Saturday, November 30, 2013

Remembering East Timor's Kraras massacre 30 years on

Police, military perimeter guards and the public watch
the 38th independence anniversary parade at the
"widows village" of Kraras. Mobile photo: David Robie/PMC

ON 28 November 1975, Timor-Leste made its fateful unilateral declaration of independence. A week later, a paranoid Indonesian military, fearful of an upstart "leftwing" neighbouring government, staged its brutal invasion and 24 years of repression and massacres followed.

On 17 September 1983, the infamous massacre of at least 300 civilians (probably a far higher number) took place at the village of Kraras and Wetuka River near Viqueque.

This heralded the end of the so-called ceasefire between Indonesian and Falintil forces and led to the long guerrilla struggle against Jakarta's harsh rule.

This week, the people of Kraras - the "village of widows" - proudly hosted the 38th anniversary of Timor-Leste independence; the real date, not the "rewritten" post-UN date. They also honoured the 30th anniversary of the Kraras massacre.

The massacre has been graphically portrayed in Timor-Leste's first feature film, Beatriz's War, and it was fitting that this movie should be screened to thousands of Timorese in an open-air arena at the independence festival this week.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Read draft media law first, East Timor's print adviser tells critics

Otelio Ote, former Timor Post editorial director and now government print media adviser,
is upbeat over the Timorese media future. Photo: David Rbie/PMC

TIMOR-LESTE'S national print adviser has one piece of advice for critics of the controversial planned media law - read the draft document first before jumping to conclusions.

Otelio Ote, who until his state media office appointment in mid-July was editorial director of the Timor Post daily newspaper and is still a part-time editor there, is optimistic about the proposed legislation.

"The law isn't about control of the media, it's about shoring up the status of the media and making journalism more professional in this country," he says.

Ote revealed that the government plans to set up a national news agency in Timor-Leste next year, the first time the country has had one since Australian freelance journalist Roger East was commissioned to do the job immediately before the Indonesian invasion in December 1975.

East was murdered by invading soldiers after investigating the deaths of the so-called Balibo Five in a human rights atrocity - five Australians, Britons and a New Zealander who were reporting for two televison channels from the border town on pre-invasion Indonesian incursions.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

East Timor's Independente champions genuine 'free press'

Independente's editorial director Mouzinho Lopes de Araujo ... living up
to the "people's freedom" motto. Photo: David Robie/PMC

WHILE the Timor-Leste media industry was rejuvenated by a national congress last month that voted on a new code of ethics, one of the country's most independent chief editors has warned against the risks of a "media council elephant".

Mouzinho Lopes de Araujo, editorial director of Timor-Leste's newest paper, the Independente, is proud of the progress of the country's fledgling media but says there are still many problems to address.

"There are many impediments to a free press in Timor-Leste," he says. "We don't really have a free press in this country. The press is all about what the government is doing and celebrations."

A draft media law is currently before the national Parliament and it is widely feared that a journalist licensing system and criminal penalties could be imposed as in Fiji and mooted in Papua New Guinea.

"The government is only interested in getting its own agenda across in the media, not what the people want," Lopes says.

Honouring the Matebian massacre victims in East Timor

Student candles for the victims of the Matebian massacre in Timor-Leste.
Photo: Belo Dutay
By Celestino Gusmão for Café Pacific 

University students from Timor-Leste's eastern Baucau district gathered this week to commemorate the 1979 Matebian cave massacre in a month of events focused on protest against the impunity over atrocities during the illegal Indonesian occupation.

At the place at Foho Matebian on the slopes of the mountain of that name where the students lit candles, Indonesian forces used bombs to seal off the inhabitants of an entire village inside a cave with a rockfall.

Even if people had survived the rocks, they would have died of starvation trapped in the cave.
Until now, their remains are buried behind the rocks.

It is in this area during 1978/9 when the majority of the Timor-Leste population abandoned the struggle against Indonesian forces and instead took up a guerrilla struggle.

The Fretilin leadership was disorganised but took up armed struggle in the hills until Indonesia reluctantly agreed to a referendum on independence in 1999.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

East Timor's Hera Power Plant - mega-project or 'mega problem'?

