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The La'o Hamutuk Bulletin
Vol. 4, No. 3-4: August 2003

English PDF Format  |  Bahasa Indonesia PDF Format

Double issue foci: Timor Gap oil and Brazilian Aid to East Timor

Table of contents:

Part 1

Part 2

In Brief

From 19-21 May 2003 Focus on Global South organized an international conference in Jakarta entitled Iraq and the Global Peace Movement: What next? More than 60 peace and justice activists representing political organizations and NGOs coming from Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa and America participated in the conference. East Timor was represented by two La'o Hamutuk staff members. The conference aimed to strengthen anti-war networks and promote peace and justice in the world particularly in Asia, Europe and North America. After three days of intensive discussion and debates, the participants agreed on a statement condemning the war in Iraq and violence occurring in Aceh, Mindanao and Kashmir. The participants also advocated for justice for East Timor, and they reaffirmed the need to continue fighting globalization and militarization, which have become tools by which rich nations oppress the developing world.

On 6 June, East Timorese representatives from around 30 local organizations met in Remexio, Aileu District for two days to evaluate the activities of Dai Popular, the East Timorese Network for Popular Educators. Among the participants were local NGOs, community based organizations as well as women's and farmer's groups from almost all districts of East Timor, who met to discuss popular education in East Timor and plan the activities of Dai Popular for the next six months. The plan includes monthly meetings in the districts to promote and facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences among groups working with popular education.

In addition, there will be an international exchange with MST (Landless Movement), a peasant movement in Brazil struggling for agrarian reform and alternative methods of agriculture to be held in September 2004. International exchanges with popular educators in other countries are part of Dai Popular's strategy to deepen and develop local understanding of popular education and to strengthen relationships between organizations in East Timor and organizations in other countries with similar views. This September, Dai Popular and La'o Hamutuk are organizing an international exchange for eight members of Dai Popular to visit Cuba to share ideas and experiences with groups using popular education for health, agriculture and community economy.

This was the third National Meeting for Dai Popular. The first one was in January 2002 in Dare, and the second in September 2002 in Gleno. Dai Popular was formed by 20 local organizations to support and develop popular education in East Timor as a tool in the process of democratization and social transformation. Today the Network has 36 members. For more information on the work of Dai Popular see La'o Hamutuk Bulletin Vol. 3, Nos 2-3.

On 4 July more than 50 East Timorese and a few international supporters held a peaceful candlelight vigil outside the United States Ambassador's residence where the ambassador was hosting a party to mark the 227th anniversary of the United States Declaration of Independence. The vigil was organized by the East Timor National Alliance for an International Tribunal, a coalition of NGOs including the Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor, Arte Moris, FOKUPERS, FORTILOS, GFFTL, GMPD, JSMP, Konsellu Solidaridade Estudante Timor Lorosa'e, KSI, La'o Hamutuk, LBH Ukun Rasik An, LIFSLIPO, NGO Forum Timor Lorosa'e, Oxfam Australia, Perkumpulan HAK and the Sa'he Institute for Liberation. A joint statement delivered to the ambassador and many guests stressed the following points:

Brazilian Cooperation in East Timor

In 2002 East Timor joined the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), which includes Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Guinéa-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Portugal and Brazil are the only two CPLP members that give financial aid or have development projects in East Timor. For information on Portuguese aid see La'o Hamutuk Bulletin Vol. 3, No. 7. In this Bulletin, La'o Hamutuk continues a series of articles analyzing the relationship between East Timor and other members of CPLP.

The Brazilian Cooperation Agency -- ABC

Brazil is normally not a "donor" country, in the sense that it does not give international financial aid. Its international cooperation is based on technical cooperation with other developing countries, which, according to the Brazilian government, means "the transfer of technology, technical knowledge and practical experience on a non-commercial basis" and "support to the mobilization and development of local technical capacities, through actions implemented in partnership with external counterparts."

Projects and activities developed by Brazilian international cooperation are mainly consultancies, human resource training, joint research and study projects, and donation of equipment and material. Most Brazilian international technical cooperation is administered and coordinated by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), a department within the Ministry of External Relations. As ABC is not an implementing agency it makes partnerships with governmental and non-governmental Brazilian organizations and foundations, as well as agreements with recipient governments to implement projects under its overall coordination.

In addition to ABC, the Brazilian government administers international aid projects and activities through bodies such as the Department of Scientific and Technological Cooperation, Department of Culture and Ministry of Health. However, this article will only examine the projects administered by ABC in East Timor, focusing on the two major projects: Community Literacy and the Center for Business Development, Vocational Training and Social Promotion.

ABC in the World

ABC's projects may be bilateral or multilateral, through international bodies such as UN agencies. ABC also has specific projects within the scope of international forums where Brazil is a member, such as CPLP.

In 2002 all of ABC's technical cooperation with other developing countries was destined to Portuguese speaking and Latin American and Caribbean countries (see graph 1), and was mainly focused on agriculture, health, environment and education (see graph 2). Three percent of their projects are allocated to Asia, Pacific and Eastern Europe, and all of these are projects in East Timor.

La'o Hamutuk didn't have access to the official amount of ABC's cooperation, but sources inside the Brazilian government told us that the amount assigned to East Timor, which was approximately $936,000 in 2002, is around 30% of the total amount of ABC cooperation worldwide.

