Asia Crisis

INTERVIEW-E.Timor PM satisfied with Indonesia's regret

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, July 16 (Reuters) - East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao is satisfied with Indonesia's expression of regret over violence surrounding Dili's 1999 independence vote and says it is now time to move on.

Indonesia and East Timor expressed deep regret on the resort island of Bali on Tuesday for the violence after a joint probe blamed Indonesian security and civilian forces for "gross human rights violations".

"I am satisfied," Gusmao, a charismatic resistance hero who fought for independence from Indonesia, said when asked for his reaction to Jakarta's regret at the violence.

"When we initiated the process, we came with a commitment, a commitment to change, a commitment to work together, a commitment to look forward,"he told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

"Now, in our country instead of crying everyday, we have to make policies, instead of crying, instead of saying we are victims," he said.

"This is a complex process ... Sometimes in our lives we have to look at the priorities. The priority now is to better the standard of lives of our people."

East Timor is rich in oil resources but has an average income of just 50 U.S. cents a day and 42 percent of its population is unemployed.

The former Portuguese colony, invaded by Indonesia in 1975, won independence in the violence-marred vote organised by the United Nations in 1999. It became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.

The statement of remorse from the leaders of the two countries came after the report by the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) was submitted to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta and Gusmao.


The report went further than many had expected in blaming Indonesian security forces for the mayhem, although Yudhoyono stopped short of an apology, as recommended by the commission.

"He (Yudhoyono) apologised. He said that," said Gusmao over a melon-and-strawberry breakfast in Bali's upmarket Nusa Dua area. "What's the difference of apology and remorse? How do you measure this?"

He added that Indonesia's former president, Abdurrahman Wahid, also known as "Gus Dur", had apologised when he visited East Timor in 2000 and it would be "unfair" to keep asking for an apology every time Indonesia changed its leadership.

Gusmao, who was jailed by Indonesia for seven years, and Yudhoyono signed an agreement in 2005 to establish the truth commission.

East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to split from Indonesian rule and the United Nations estimates about 1,000 East Timorese died during the post-vote mayhem.

Rights activists say the two governments must continue the judicial process to try the perpetrators from the evidence provided in the report.

But Gusmao said the case was closed.

"For us it is (closed). If you want to open it, do it yourself," he said, referring to human rights groups and victims who want to take the case to an international court. (Editing by Sugita Katyal)