The new jetty and entry post at Hera Power Plant near Dili - just across the road
from the electricity producer. Photo: David Robie/PMC
THE TIMOR-LESTE capital Dili's main heavy oil power plant at Hera, about 15 km on the eastern side of the city, still remains at the centre of controversy.

A fact-based page by the advocacy group La'o Hamutuk (Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis) cites many critical performance reports and is headed: "Mega-project or mega problem?"

Little has been in the public domain in recent months, but according to review documents cited by LH last year, the supervising consultancy ELC/Bonifica said in a report in January 2012 on the construction phase:

"The overall performance of the Contractor CNI22 [Chinese Nuclear Industry Construction Company No. 22 [responsible for the high-voltage national transmission grid], remains poor in particular for the quality of finishing works. Despite of continuous warnings done by the Consultant [E/B], the situation does not improve."

A separate report also said three (out of seven) generating sets from the Hera plant were operating, using diesel fuel unloaded at Tibar port to the west of Dili.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ADB signs new US$50m loan for Timor-Leste roads plan

Asian Development Bank resident representative Shane Rosenthal and deputy director general
of the Pacific department Noriko Ogawa at the media conference in the new
Resident Mission in Timor-Leste. Photo: David Robie/PMC
 THE ASIAN Development Bank has signed a US$50 million loan with the Timor-Leste government in the latest segment of the Asia-Pacific nation's road upgrade programme.

Timor-Leste currently has plans for about 600 km of road reconstruction - almost half of the national grid - at a cost of around US$1 a kilometre.

It is planned to have a national network of "reliable, safe" roads that are also "climate change proof", ADB officials told local media.

The latest loan agreement signed by ADB's deputy director-general of the Pacific department, Noriko Ogawa, and Finance Minister Emilia Pires covers a 117km stretch across the rugged interior between Manatuto and Natarbora.

Many roads in Timor-Leste, especially in remote areas and also between the capital Dili and some main towns, are currently risky and prone to erosion and flooding.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan - being a hero for each other

The devastation in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan on Iloilo in the Philippines.
Photo: SBS/AFP
Reflections by Joan Cybil Yao

I NEED to tell you: Typhoon Haiyan was worse than any of us could ever have imagined. The Philippines receives 20+ typhoons every year - floods, landslides and partly-blown off roofs are par for the course.

Believe me when I say we have never before seen the likes of Yolanda /Haiyan.

I need to tell you: Everyday, I read the news and reports from the field, thinking we've reached the bottom of suffering and despair, only to find new depths.

Just when I think my heart can't break any further from the stories of loss and tragedy, something new turns up to break it all over again.

I need to tell you about the bodies decomposing on tree branches, under piles of rubble from collapsed houses, in churches, on the sides of roads, wrapped in blankets or straw mats.

I need to tell you that the news cameras cannot show their faces - features frozen in fear as they died.

I need to tell you about the storm surge - the 6-metre wall of water that rose out of the sea, rushed several kilometres inland and crashed over every building and house by the coastline.

You need to understand that our nation is made up of 7107 islands; nearly everything is by the coastline.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Change economic direction or face 'bleak' future warning for Timor-Leste

The La'o Hamutuk logo sign outside the development advocacy group's office
in Bebora in the Timor-Leste capital of Dili. Photo: David Robie
THE INDEPENDENT Timor-Leste development advocacy group La'o Hamutuk has called for an urgent review of national budget planning priorities for next year or the country will face a "bleak" future.

The Asia-Pacific nation's oil and gas revenues are predicted to dry up by 2020 - six years earlier than has been previously thought.

"We have only six years to develop our non-oil economy and markedly increase domestic revenues, which is an urgent national challenge," La’o Hamutuk said in an open letter to the national Parliament.

As well as greater emphasis on "human infrastructure" development, the advocacy group also called for more transparency around the budget debate and better consultation with civil society.

