Dili, September 23, 2019 –– On September 16-20, 2019 Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), Assosiasaun Chega Ba Ita (ACbit) and Centro Nacional Chega! (CNC) hosted a visit by the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to Timor-Leste. Accompanied by representatives from Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Chair of Aceh Reintegration, Aceh parliamentary member and NGOs from Aceh such as Commission of the Disappeared and Victims of Violence Aceh (KontraS Aceh), Legal Aid of Banda Aceh (LBH Banda Aceh) and Women Volunteers for Humanity (RPUK), the group explored the lessons on truth, reparations and reconciliation.
AJAR’s Executive Director, Galuh Wandita, stated “Sharing these painful experiences with an open heart and mind is quite difficult. Timor-Leste’s truth commission (CAVR) and the Aceh TRC is showing us how to do this, with the main message of never again., For Indonesia’s transition to democracy, we must be brave enough to deal with our unresolved past.”
The Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) was established in 2002 to seek the truth about the violations that took place between 1974-1999, facilitate reconciliation and assist victims. Its final report entitled Chega! (or Never Again) was launched in 2005. It took more than a decade before the government of Timor-Leste established the CNC in 2017. The institution has a mandate to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of Timor-Leste’s CAVR and the Indonesia–Timor-Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF), preserving the memory of the past, promoting human rights through education and training, and building solidarity with the survivors.
The group met with government officials, parliament members, and civil society. During their meeting with Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, he shared that “political and community reconciliation is the foundation for the dignity of a people.” In another meeting, the group learned about how the Ministry of Social Service is working together with civil society to support victims and vulnerable groups by providing social assistance and services. The group also learned about CNC’s program marking historical sites, developing historical education and memorialization initiatives to preserve the memory of the past violations.
The group also shared experiences with civil society organizations (CSO) that are playing a significant role in ensuring that the state fulfills the rights of victims. As a “bridge” between survivors and the government, CSOs are providing alternative reparation, facilitating trauma healing for women survivors and creating opportunities for young people to learn from history.
They also met with the Head of the President’s Office, President Parliament, Ombudsman, Ministry of Veteran Affairs, former members of the Truth, Reception and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR) and the Truth and Friendship Commissioner as well as the NGOs and victims group in Timor-Leste, learning about Timor-Leste’s experience in trying to achieve transitional justice goals.
The group was hosted at the CNC office, a former prison and torture site called Comarca Balide in Dili. Participants met with survivors, including the 12 November Committee, and visited a school founded by a female veteran in Liquisa district. They also visited the Museum of Resistance, the Max Stahl Audiovisual Center, and other memorial sites in Dili, Marabia and Liquica in Timor-Leste.
Hugo Fernandez, Director of Centro Nacional Chega, stated that Timor-Leste’s transitional justice journey is not perfect. However, he hopes that their experience will bring a positive impact on the work of Aceh TRC and strengthen their role in providing justice for victims. “As the newest truth commission in Asia, the Aceh TRC should be better from the previous commissions. I am sure that learning from other commissions’ experiences, the Aceh TRC will be better placed to deal with the complexity of their task.”
Tunn Mastur Yahya, a member of the Aceh TRC reflected: “This exchange has been enriching and insightful. It has strengthened our knowledge and build solidarity. The experience of Timor-Leste shows how they respect their history through memorials, creating digital archives, documentaries, museums and building a narrative that is integrated into the school curriculum and textbooks. This is very inspiring and very significant for the learning process in Aceh.”