Hilmar Farid, a researcher, writer, and activist in East Timor, discussed the legacies of Indonesia’s occupation in East Timor. Mr. Farid began his talk with a familiar illustration of the effects of the occupation. In March, a twenty year-old man named Charles Mali was brutally tortured and murdered when he refused extortion attempts by Indonesia’s occupying armed force, Battalion 744. His parents were forced by the battalion’s soldiers to find Charles and, besides his horrific death, his brother was tortured and his mother died soon after from the loss of her son. His uncle a prominent priest and human rights activist started a protest that led to a criminal investigation and indictment of more than ten Battalion 744 soldiers. While the protests and subsequent criminal prosecution may provide some justice, this tragic case is an example of the overarching problems this armed occupation currently presents in East Timor.
Next, keeping with a familiar theme of the panel, Mr. Farid, examined the impunity given to Indonesian soldiers and the lack of accountability for their gross human rights violations in East Timor. He noted that this same Battalion 744, responsible for so much violence, has produced many leaders promoted despite and, perhaps because of, the violence they imposed on the people of East Timor.
Lastly, Mr. Farid addressed the lack of public truth and knowledge that exists in East Timor. In particular, he discussed the textbooks used in schools in which the first edition in 1999 explained the invasion and occupation of East Timor as an invitation to occupy their country. After protests, new textbooks were written that were more critical and addressed the losses, but still presented the invasion as a choice by East Timor. However, modern technology has presented an opportunity, as it has recently in the Middle East, to bypass the official story and censorship, through the internet. Teachers in Indonesia and civil society in East Timor discussed the official textbook account through a blog and, though they did not completely agree on all the details, the two countries acknowledged fallacies in the official history presented to the public. He thus presented these civil society internet communications as a possible alternative, and hopefully a complement in the future, to the lack of accountability thus far through legal mechanisms.