Earlier this year the 2013 budget process dropped the traditional plenary debate in favour of a closed door ad-hoc committee review.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

'Don't abandon your East Timor responsibility,' ANTI tells world

A journalist in a Timor-Leste Press Club t-shirt pays his respects with flowers at the Santa
Cruz tomb of Sebastiao Gomes whose killing by Indonesian soldiers
triggered the 1991 mourner protest and massacre. Photo: David Robie
A COALITION of 21 peace, social justice and human rights advocacy NGOs has warned the international community not to 'abandon their responsibility" to prosecute serious crimes by the Indonesian military during the 24-year illegal occupation of Timor-Leste.

East Timor declared independence in 1975 but Indonesia invaded in December that year and brutally occupied the country for the next quarter of a century.

In a statement issued to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre of at least 270 mourners by Indonesian soldiers in the capital of Dili on 12 November 1991, the Timor-Leste International Tribunal Alliance (ANTI) declared that "truth and justice" were the foundations for a developing democracy in the Asia-Pacific state.

Condemning the "depravity" of the illegal occupation of Timor-Leste by Indonesian forces, ANTI said the "impacts of impunity continue to haunt the Indonesian and Timorese people".

ANTI included demands for:

Friday, November 8, 2013

'Embedded' Ben on the ground with Afghanistan's Pacific 'freedom operation'

Task Force Guam leaders present photojournalist Ben Bohane (centre) with a special award after Bohane recently embedded with the Guam Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment. After years of covering conflict throughout the Pacific, Bohane ventured to Afghanistan to cover Pacific Islanders serving Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: Sgt Eddie Siguenza]

Sergeant Edward Siguenza reports from Camp Phoenix in Afghanistan for the Guam News

Benjamin "Ben" Bohane's strides are long, perfectly fitting his 6-foot-3 thin Australian frame.

So when he walks with genetically short-statured Pacific Islanders -- as he did as an embedded photojournalist with the Guam Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment throughout October -- he immediately established conflict with his military escorts.

"Hey, slow down," a 5-foot-7 Guam soldier shouts as they prepare to board a plane to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. "Take smaller steps. The plane's not going anywhere without us."

Bohane turns around and notices his 10-foot lead.

"Sorry mate," he proclaims in his Australian tone. "Size 12 shoes. I was born with big feet."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Scandinavian media and press freedom travels

A light-hearted moment for a police squad during a demonstration in Vilnius. Image from
the Lithuanian National Press Agency exhibition at the Helsinki Town Hall, Finland.
Photo: David Robie
CAFÉ PACIFIC’S publisher David Robie has been travelling widely on sabbatical across Scandinavia and France in the past few weeks, meeting media freedom campaigners (such as at Reporters Sans Frontières), giving guest lectures at journalism schools such as at Stockholm University and the Danish School of Media and Journalism, and on various research projects.

David Robie 'reading' Norway's
Aftonbladet Söndag.
Some of his images can be seen on his Facebook page and watch for other reports at the Pacific Media Centre.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Russia fails to attend tribunal hearing on 'piracy' seizure of Arctic Sunrise

The seized Arctic Sunrise under Russian Navy guard in Murmansk Harbour.
Photo: Greenpeace
FOLLOWING a hearing at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), where the Netherlands brought a case seeking the release of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and its crew, Greenpeace International general counsel Jasper Teulings has praised the Dutch government for its "strong stance for rule of law" over the widely condemned seizure of the environmental campaign ship.

"The Dutch government argued its case extremely strongly," Teulings said.

The Arctic Sunrise Tribunal at International Maritime Court/
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)
in Hamburg. Photo: Greenpeace
"The Netherlands is taking a strong stance in support of the rule of law and the right to peacefully protest. Greenpeace International applauds the Dutch decision as flag state of the Arctic Sunrise in taking the necessary legal steps to gain the release of the ship and the Arctic 30.

"Greenpeace International is confident that the Tribunal will take appropriate account of the fundamental rights of the Arctic 30, and the impact of their detention on those rights, in reaching its eventual decision."

The Russian Federation did not attend today's hearing in Hamburg, Germany, and the sitting was closed following the presentation of the Dutch government's oral argument.

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