ABC in East Timor

In 1999 and 2000, during the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), East Timorese leaders such as Xanana Gusmão, then the president of CNRT and Father Filomeno Jacob, Minister for Social Affairs in the Transitional Government, visited Brazil to promote the possibilities of Brazilian cooperation in East Timor, especially in the education and health sectors. ABC presented projects, which were eventually approved by the East Timorese leadership and UNTAET.

ABC's cooperation in health has been restricted to short-term activities such as training East Timorese doctors in Brazil, sending Brazilian doctors to East Timor and vaccination campaigns. No long-term projects have been developed.

The majority of ABC projects in the education sector are concentrated in the non-formal area, especially in the development and reintroduction of the Portuguese language. Most of these are adaptations of projects developed in Brazil.

ABC's projects in East Timor, 2002-2003

Since ABC's cooperation with East Timor started in 2000, it has spent $2,960,000. This amount includes Brazilian staff salaries and airfares to and from East Timor.

Center for Business Development, Vocational Training and Social Promotion -- $1,800,000: A Vocational Training project for adults and youths older than 15 years old (see below).

Community Literacy Project -- $540,000: A Portuguese language literacy project for youth and adults (see below).

Distance Education Project -- $490,000: The distance education project caters for primary and secondary school levels although it is focused at students 15 years and older with a low-level education. The project uses the method of telesalas: subjects are taught through videotape, with a teacher providing supplementary teaching. All materials are identical to those used in Brazil. The project began in August 2001, with the plan to open 20 telesalas in Dili and Baucau, attending around 500 students. Today there are 12 telesalas in Dili (the ones in Baucau were never opened) providing for 283 students. The subjects for the primary school level are Portuguese, mathematics and science; secondary school includes three subjects as well as biology, physics and chemistry. Materials on East Timorese history and geography haven't been developed yet, so these subjects aren't taught. The objective of this project is to prepare young people who didn't have opportunity to go to school or to finish their studies during the Indonesian occupation to return to the formal education system. But the project has several problems: the materials do not respond to East Timorese needs; the drop out rate is over 40%; and only 16% of the students passed all three of their exams (in all three subjects), which is necessary to go on to the next year. Since the beginning of 2003 the project was handed to the Department of Non-Formal Education in the Ministry of Education, which has been evaluating the project and trying to adapt it to East Timor.

Coffee Project -- $130,000: A project in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, with the objective of developing coffee production in East Timor and training agronomy technicians and coffee farmers in coffee techniques. The project started in 2002 and covers the coffee towns of Ermera, Gleno, Liquiça, Aileu and Same. A Brazilian technician and an East Timorese counterpart from the Ministry of Agriculture coordinate the project.

Center for Business Development, Vocational Training and Social Promotion

The Center for Business Development, Vocational Training and Social Promotion is a project directly requested by President Xanana Gusmão, when he visited Brazil in 2000. President Xanana Gusmão visited the National Service for Industrial Training (Senai), in São Paulo, and asked the Brazilian government to implement a similar project in East Timor. The same year nine East Timorese went to Brazil for two months training at Senai and started the construction of the Center for Business Development, Vocational Training and Social Promotion in Becora. The project aims to offer vocational training to adults and youths with a low level of education in areas considered important to East Timor.

The center was launched on 21 May 2002 with classes in seven different areas: carpentry, furniture making, industrial sewing, bricklaying, electrical engineering, computer skills and plumbing. The baking course is ready to start with all the necessary equipment and a trained East Timorese instructor, but the Brazilian coordination is waiting for a Brazilian instructor to arrive in order to begin class. The project aims to expand to twelve subjects, but the new subjects have not been defined yet.

Classes in each subject are four hours long and held every weekday morning and afternoon. Courses range from 400 to 600 hours over five to six months. As the subjects are vocational the courses are 75% practice with 25% theory. The students are evaluated on the number of hours they attend. All instructors are East Timorese, and they use Tetum or Indonesian in class, which are much more accessible to the students than Portuguese. The Brazilian instructors monitor and give support to the East Timorese instructors, but they don't get directly involved with the students.

Table: Number of Students (morning and afternoon) per Area
Furniture making10
Industrial sewing17
Computer skills11
Electrical engineering8
The minimum enrolment age is 16 years old. Even though the center can handle 24 students per course, currently each course has an average of 10 students (see table). The drop out rate is around 40%. According to the East Timorese technical coordinator, it's mainly because students don't have money for transport or need to find paid work, since they don't receive any money to take part in the classes.

The Portuguese Mission and East Timor's Secretary of Labor and Solidarity have a similar vocational training project in Tibar, in which students receive two dollars per day to take part in the classes. According to David Letichevsky, an ABC staff member interviewed by La'o Hamutuk, this is a paternalistic policy, which ABC refuses to follow.

Even though the project prioritizes people with a low level of education, it has a selection process that involves difficult tests, discriminating against students who haven't had a formal education.

Another problem is the Brazilian coordination. There have been no Brazilian instructors in East Timor since December 2002, despite the fact that the overall coordination of the project is still in the hands of ABC. Besides the East Timorese instructors being left on their own, communication with Brazil is problematic, which makes the decision making process even slower.

