05 December 2008

Book attempts to lift veil over East Timor

The Jakarta Post - 05/12/1961 Unanswered questions about East Timor's break for independence in 1999 were brought to the forefront with the Thursday launch of East Timor, One Final Minute -- a journalist's memoirs of his experience reporting on the debacle.

Written in narrative form, Kompas journalist Rien Kuntari's book attempts to draw back the veil covering what exactly occurred in the crisis that eventually led to East Timor breaking away from Indonesia nine years ago.

"I wrote this book truthfully, without any intention to harm anybody, for I hold onto the norms of journalism. There are some facts that I couldn't reveal because they concern the fate and lives of my sources," said Rien, who has covered conflicts in various regions across the globe.

The book attempts to answer who masterminded the rebellion that saw the province break away from Indonesia to become Timor Leste and to analyze the roles of the main players in the event, including Australia, the UN, the pro-integration and pro-independence groups and the Indonesian Military.

"This one-last-minute process, which I perceived as the 24-year journey of Indonesia in East Timor, is a very important episode. I believe that there is no single truth, but I appreciate Rien's efforts to tell the truth from her perspective about East Timor nine years ago," Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said.

Attending the book launch was Timor Leste Ambassador to Indonesia Arlindo Marcal.

Official speakers at the launch included military analyst J. Kristiadi, rights activist and lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis and The Jakarta Post's chief editor Endy Bayuni.

Todung said it was difficult to deny that crimes against humanity had been rampant at the time of the rebellion.

"As a member of the commission for inquiries into human rights violations back then, I saw destruction was everywhere before the referendum. I hope this book can spark new research that reveals what has been obscured," he said.

Kristiadi of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said the book exposed a national tragedy that had been the result of a hastily made political decision.

"Learning from the tragedy, the book can inspire a new strategy for Indonesia to build good relations with Timor Leste," he said. (pmf)

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