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23 November 2008

East Timor and Indonesia: When two ex-generals meet after 24 years

Prabowo Subianto, former commander of the Indonesian army's special task force Kopassus, met former enemy, Lere Anan Timur, former commander of the Fretilin guerrilla army, in Jakarta on Friday.

A few media people were invited to the meeting at Hotel Borobudur.

The two shook hands and exchanged warm greetings the moment they saw each other. The last time they met was 24 years ago during battle. Timur said Prabowo was a strong man. Prabowo said Timur had a bigger beard. They laughed. And through an intrepreter, the two conversed - Timur in Tetun, and Subianto in Bahasa Indonesia.

Here are excerpts from my recording.

Lere: For 24 years, we were small and poor. But we had to continue to defend our country to achieve independence. It is important to look to the future. After independence, we must try to find ways to forge better ties between the two countries. The consequence of war… it is not just Timorese, but Indonesians have also become victims of this political process.

Subianto:
It is a great honour to meet you. Then we were from opposing camps. I have high regard and respect for strong, tough and brave opponents. I respect the soldiers of Falintil who were brave, tough and strong in their character. As a soldier, I had to carry out my responsibility for the military as well as my country but personally, there was no hate or revenge. I am thankful to meet guerilla commander Lere, and treat him as one great opponent. I appreciate the invite to visit East Timor. I will accept the invitation as a private meeting or head of the organisation Tani. As you know, I am no longer in military but in farming (laughs). It is strange, those who are involved in war are the ones wanting peace. Because we know best the sufferings brought about by war.

I am for friendship between East Timor and Indonesia and hopefully, East Timor will provide the best for its citizens.

What’s past is past. We fought then, but I don’t have any feelings of hatred. What is important now is building friendship and cooperation. We don’t want to continue the animosity.

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