The first phase of this project ended in 2002, and in the current phase the East Timorese government assumed responsibility for East Timorese staff salaries. ABC pays for the Brazilian instructors (which have not existed since December 2002) and provides funds for class materials. When the coordination of the center is completely handed over to the East Timorese government, the government will also receive all the center's equipment.

Community Literacy Project

The Community Literacy project is an "adaptation" of a program implemented in Brazil since 1997 called "Solidarity Literacy," a program to teach adults and youths older than 15 to read and write, created to reduce illiteracy rates and broaden the public provision of youth and adult's education.

East Timor, Mozambique, São Tomé e Príncipe, Guatemala and Cabo Verde are the first countries to have the project implemented by the Brazilian cooperation. In these countries the project is implemented by Alfabetização Solidária, the NGO which developed the methodology and coordinates the program in Brazil, in partnership with Brazilian universities and local governments, under the overall coordination of ABC.

A pilot phase of the Community Literacy project began in Dili in October 2000. Around 20 East Timorese teachers, coordinators and instructors were trained in Brazil. The project opened 11 classrooms in Dili, attending to about 275 students. The methodology and materials are the same as those used in Brazil, and the project aims to teach students to read and write Portuguese, as part of the efforts of ABC to promote the Portuguese language in East Timor.

The pilot phase ended in December 2001, and in January 2002 the second phase expanded the project to the rest of the country. Community Literacy classrooms were opened in all 13 districts, each with 10 teachers, a coordinator and a pedagogic instructor, totaling 156 staff. All staff were trained in Dili by a team of Brazilian teachers.

The second phase ended in December 2002. In the third and final phase the project was transferred to the East Timorese government, which assumed administrative and financial responsibility, including paying staff salaries. It has also modified the project, and the first six months of the classes will now be dedicated to teaching how to read and write Tetum, before teaching Portuguese. The "new" project, called "Reading and National Literacy," has already started and the Ministry of Education intends to open 205 classrooms, attending to around 6,000 students in all 13 districts.

In this last phase the role of ABC cooperation is still being negotiated. However it seems that it will concentrate on capacity building for the Ministry of Education team, developing teaching materials and supporting the writing of a curriculum for non-formal education in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

Problems and Results

According to a document on Alfabetização Solidária's website, "in these countries the program participates in the selection and training of the teachers, the evaluation of results, as well as in the implementation of a structure which permits the continuity of the process of adult and youth education. . . . The objective is to adapt the project to the characteristics and specific needs of each country and guarantee its self-sustainability." But it is not always successful and these objectives are often not reached in practice.

In the case of East Timor one of the main problems is the language. The methodology used in East Timor is the same as that prepared for Brazilian students, who have Portuguese as their first language. The great majority of East Timorese have little familiarity with Portuguese and it is much more difficult developing literacy skills in a new language. La'o Hamutuk found difficulties in getting reliable information about the results of the project. The staff at the Ministry of Education provided very different information from that provided by the Brazilian coordinator, Prof. Antônia Pincano, interviewed when she visited East Timor for ten days in March 2003. According to a high-ranking East Timorese working in the Department of Non-Formal Education, the drop out rate in the first phase of the project was around 40%, mainly due to the difficulties met by the students following the classes in Portuguese. Prof. Pincano stated that the drop out rate was 19% and mainly due to illness and lack of transportation and teachers. But during the interview, she admitted that the classes started with an average of 25 students and ended with around 16, a drop out rate of 36%.

La'o Hamutuk encountered similar problems getting information about the second phase of the project. At the time of writing the evaluation of the students hadn't been completed. Prof. Pincano reported that 141 literacy classrooms were opened, with around 25 students each, of which 24 were closed during the year, mainly due to lack of teachers. The Ministry of Education reported that 156 classrooms were opened but 31 were later closed because of the high drop out rate. An official at the Ministry of Education also said that of the 20 classrooms opened in Dili, only seven remained open until the end of the project phase. Many East Timorese students reported that being taught in Portuguese was a problem. The Ministry of Education intends to raise the students' motivation and reduce the drop out rate with the third phase of the project by using Tetum for the first six months.

During the two first phases of the project, under Brazilian coordination, East Timorese officials didn't have authority to make changes to the methodology. According to Prof. Pincano "the explanation can be done in Tetum, but all activities must be in Portuguese."

The project was managed from Brazil. East Timorese project officials located in each district implemented the project but had no decision-making powers. Teams of two Brazilian teachers came to East Timor every two months for periods of ten days, to visit project sites, check project implementation and make decisions. Each team was responsible for three districts, alternating the visits. That means that each district was visited about every six months, for no longer than four days, which is not enough time to understand the problems faced by the project in each district. Many East Timorese working in the project at the local level considered the Brazilian management too distant and ignorant of the situation in East Timor. David Letichevsky admits that ten days are not enough to coordinate a project of this size. Prof. Pincano stated that the Brazilian teachers who make up the visiting teams in East Timor maintain jobs in Brazil and cannot be away for very long. It's clear that it would be more effective to place one person on a long-term residency basis to coordinate the project together with an East Timorese counterpart.

