Media put words in Xanana's mouth
By Jana D.K.
JAKARTA — Two East Javanese newspapers, Surya and Surabaya Pos, both ran articles on June 6 headed "Xanana admits the benefits of East Timorese integration". On the previous day the Jakarta daily Kompas carried an article titled "Xanana: I beg forgiveness".
Fretilin leader Xanana Gusmao was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Dili court on May 21. Amnesty International reported on May 27 that it believed Xanana to be in poor health and on a hunger strike. Since he was taken from court on May 21, Xanana has not received any visitors except for his court-
appointed lawyer, Sudjono.
According to the Indonesian Criminal Code, submitting a plea for clemency is by definition a legal admission of guilt. While there is some provision for appeal, the process can take more than a year, and the government clearly wants to see the case "resolved" as quickly as possible.
The June 5 Kompas article quotes Sudjono as saying that Xanana didn't see any point in presenting an appeal to the High Court or the Supreme Court. Sudjono quoted Xanana as saying, "A plea of clemency is more effective", adding "he [Xanana] has officially revoked any right to appeal and thus the process is complete".
Without suggesting why there might be some question as to the validity of Sudjono's remarks, the article goes on to say that Xanana had already written a private letter which stated that his plea for clemency was made of his own volition. The article neglects to mention whether copies of the letter were provided to or even seen by journalists.
The articles which appeared on June 6, from the government news agency Antara, tried to convince the public that the conflict in East Timor is over. Surya quotes Xanana as saying that he was sorry for his actions as the leader of Fretilin over the
last 17 years. Surabaya Pos adds that Xanana intends to plead with his compatriots still in the bush to give themselves up.
The Indonesian government is obviously anxious to tie up any loose ends over Xanana's trial and those of other activists in connection with the November 12, 1991, Dili massacre. On June 2 the Supreme Court rejected Gregono da Cunha Saldanha's appeal against a life sentence for allegedly organising the funeral procession in Dili. This was despite the fact that Gregono's lawyers had not yet received written notification of a previous appeal to the High Court and therefore had not begun an appeal to the Supreme Court.
According to Sudjono, Xanana's plea for clemency was handed directly to the head of the Dili court, Hieronymus Godang, on June 4. But on June 9, the minister of the national secretariat, Moerdino, stated that he had not yet received the plea. No explanation for the delay has been provided by either Sudjono or the Dili court.