better interaction and communication channels with the Indonesian military to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Shooting of Indonesians by authorities in East Timor are not new. In the past, Indonesian individual pushing the boundaries of law and order in East Timor has prompted even international peacekeepers to open fire at them when East Timor was still under the guardianship of UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor). At that time, the situation was so dire that the UN has had to step in to mediate such incident. The UN then set up a joint investigation unit to look into the shooting and killing of an Indonesian soldier by international peacekeepers on the East Timor border. The New Zealand soldiers were eventually cleared of any illegal acts in shooting.
Indonesia’s brutal occupation of East Timor has seen in excess of 183,000 eliminated or perished from starvation in the country. Memories of the occupation and carnage in 1999 remain strong in the minds of the populace and are unlikely to fade fast in the near future. The reconstruction of Timor Leste under the watchful eyes of the UN and the international community and its close post-independence relations with Australia should help it tide through the early days of nationhood. Skirmishes and conflicts are unlikely to dissipate overnight. Meanwhile, Timor Leste’s gas reserves should buy it some time and some international attention for now and act as a form of deterrence against hawks in Indonesia capitalizing on minor shooting incidents to derail Timor Leste’s efforts in reconstruction and nation-building.
* RI Wants Joint Investigation Into E Timor Border Shooting Incident (Antara, Jan 7)