There are also problems with the level of preparation the project offers to the students who finish the classes. In Brazil Solidarity Literacy program is criticized by several experts and groups working with adult and youth education who say that the teaching period (five months in Brazil) is too short and that the program values quantity rather than quality. In East Timor La'o Hamutuk heard similar criticisms: one year is not enough for students who don't know how to read and write to reach a high enough level of literacy in a new language so that they can continue their studies in other programs for adult and youth education.

Prof. Pincano said that the program is not an orthodox literacy program, but is centered on reading and conversation. According to her, the students who finish the first year and are not ready to continue their studies can repeat the year, since "the teachers are trained to teach totally illiterate students as well as those who are partially literate". She said that the progression to adult and youth education is still being studied with the Ministry of Education, but she admitted that the plan for the future is to have two levels of literacy classes, each lasting one year.


La'o Hamutuk knows that Brazil is not a rich country, and we welcome its efforts to contribute to East Timor's development and reconstruction. But we believe that these efforts must be used in the most effective way, respecting the needs and wishes of the people of East Timor.

It's clear that the fact that East Timor chose Portuguese (along with Tetum), as its official language has a lot of influence on the amount of ABC cooperation. But the Brazilian government has to keep in mind that according to the Ministry of Education less then 5% of the East Timorese population speaks Portuguese, and that it is not their native language. The poor results of projects such as Community Literacy and Training of Teachers and Students with Distance Education Resources show that projects designed for a Brazilian context cannot be effectively implemented in East Timor without making significant changes to adapt them to the differences. Of course it's very useful to take into account other experiences, but it's even more important to develop East Timorese experiences. And the effective participation of East Timorese in this process is essential.

For future Brazilian projects to have better results, some strategic changes must be made:

Development Partners Conference Report

The fifth international donors conference for East Timor was held in Dili on 4 and 5 June 2003. The conference, organized by East Timor's government and the World Bank, included representatives from Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and Jemal-ud-din Kassum, vice president of the World Bank for the Asia Pacific region, chaired the meeting.

In addition to donor countries, international financial institutions and the government of East Timor, UN bodies in East Timor such as UNMISET, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF and FAO also attended this conference. Civil society was represented by Cecilio Caminho Freitas of the East Timor NGO Forum, Tomas Freitas from La'o Hamutuk, João Mariano Saldanha from the East Timor Study Group, Nelson Belo of the Judicial System Monitoring Program, and Jamieson Davies from Catholic Relief Services (representing international NGOs in East Timor).

This Conference reviewed the government's planned development budget for East Timor, the national development strategies, and with the Transitional Support Program (TSP). The system of funding for this Transitional Support Program is different from TFET that was previously managed by the World Bank and ADB. TSP is a channel through which the World Bank facilitates and monitors funds given by the Development Partners, before transferring them for government use. (See La'o Hamutuk Bulletin Vol. 4, No. 2.)

East Timor government program

The government of East Timor, as represented by President Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, and Finance and Planning Minister Madalena Boavida, explained the priorities of development and the budget to the Development Partners.

From Xanana's opening speech

I am informed that we have made considerable progress on planning. But it is not enough. We need to show more substantial progress in implementing the plans we made, in delivering education and health services to our people, in making available improved seeds and implements to our farmers, and in arranging for sale of their products at reasonable prices. The barometer of progress is not how much money our development partners gave or what the Government budget is, but whether our youth and veterans have remunerative jobs, how much our people have produced and whether they are able to sell it, whether there is "food in the pots" in the villages during the lean months, whether our children are attending school, and if our people are receiving quality health care. We need to mobilize and involve our people "as agents of change" in transforming their lives and building a better future for themselves, their children and the nation, rather than victims receiving "alms" from the Government and the donor agencies.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri explained the government's efforts in prioritizing the programs in the national development plan. According to the Prime Minister, the government is now focusing on economic development and employment to address poverty and unemployment, security, stability, institutional capacity development, interactive relationships between the community and government, good governance, and management of oil wealth. The government is working for a national forum including the government, civil society groups, NGOs, private and aid sectors, church organizations and others to discuss national issues.

Perspective from civil society

In another session, civil society groups gave their observations about the plans and the budget submitted by the East Timor government. The representatives of civil society in raised several issues including the Timor Gap, justice and foreign policy. One statement was given by the NGO Forum, representing several local and international NGOs. In a separate statement, nine NGOs in support of Ukun Rasik An (a Tetum phrase encompassing sovereignty, self-determination, self-sufficiency and independence), including La'o Hamutuk, gave additional recommendations.

From the statement by NGOs in Support of Ukun Rasik An

Although the atrocities committed against the East Timorese people can never be erased nor forgotten, those complicit in these crimes should fulfill their responsibility to make amends. This is not a form of charity, but a modest beginning to reparations. . . .

East Timor's independence process is not complete until Australia and East Timor agree on boundaries in the Timor Sea. We ask you to encourage Australia to rejoin the community of law-abiding nations by accepting East Timor's offer to negotiate maritime boundaries and, if negotiations fail, by participating in the internationally accepted legal processes for resolving boundary disputes. . . .

The majority of East Timor's population are victims of crimes against humanity that occurred in this country from 1975-1999. We hope the Development Partners will listen to our demand that the architects and perpetrators of these crimes be held accountable. We ask East Timor's Development Partners and the rest of the international community to demand that Indonesia cooperate with justice in a meaningful way. . . . it is past time for the United Nations to begin establishing an international tribunal to try crimes against humanity committed in East Timor. . . .

