People in East Timor have seen many acts of terrible violence on the long road to independence. They started a commission for reception, truth and reconciliation, like the one in South Africa. But there, after the ceremonies, white and black people went back to their separate quarters; here, perpetrators and victims have to live in the same village.


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A documentary film of 50? about justice and reconciliation in East Timor.


September 2002. In Suai, in the south of East Timor, a judicial enquiry is set up into the massacre, which took place there in 1999. A large group of people had gathered on the compound of the church. There they hoped to be safe from the murderous militia which hunted down everybody who was in favour of independence. But the militia did attack, and killed almost all the men. The bodies were loaded onto trucks, taken to a nearby lake and fed to the crocodiles.

Henk Rumbewas works for the international court. He hears the stories of the men who survived the bloodbath and of the women who were taken to West Timor as war booty. The stories remind him of his own traumatic experience in the former New Guinea. He was seven years old when the Indonesian army invaded his native country. What happened then would haunt him for the rest of his life.

In East Timor he meets padre Jovito Aranjo, a prominent member of the commission for reception, truth and reconciliation, which can be compared with the commission of truth in South Africa. In East Timor things are different: ?There, after the ceremonies, the white and black people each went back to their own quarter,? says Jovito, ?here, people are obliged to live together in the same village.?

With great reluctance Henk listens to the tales of terror. But the perpetrators, whatever they have done, are only ?orang kecil?, the small fry, who committed their crimes under orders. Both they and the victims complain about the slowness of the trials. But there is no reconciliation without justice, padre Jovito says, ?if you ignore the feelings of people, things will get out of hand again.?









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