FIRST JAPANESE PEACEKEEPING TROOPS ARRIVE IN EAST TIMOR
A 24-member advance party of Japanese military engineers arrived today in East Timor to lay the groundwork for nearly 700 troops from the Japanese Ground Self Defence Forces who are joining UNTAET’s Peacekeeping Force in the coming weeks.
Three Japanese C-130 cargo planes were used to fly in the advance team – led by Col. Shoichi Ogawa, Commander of the first Japanese Engineering Group in East Timor – and equipment that will be used to establish the full contingent’s offices and camps
“We want to start the reconstruction work as soon as possible,” Col. Ogawa told journalists upon his arrival. “We would like to do our best. It’s an honour for us to contribute to the reconstruction of a new country.”
The contingent commander paid a courtesy call to Peacekeeping Force Commander Lt. Gen. Winai Phattiyakul and later met with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
“I am delighted that the Japanese military engineers have arrive. I know for a fact the importance of counting on the participation of Japan in building a strong peacekeeping force,” the SRSG said.
About 20 East Timorese held a protest at the airport as the Japanese troops arrived. Vieira de Mello commented: “We are trying to establish democratic institutions in East Timor so that anyone is entitled to express his or her opinion, as long as they do so peacefully. But critics should remember that the Japanese troops are here to help.”
The Japanese Engineering Group, comprising about 690 soldiers, will replace Pakistan (505 personnel) and Bangladesh Engineers (525 personnel) departing in May as part of the ongoing downsizing of the Peacekeeping Force.
Ten Japanese soldiers will be assigned at the Peacekeeping Force Headquarters, while 680 troops will be deployed in Suai, Maliana, Dili and the Oecussi enclave.
The Japanese Engineers will be serving East Timor until the mandate of the Peacekeeping Force ends.
PROSECUTORS LAUNCH CASE IN CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY TRIAL
UNTAET prosecutors launched their case today against the three defendants in the Lolotoe Crimes Against Humanity trial, vowing to prove the three were guilty of waging a campaign of deadly terror against supporters of East Timor’s independence.
“For the people of Lolotoe, the face of terror, the face of murder and the face of persecution are indeed the faces of the three accused before you,” lead prosecutor Essa Faal said during his opening statements.
Kaer Metin Merah Putih (KMP) militia commanders João França da Silva (alias Jhoni França) and José Cardoso Ferreira (alias Mouzhino) and former Guda village chief Sabino Gouveia Leite face a total of 27 Crimes Against Humanity charges.
The two KMP commanders are accused of illegal imprisonment, murder, torture, rape, persecution and inhumane treatment of civilians in Lolotoe sub-district, near the border of West Timor, Indonesia. Gouveia Leite is accused of being an accomplice in the offences committed by the KMP and the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).
Faal said his team would present witnesses and evidence that would prove the three, with local TNI help, orchestrated a campaign to arrest and abuse pro-independence supporters and their families and terrorise the population of the sub-district to discourage them from voting for independence in the 30 August 1999 Popular Consultation. This was done, Faal said, in concert with similar violence perpetrated by other militia groups and TNI battalions around the territory.
It remains unclear whether any of the three defendants will make a statement to the court before witnesses are called. After prosecutors finished their opening arguments, the defence took issue with the court’s use of the term “victim” to describe three alleged rape victims who will have their identities protected when they appear as witnesses.
Public defender Sylvia de Bertodano suggested that “witness” was a more appropriate term, arguing that the charge of rape had yet to be proven in court. The motion was turned down by the Special Panel in a 2-1 vote. De Bertodano said she would file a written motion calling for the dismissal of the Panel.
Two others named in the original February 2001 indictment – the TNI Commander of Lolotoe, 2nd Lt. Bambang Indra, and Francisco Noronha, an Indonesian civil servant – are still at large and believed to be in West Timor. Judges granted a request from prosecutors in May 2001 to split the original indictment, allowing trial preparations of the three in custody to proceed.
The Lolotoe case is the second of 10 priority cases to be tried by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes in East Timor. It is the first Crimes Against Humanity case in East Timor to include charges of rape and charges against superiors based on the actions of their subordinates.
NORWEGIAN GOVERNMENT SHARES ITS PETROLEUM EXPERTISE
Technicians from the Petroleum Directorate of Norway shared their energy-management expertise today with East Timorese officials and Constituent Assembly members in a conference attended by Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri.
The conference – sponsored by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) – provided East Timor with sound advice on “how to manage the resources we’re going to receive from the Timor Sea and other areas,” Alkatiri said at a post-conference press briefing.
Petroleum and natural gas exploitation of the so-called Timor Gap is expected to net East Timor US$ 2.5 billion to US$ 3 billion in revenue over a period of 17 years.
Finance Minister Fernanda Borges said the conference was conceived after a December meeting between Norwegian and East Timorese petroleum officials at a donor’s conference in Oslo as a way to teach a broader section of government officials, Constituent Assembly members and relevant members of civil society about Norway’s management of its energy resources.
Speaking after the briefing, NORAD senior energy advisor Even Mikal Sund said the Norwegian visit could be a step toward greater cooperation between the two countries in the future.
“East Timor may be similar to the way Norway was several years ago,” he said. “We are here, in part, to explain the mistakes we made so those mistakes will not be repeated here.”