Development Partners should not be putting pressure on the government to privatize basic social services, but should provide the space, time and support to enable East Timor's people and government to fully evaluate such proposals. Development Partners should provide sufficient funding so that impoverished people are not denied essential services like education and health care because of their inability to pay.

Perspectives and commitment of the Development Partner countries

In this conference a number of donor countries and UN bodies gave their views and commitments regarding the national development plan and national budget.

In their statements, they praised that the East Timor government for developing and implementing the National Development Plan. According to them, the positive steps taken by the East Timor government include the "open government" program carried out in the districts, the signing and ratification of the Timor sea Treaty, the formation of the veterans and ex-combatants commission, and the normalizing of diplomatic relations with Indonesia.

In addition to praising the above accomplishments, the Development Partners had concerns about several areas:

The donors will allocate US$27 million for East Timor's government budget for the fiscal year 2003-2004. $5.2 million of this amount has already been confirmed, and the balance of $21.8 million is yet to be confirmed. For fiscal year 2004-2005, the partners have pledged $25.9 million. For a more detailed picture of donor contributions to East Timor during the past fiscal year, which are similar to the upcoming ones, see La'o Hamutuk Bulletin Vol. 4 No. 2.

Editorial: What Should UNMISET Do Now?

La'o Hamutuk gave this letter to United Nations General Assembly President Jan Kavan when he visited East Timor during the last week of July.

25 July 2003

United Nations Secretary-General Hon. Kofi Annan
President of the United Nations General Assembly, Hon. Jan Kavan
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNMISET Hon. Kamalesh Sharma
Members of the United Nations Security Council
Ambassadors interested in East Timor

Dear Excellencies:

In less than one year, the United Nations Mission in Support of East Timor (UNMISET) will be over. This mission, the third UN mission here since 1999, has accomplished much but has left much to be accomplished.

As you discuss the final months of UNMISET, and what form United Nations support for East Timor will take after June 2004, there are many factors to be considered. We are writing to offer a perspective from East Timorese civil society. La’o Hamutuk has monitored and interacted with UNAMET, UNTAET and UNMISET over the last four years, and we hope our suggestions are useful.

Much has been written about “lessons learned” from UNAMET and UNTAET, and we will not repeat those conclusions. Rather, we would like to highlight the fundamental difficulty of supplying government or advice from afar, using personnel and institutions that are not accountable to the people they are intended to govern. We believe that the concept of a United Nations Transitional Administration is problematic, and that UNTAET barely overcame the challenges stemming from using personnel, “volunteers,” and consultants who were answerable to structures and regulations designed and managed by an institution on the other side of the world. UNTAET’s mandate was mostly over by the time it understood that “transitional” was more important than “administration” in its name, that its primary purpose was to provide capacity and structures which would enable the newly-independent nation of East Timor to govern itself.

For UNMISET, with “support” as its middle name, the intention is clearer and more democratic. Nevertheless, we believe that there are serious shortcomings in how UNMISET has performed during its first 14 months, and we offer some suggestions as to how the remaining time can be used more effectively.

We believe that the international community has a continuing obligation to provide support for Timor Leste. For a quarter-century, international hypocrisy and deliberate neglect allowed Indonesia to inflict an illegal, brutal occupation. Even in 1999, when the United Nations finally decided to take effective action, international deference to the fiction of Indonesian sovereignty facilitated pre- and post-ballot terror and devastation by Indonesian’s military forces. East Timor still suffers from the legacies of 24 years of crimes against humanity, for which the international community has largely failed to hold the perpetrators accountable.

In a just international order, the powers that supported Indonesia’s occupation and failed to prevent the destruction of 1999 would pay reparations to the people of East Timor. But even in today’s world order, the international community, including the United Nations, has an obligation to finish tasks that it has started. Furthermore, the world owes some honesty and consideration to the people of East Timor, who were neglected for so many years, and were then subject to pioneering projects in transitional government and post-conflict reconstruction, development and justice. Where those experiments are failing, the responsibility remains with the international community to set them right.
According to Security Council Resolution 1410, “UNMISET will, over a period of two years, fully devolve all operational responsibilities to the East Timorese authorities as soon as is feasible, without jeopardizing stability.” That two-year period is more than halfway over, and it is a good time to look at what international responsibilities remain today, and which will remain after May 2004.

We have a continuing concern that many Mission activities do not adequately address the post-UNMISET period, when East Timorese will be responsible to carry out functions currently performed by international staff and advisors. One improvement would be to provide trainings, training materials, and other information in languages understood by most people in this country: Tetum and Bahasa Indonesia, and to hire international personnel who can communicate in those languages.

For each task that UNMISET has taken on, there are several possibilities:

  1. The task is being done well, and will be completed by the end of the mandate.

  2. There are problems with performing the task or completing it before the end of the mandate. These can be addressed by improving or modifying UNMISET’s performance.

  3. The task, with or without improvements, will not be completed by the end of the mandate. The UN should find a way to ensure that it can be completed after the mission ends.

  4. There are problems with the task, but UNMISET is unable adequately to address them. In these cases, there is no point in perpetuating that part of the Mission, and it should end before or as scheduled.

