Epilog: Let’s understand and forgive Horta

Sirikit Syah*

It was because of the reputable diplomatic competence and charm of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao that the Indonesian media eventually agreed to put bitter things aside. Xanana was quoted widely as sending regret and apology of President Jose Ramos-Horta to Desi Anwar, Metro TV, and Indonesian media in general. In fact, if we read the statement released officially by President Horta, he never withdrew his previous offensive statement. He regreted only of the effect of his remarks, but he didn’t regret for his false accusation towards Desi Anwar and Metro TV. But, let’s understand Horta, and by understanding him, may we forgive him.

Jose Ramos-Horta was a refugee during Indonesian’s existence in East Timor. He managed to draw international attention to this 27th province of Indonesia, shape world opinion, and influence UN officials, which resulted in the failure of 28 years of Indonesian diplomacy on East Timor. No matter how much the Indonesian government poured development money to this youngest province (by neglecting other poor regions in the archipelago), no matter how much churches had been built during 27 years of Indonesian government, Indonesia was seen as a ‘brutal’ occupier. After reading so many articles written by Australian or Portuguese-based journalists, reading Ali Alatas’ A Pebble n the Shoe gives me a balanced perspective in seeing the role of my country in the development of East Timor, now Timor Leste.

This was not the first time Ramos-Horta accused mass media, particularly Indonesian media, without foundation. In 2006, when some media reported the emerging tensions in Timor Leste’s army, he hurriedly accused Indonesian media as ‘telling rumors and gossips’. He visited Jakarta sometime in May 2006 and dined with important figures for a purpose to counter the ‘false news’ by the Indonesian media. “Dili is calm. Timor Leste is doing alright,” he said. But, a couple of days afterwards, the most serious riot since the independence exploded in Dili. Dozens of people killed, both civilians and from the army rebels. Mari Alkatiri resigned following the incident. Mass media couldn’t be lying when they reported on something as real as Timor Leste.

In 1999, as David T.Hill and Krishna Sen mentioned in his book The Internet in Indonesia’s New Democracy, Ramos-Horta had threatened to hack Indonesian computer networks with the help of 100 hackers from Europe and Amerika if RI government did not accept the result of referendum (a pre-emptive threat).

When he and Bishop Belo received Nobel Peace Prize, Indonesian people, particularly the pro-integration East Timorese, wondered, “How come two figures who never call or act for peace in the region could be awarded a peace prize?” There were other ‘more peaceful’ leading figures in the world. The bloody clash between the pro-independence and pro-integration was an evident of the ‘peace’ atmosphere in the region. We couldn’t have blamed it to the pro-integration East Timorese because in the eyes of the world, they didn’t exist. There was no pro-integration society in East Timor, so the west said. If they did exist, their voice was never heard of. If they had voice, we had judged them as the voice of Indonesian militias.

Horta was suspected of sponsoring Suara Timor Timur (attacked by East Timorese people in December 1998 for its bias reporting which was anti-Indonesia), in the turn of the country’s fate. In 2002, Ramos-Horta had accused the same newspaper (now becomes Suara Timor Leste) as being sponsored by Indonesian military and Indonesian institutions (BAIS, Kopasus). It was just a report in STL that the Foreign Ministry staffs were lack of disciplines and needed education, but that was a trigger enough for Horta, then the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to accuse STL as being directed by its sponsors: ‘the Indonesian elements’.

A statement by the paper in November 2002 says: “We are independent and will always be. We just report facts objectively. The accusation that we are sponsored by Indonesia is a contradiction to Minister Horta’s own statement to build a better relationship with Indonesia.”

One should not forget that the Indonesian media contributed to the victory of the pro-independence in 1999 referendum. The media pressured RI government, in the name of human rights and freedom for every nation, to quickly hold the referendum and give a chance of self-determination among East Timor people. Al Indonesian media (except for TVRI, RRI, and Antara) demonized anybody against this struggle. The most notorious ‘demon’ was Eurico Guterres. However, the sweet affair of Horta and Indonesian media turned sour once Timor Leste got its independence. That affair is now even in the brink of an end, with the attitude Horta has towards Indonesian media. That media criticize his way of governing his country is just the nature of free media. If he was a journalist as he always claimed, he must have understood this above all.

Horta is a hero of Timor Leste, a freedom fighter, a Nobel Prize winner (even though he is not that peaceful person). But as a Foreign Minister, he criticized and attacked his nearest neighbor, Indonesia. He also accused mass media reports about his governance as being ‘paid’. When he was Prime Minister, he didn’t manage a potential unrest within the army and countered media reports as ‘bias, full of rumors’. Now he is the President, but he seems like a confused man. He couldn’t distinguish Desi Anwar from Desi Fitriani, and wrongly accused Desi Anwar for serious acts, which could damage a reputation of a journalist and ruin a good relation of two neighboring countries.

We, Indonesian people, know who Horta is and how he becomes. Therefore, let’s just forgive him. We know Desi Anwar, a reputable journalist who wouldn’t care a bit about other people’s business. We know the nature of our freedom of the press. We fear nothing for reporting facts. The fact in Timor Leste and of Horta may be bitter to bite. Thank God there was Xanana Gusmao, a symphatetic diplomat, a figure more suitable for a Nobel Peace Prize, since he always brings peace wherever he is, particularly among his diverse people.



Perihal LKM Media Watch
Mass media are watchdogs. But who watch the media? Let's do it together. Watch this very powerful entity, for better journalism, better Indonesia, better world. http://www.sirikitsyah.wordpress.com

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