Aniceto Neves: Coordinator for Peace Building of HAK Association
Caesar Ranawera: UNPol Representative
Hipolito Gama: UNMIT Spokesperson
Hipolito Gama: Good morning everyone and thank you for coming to our weekly press briefing. On Sunday 21st of September, it is the International Day of Peace. There are programmes and t-shirts for all of you and today we would like to talk about peace with one of the most prominent civil society representatives working to achieve piece in Timor-Leste. His name is Aniceto Neves and he is the Coordinator for Peace Building of HAK Association.
Aniceto Neves Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you all today. I am the head of the peace-building at HAK and I feel proud to be here today and share our vision for peace-building in Timor-Leste. Our vision is a little different to the UN’s. At the UN you ask “what are you doing for peace”at Hak, we ask “what is your vision of peace?”.
I will talk today about how to work for changes around the reality and obstacles after the crisis of 2006 and I would like to talk about the development of peace, specifically dialogue and reconciliation.
In the context of Timor-Leste, people are facing the challenge on how to transform from an era of colonization to independence. So the reality deals with the struggle for how to identify their positions and fight for Timor-Leste and move towards the realization of Timor-Leste as an independent nation.
In the context of conflict, we deal with the issue of identity and what it is to be Timorese, which is an effort to build an identity and to make the Timorese feel they own the process. This is an external and internal struggle.
Externally, the Timorese are not ready to assimilate themselves with the change taking place globally. Internally, the Timorese face the challenge and obstacle of who will give them information on their identity. Because of this internal conflict, it has an impact on the Timorese mentality and violence is used as recognition for the identity. So the need for peace and to change violence acts to peaceful acts is the challenge. Because of the accumulation of all of these problems, it exploded in 2006. Some people feel excluded from the process of independence which causes a negative undercurrent and discontent in the community. This happens in the levels of the state leadership and the ordinary community. At the leadership level, we feel that there are strong political factions and this has a strong impact on creating community divisions. Because of this division it is easy for conflict to arise.
With this is mind, how do we have peace in Timor-Leste? We need a definition and we need for Timorese to consider themselves a part of the process. If the Timorese themselves do not feel their identity is recognized, it will make them feel that their rights are not identified. Based on our observations, we ask what is the state policy to deal with this?
We find the policy is not dealing with the root cause in society. We also recognize the policy from the Government and the UN is responsible for change taking place. Because of this we notice there are reductions in violent actions and we also notice has tried its best to help the IDPs return home and there has been a reduction in conflict amongst the martial arts groups.
All of these changes take place because of a collective effort and it is evidence of a positive change.
Now what comes to us are questions. Why do we try to establish peace with an approach that uses force. We accept that this approach we will create a temporary peace but I think this is a negative peace. We need to build a positive, just, realistic and sustainable peace.
At HAK, we see ourselves involved in the efforts by the Government and the UN in trying to push for peace in two ways. Firstly we can learn and secondly we can offer our capacity to build peace. Dialogue is a mechanism to settle the conflict, and this is widely accepted by the UN. We try to use this mechanism but some dialogue does fail. The evidence shows that the leadership dialogue failed in April 2007 when the state accepted to send the ISF to Same to attack Alfredo and his group. As somebody who was involved in the negotiation between the state and Alfredo I found failures on both sides. Now we have the new government in place, we say we’ll use dialogue but we don’t use it properly. We use dialogue to settle conflict and also as a means to insult each other. We don’t use the mechanism as a means to create understanding. My perception is that dialogue should be used to build a vision for peace in Timor-Leste. Dialogue is a process.
Why doe we think we are now entering a negative peace process phase? First, even though we find there are a lot of changes taking place, we find that these happen not because of awareness, but because the State is using force to tackle this. We can be proud that after February 11, Salsinha and his members were arrested, and the IDPs said they were ready to go home as the situation is back to normal. It’s true that IDPs feel that they now have the conditions to go home, but the goal of a true, just and sustainable peace has not been achieved. We can be proud of the fact that we managed to create reconciliation between the two groups involved in the 2006 conflict – the F-FDTL and the PNTL and we recognize this. For us, people who were involved in the peace process the policy chosen by the government to compensate the petitioners has brought change but for us, we are concerned that the $8,000 compensation may not address the root cause of conflict.
So what have we done to change the mentality of those involved in the conflict? How do we reflect on the changes and think about the matters that have not been dealt with that may create an explosion? We have two things we think that can build peace.
Firstly, to build a culture of non-violence we need to shift the structure in all levels of society. Secondly, to strengthen peace and justice, we need to create awareness through education between local leaders, leaders in parliament, civil society and others.
Hipolito Gama: Thank you, now we will take questions
Adelina – Timor-Post: So far we notice the character our society is that force is needed to make us move and also because of this, the police use force to carry out their duty abusing human rights. What do you think about that.
Aniceto Neves – Thank you for the question. Yes it’s true that the Timorese people have a violent character so there is a need to use force to deal with them but from the conflict transformation approach, this is not the approach, but from a cultural point of view this is true. There has been also some opinions from some leadership that violence is the Timorese culture, I just want to say that this is not true. Timorese are the same as people throughout the world, whom think that violence should not be used to promote culture. Conflict is a natural phenomena, conflict exists when we as humans live in this world. With this, we cannot justify that violence is part of Timorese culture. The violence that has been taking place so far, we can consider and accept that Timorese society has been through a long conflict and long foreign occupations, therefore in the transitional era we have failed to transform the violent mentality into a peaceful one. When it comes to dealing with the police who use force, this is beyond the regulations of the police force, in reality what happens is that police fail to comply with the procedures that regulate them. Because of this failure we have violence, because of this violence, we have a violation of human rights.
Pedro Mendes – LUSA News Agency – You mentioned the petitioners and that mobilization was somehow bought with 8,000 dollars, from your perception, was does this money mean to petitioners. Are they being paid to keep quiet? Are they being compensated for something, what is the nature of this payment?
It’s not a perception, it is my opinion, which is the opinion of somebody who is active in the process of building peace in this country. When we look at the nature of the conflict within the F-FDTL the conflict took place because of discrimination due to no proper system for promotion and the application of internal rules. As a member of the Commission of Notables, in our investigations we did find the nature of provocation was discrimination and that the recommendations of the Commission have not been adopted which has led to two failures. Firstly, dialogue between the petitioners and the Commanders did not take place and secondly, on the process of establishing truth and accountability for those officers alleged to be involved in discrimination did not take place. This is the root of the nature of the conflict within the F-FDTL. That is my opinion.