Military (external) security: Peacekeeping Forces and Military Observers

UNMISET’s mandate is to “Contribute to maintenance of external and internal security of East Timor.” Although PKF has protected East Timor’s border since late 1999, many East Timorese are concerned that East Timor’s Falintil-FDTL defense force is not adequately trained to fulfill this responsibility after PKF leaves. We recognize that training East Timor’s military has not been PKF’s role, but we suggest that F-FDTL should be allowed to work more closely with PKF, learning from international soldiers and military units with more training and different experiences. During UNMISET’s final year, joint operations and information sharing with F-FDTL, together with gradual transfer of responsibilities, will provide greater security in the future.

After next May, East Timor should no longer require defense by international troops, although UN soldiers could serve as advisors and training. Command responsibility and operational control should rest entirely with the government of East Timor.

Internal security: United Nations Police (UNPOL)

Part of UNMISET’s mandate is to provide interim law enforcement and public security, which has seen some successes and some notable failures, especially the 4 December 2002 Dili incident. UNPOL, which has command responsibility over the East Timorese police (TLPS), has fallen short in transparency, coordination, and accountability. UNPOL also fails to act effectively in crisis situations, and does not give clear direction to TLPS.

UNMISET is also responsible to assist in the development of the East Timor Police Service. Although UNPOL is training many TLPS officers, the training is inadequate in time and content, given the large number of inexperienced officers. Furthermore, well-equipped UNPOL units do not leave their equipment with TLPS when an area is handed over.

Greater efforts should be made to improve the effectiveness of the training, using more accessible materials and giving increased attention to human rights. When UNPOL transfers an area to TLPS responsibility, the vehicles, weapons, communications and other equipment they have been using should remain in the area. The UN can work with donor agencies to obtain additional equipment for TLPS.

For the remainder of the UNMISET mission, operational decision-making should be transferred to East Timorese police officers as much as possible. After UNMISET ends, international police should remain here as mentors, to provide additional classroom and field training, but they should not have operational or command responsibilities

Justice: Investigate, prosecute and try perpetrators of serious crimes committed in and against East Timor between 1975 and 1999

Many of these crimes were “crimes against humanity”, and all humanity has a responsibility to ensure that those who committed them do not escape with impunity. Most of the perpetrators are given sanctuary by the government of Indonesia, which has shown itself unable to provide justice within its own judicial system, and unwilling to cooperate with UNTAET, UNMISET and other international processes. Many of them are repeating the same crimes they directed here against the people of Aceh and elsewhere.

If the international community is not willing to compel Indonesia to cooperate with justice, there is no reason to continue a hypocritical charade. The following suggestions optimistically assume that there will be international political will for justice for a quarter-century of crimes against the people of East Timor and humanity.

We continue to believe that an international tribunal for East Timor would be the best option. However, we offer some observations on the justice process as currently constituted, and about some of its problems.

Although the Serious Crimes Unit was slow getting started, it has now indicted more than 300 people, including some Indonesian generals who masterminded crimes here during 1999. Unfortunately, more than 70% of those indicted enjoy impunity in Indonesia, which refuses to honor its commitment to cooperate with investigations and extradition. Only a few warrants have been listed with Interpol, and no alleged perpetrators have been arrested outside East Timor. Many other investigations are not yet completed. Furthermore, the Serious Crimes Unit has limited its investigations to the last year of the illegal Indonesian occupation (1999), although more than 98% of those killed during the occupation died before 1999 and the SCU legal mandate includes such crimes with no time limit.

The very slow process is causing frustration among the victims and other East Timorese people.

If the international community is serious about justice, and is able to get Indonesia to cooperate, the UN might then be able to fulfill its responsibilities to justice and to the people of East Timor. Investigations started by May 2004 should be completed, now matter how long it takes. All suspects who have been or will be indicted should be arrested and brought to trial.

An essential element of justice is to conduct trials, appeals, and sentencing for people who have been accused and indicted. The Special Panels for Serious Crimes were established by UNTAET to perform this function, and they have continued under the joint sponsorship of UNMISET and the government of East Timor. However, they have been slow and ineffective, and still suffer from lack of institutional support and resources. Only about 11% of those already indicted have been brought to trial, and very few appeals have been heard. This is clearly an unfinished task, and one which will not be finished before the end of the UNMISET mission.

If the United Nations intends to achieve justice, that intention can only be realized with improved commitment, resources and political will from the international community. Until the Security Council establishes a true international tribunal, the hybrid international-national Special Panels should be kept in place to finish what the UN started, until all those indicted by the SCU have been brought to trial. The Court of Appeal must also continue with international judges and support so that those brought to trial can enjoy their full legal rights.

On the other hand, if the international community does not want justice here, and if the Serious Crimes Unit is only an international public relations exercise to issue indictments with no serious possibility of arrest and trial, the hoax should not continue.

Civilian Support Group (Technical Advisors)

Unfortunately, the traumatic history of East Timor and the shortage of experienced government officials and administrators continues to require international advisors in some key areas of government. These advisors should “help, not do” -- their primary function should be to build the capacity of East Timorese, so that fewer international advisors are needed in the future, rather than to impose inappropriate concepts or models from other countries. For the remainder of the Mission, East Timorese must have greater control over who the advisors are and what tasks they are assigned. If the Civilian Support Group is able to improve its performance and language skills, they could continue to serve East Timor after UNMISET’s mandate ends.

Human Rights

The Human Rights Unit of UNTAET and UNMISET has provided valuable services, but it could be greatly improved. Additional materials need to be developed in local languages. The HRU should work more closely with civil society, especially outside Dili, establish information centers in each district on human rights with documents accessible by everyone, and develop a pool of East Timorese human rights trainers and educators across the country.

After the end of UNMISET’s mandate, a UN Human Rights presence in East Timor should continue, to perform the tasks listed above and to assist civil society, Parliament and Government with training and information on international human rights standards, procedures and conventions.


After four years of massive UN presence in East Timor, some lessons learned have been applied here, while others will improve the future missions elsewhere.

However, the United Nations has not yet finished the task it came to East Timor to do. East Timor is now politically independent, but dependencies caused by past and current international ineffectiveness still abound. If the international community intends to keep its promises, an international presence will be needed in East Timor after June 2004. However, without the significant changes discussed above, the presence would be a waste of time and money.

Many in the United Nations community think of East Timor as one of the organization’s great success stories. But if that success is to be more than mere mythology, many adjustments and much work remains to be done.

Thank you for your support for East Timor since 1999, and for your attention to our suggestions. Over the past three years our institute has reported on many of these issues, and the reports are available on our web site at www.laohamutuk.org. As we continue our monitoring and reporting, future reports will also be on that site.

We would be glad for the opportunity to discuss or provide additional information on any of these subjects.


Inês Martins

Cc: President Xanana Gusmão
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri
President of the National Parliament Francisco “Lu-Olo” Guterres

Editorial: Military Emergency in Aceh

On 21 May 2003, the Indonesian military launched a massive assault on Aceh, with devastating con-sequences not only for pro-independence fighters, but for the entire population. Following the failure of peace talks and the Indonesian government's record of disregard for human rights, many fear that the operation could continue for a long time. Multinational oil companies, especially ExxonMobil from the United States, acquiesce in repression when it protects their economic interests. Furthermore, leading officers in Indonesia's military (TNI) have never been held responsible for their crimes against humanity in East Timor, and TNI continues to receive training and weapons from many countries. It is hardly surprising that they expect to commit crimes against humanity with impunity once again.

In 1873, the Acehnese began a 40-year war against the Dutch Colonialists, and Aceh was never conquered. Although 60,000 Acehnese and Dutch people were killed, the death toll was not high enough for the Netherlands to subdue its most ferocious would-be colonial subjects.

During the past fifty years, Aceh has often been a "special" region for the Indonesian government, subjected to repeated military operations:

In Aceh people are crying because children have lost their parents, wives have lost their husbands and vice-versa; the rotting smells of bodies and ammunition smoke make the aroma of war in Aceh even more stinging and sad. The Indonesian military actions and policies in Aceh remind us of the 7 December 1975 invasion and occupation of East Timor. As seen through the media, this occupation appears to be recurring in Aceh.

The current operation began after talks between the Indonesian government and GAM, facilitated by the Henry Dunant Centre, reached a stalemate. The Indonesian government immediately strengthened its defense line via a Coordinated Military Operation Campaign by increasing its military (TNI) and police (POLRI) strength. These united forces are supported with high-tech military equipment including machine guns, amphibious tanks, warships and a squadron of fighter planes. As we observe the terrifying military and police actions in Aceh, we recall what Indonesia did in East Timor for 24 years.

Many people suspect that this military operation is a tactic to terrorize the people of Aceh, enabling TNI/POLRI to achieve its economic and political objectives. The people's fear gives an opportunity for TNI/POLRI to strengthen their rule over civilians and to justify cruel and horrifying violations of human rights.

We urge the Indonesian government to learn from the results of its military actions in East Timor and gather the political courage to implement the view of The People's Advisory Assembly (MPR) RI No. IV/1999 G "Solve the case of Aceh in a way that upholds justice and welfare by implementing investigation and truthful courts for the violators of human rights, both during and after the Regional Military Operation." The Indonesian government should solve the matter of Aceh peacefully, without using military force.

The current military operation began on 21 May 2003. After the first 45 days, POLRI Headquarters reported 115 civilians dead, 80 wounded, and 69 missing. POLRI, which often labels civilians as GAM resistance fighters, also noted that 112 GAM people were killed, four wounded, ten missing and 113 arrested, along with 146 others surrendering. POLRI's own losses were nine dead and 44 wounded, and they reported the burning of 518 schools, 224 homes, 11 offices, three public facilities, five bridges and 62 cars. As the death toll mounted, Indonesia continued and increased its military operation, adding impressive code names as if to reach out such as "Operation Dagger Awareness" (Operasi Sadar Rencong) and "Operation Love Meunasah" (Operasi Cinta Meunasah, a district of Aceh). They wrap their military forces in the pretense that they are working for the community, although almost every one knows that this is just a cover story for an escalating military operation.

The operations are very similar to the military operations that were applied in East Timor, like Operation Seroja, Operation Komodo and others that repressed civil society. Almost every day the community experienced abuses, kidnapping, rapes and even sadistic murders perpetrated by TNI/POLRI. The Indonesian military leaders who are now leading the military operation in Aceh previously perpetrated crimes against humanity in East Timor. Kiki Syahnakri, Tono Suratman, Timbul Silaen, Adam Damiri and other military commanders were the masterminds of these crimes. As we predicted, they all were let off by the Jakarta Ad-Hoc tribunal, proving that this tribunal is incapable of achieving justice for the victims in East Timor.

War in Aceh has now been officially declared via Presidential Decree No. 28/2003. The TNI Commander in Chief requested additional funding of Rp1.7 trillion ($200 million) for six months of military operations in Aceh from the People's Representative Council (DPR) RI (Kompas, 13 May). Indonesia is in an economic crisis, and this budget is huge, especially considering that there are only 30,000 soldiers in Aceh. However, it may not be enough for the huge supply of war equipment in Aceh, especially since much of the money disappears into officers' pockets.

The people's resistance in Aceh has grown as a reaction against economic exploitation by the central government, which uses the military as its instrument. The policies, political actions and economy of the central government are not seen as benefiting the people of Aceh, and the central government uses the military to press the local community to accept its policies. In reality, that pressure encourages the Aceh community to resist further.

Many soldiers are profiting from the Aceh operation. A common saying is that they "depart for Aceh carrying an M-16, (automatic rifle) and return carrying 16-m (sixteen billion rupiah, or $1.9 million). They obtain that money in many ways, including terrorizing businessmen and bureaucrats by accusing them of helping GAM. Many, feeling it is better to lose money than their lives, pay off the soldiers.

There are at least three military interests visible in Aceh: careers, business and the justification of TNI's existence. Aceh, especially during the DOM era, has become a "military training project," where the number of Acehnese people killed indicates the grade received from that training. We base this statement on the correlation between promotion and the location of duty in Aceh. Those who were based in KOREM 011 Lilawangsa usually gain an increase in rank, eventually leading to an important civilian position in government.

According to documentation from Community Solidarity for Anti Corruption (Samak), The Aceh Provincial Government has never been accountable to the community or even the local Regional People's Representative Council (DPRD) for aid money. This includes humanitarian aid from foreign donors, Mines and Energy (Pertamina) and the State Income and Spending budget, which is expected to total Rp1.18 trillion ($140 million).


What is occurring in Aceh now should stimulate us all to find ways to stop the sadistic and savage policies of TNI/POLRI. We know that the Indonesian military leaders responsible for the military operation in Aceh are the same leaders who committed serious crimes against humanity in the land of Lorosa'e in 1999. The world knows this, but the world acts is if it were deaf and blind. TNI and POLRI not only massacre people in Timor Lorosa'e and Aceh, but also in many places including Maluku and West Papua.

International action is essential to stopping TNI/POLRI repression against the people of Aceh, including an International Criminal Tribunal for crimes they committed in East Timor. It is also important for the United States, the United Kingdom and other suppliers of weapons and training to Indonesia's military to end their complicity with these massive human rights violations.

The independent government of East Timor is in a difficult position. On the one hand, the small new state is vulnerable to Indonesian intervention, and is economically dependent on trade and other relations with its former occupier. But on the other hand, East Timor is now a democracy, with freedom of peaceful expression guaranteed to all, and a Constitutional duty (Article 10) to "extend its solidarity to the struggle of all peoples for national liberation." East Timor's people fought hard for their freedom, and activists (and eventually governments) worldwide condemned Indonesian human rights violations here. East Timor's independence and democracy came at a great price, and should not be sacrificed to forces that are opposing the growing democratic movement in Indonesia at the same time they are increasing repression against the people of Aceh.

Historical Archive CD-ROM Available

The International Federation for East Timor (IFET) has just produced a CD-ROM reference with 500 megabytes of English-language news and documents relating to East Timor between 1991-2002, including a search capability. Available at La'o Hamutuk: $2 for activists, $50 for institutions.

Listen to La'o Hamutuk's Radio Program

Interviews and commentary on the issues we investigate -- and more!

In Tetum and Bahasa Indonesia

Every Friday at 3:00 pm on Radio Rakambia.

Every Saturday at 11:00 am on Radio Timor Leste and Radio Timor Kmanek

Information Resources

La'o Hamutuk recently issued its OilWeb CD-ROM, a reference to issues relating to East Timor's oil and gas. OilWeb includes many of the presentations from the Dili conference, as well as hundreds of legal, historical, and analytical documents and everything La'o Hamutuk has published on this subject. Most is in English, but some articles are in Bahasa Indonesia, Tetum and Portuguese. The CD-ROM, which also includes the 17-minute video Don't Rob Their Future and a Tetum radio play, is available from La'o Hamutuk at $50 for institutions, $2 for East Timorese activists.

La'o Hamutuk has also produced a four-page, illustrated, Tetum-language Surat Popular on the Timor Gap, which explains the history and the dilemma of the maritime boundary problem with Australia. It is intended to be used as a discussion guide for people throughout East Timor.

La'o Hamutuk, The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis
P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia)
Mobile: +(670)7234330; Land phone: +670-3325-013
Email: laohamutuk@easttimor.minihub.org; Web: http://www.laohamutuk.org