East Timor martial
artists learn peacebuilding in Mindanaw
Posted 2 May 2008
||East Timorese visitors posepose at the Balay Mindanaw Peace Center after the exposure visit.
Key leaders of the different
martial arts groups of East Timor visited Mindanao last April 19-24
and had an exposure on the different peace initiatives of Balay
Mindanaw. They had the opportunity to learn and share experiences
with rural communities on community-based peacebuilding, the
negotiation process between GRP and RPM-M, and also had a dialogue
with military commanders who are now engaged in peacebuilding.
The exposure visit was part
of a year-long program of Action Asia in East Timor on
Capacity-building for Martial Arts Leaders in East Timor on Conflict
Transformation and Peacebuilding Tasks. Action Asia is a network of
peacebuilding NGOs and individuals around the Asian region, wherein
Balay Mindanaw is a member. One of the objectives of the program is
to build trust and relationship among the leaders, which will
hopefully eliminate the mistrust and suspicion among them that
fueled the rivalry and violence with each other in the past.
Their Mindanao exposure was
the second part of their Philippine visit that started April 14. The
first half was held in Manila where they visited historical sites
and museums, and had a dialogue with inmates of the National Bilibid
Prison who are taking part in nonviolent seminars. They also had an
exchange of experiences and learning with representatives of the
different base groups of AKKAPKKA, an organization espousing
nonviolence as a way to live and as a means for social change.
The martial arts groups in
East Timor have been fighting among each other for a long time now,
resulting in deadly and violent clashes on the streets of Dili (the
capital of East Timor). Each leader can have members from 5,000 to
6,000 whom they could call during street fights. Various groups or
gangs were formed during Indonesiaís occupation as a way to defend
themselves. Now, they are seen as having a critical role in East
Timor in terms of maintaining peace among its peoples.
With the dialogue in Mindanao
regarding the GRP-RPMM peace process, the Timorese leaders learned
the importance of involving communities in matters concerning their
very lives. The people are the main stakeholders of the process. In
their sharing, they said that there is still war because there is
still poverty, corruption and inequality. But the efforts done here
in Mindanao is what they intend to do in East Timor.
They also had the chance to
visit, share and learn experiences with communities doing
community-based peace building. Divided into three groups, they
visited three areas. One group went to Barangay Sangalan in Gingoog
City to have a dialogue with the tribal leaders. They had a glimpse
of how local conflicts are resolved locally through indigenous
dispute resolution or in the traditional way of resolving conflicts.
Majority of the population in Sangalan are Higaunons.
|After a dialogue with the soldiers who are also learning and experiencing peace building, the East Timorese visitors had a
"boodle fight" during lunch with the soldiers of the 103rd Infantry Brigade in Camp Ranao, Marawi City.
Another group went to the
municipality of Sugbongcogon and had a dialogue with Provincial
Councilor Benedict Lagbas, who also leads the MISORET Cluster. They
had a sharing of experiences about the peace zone efforts of the
cluster, specifically on the institutional mechanisms set up in its
implementation. The group then went to Barangay Salubsob in the next
town, Kinoguitan. There, they had a dialogue with the local peace
trainers or facilitators who currently conduct peace trainings in
the barangays. They saw how members of the community become trainers
themselves who are training other communities in peacebuilding.
The third group went to
Barangay Tamboboan in the town of Claveria where they met with
community leaders and discussed issues on local governance and land
disputes. When the barangay organizational structure was presented,
the visitors from East Timor were impressed on how the community
advocates work closely in the barangay and that they play a
significant role in the community. The land issues caught their
attention because they also encounter these issues in their country.
They said that in their country, government could just drive you
away in your land. There are no clear and exact titles. They have
Portuguese Title and at the same time there is also the Indonesian
Title, which were handed out to them during their respective
The East Timorese also had a
change in perspective in how they view the military. They had viewed
the military as people for war, for combats and are trained to kill.
It was their first time to hear that some people in the military are
engaged in peace efforts. They said that during the Indonesian
occupation in East Timor, their military fought for freedom. But
when they gained independence, their military got lost and
instigated the conflicts. With the peacebuilding efforts of the
military where Balay Mindanaw supports through peace trainings and
policy advocacy, the Timorese have understood that these military
people are settling clan wars or family feuds and even doing
immersions with the community.
Overall, their exposure visit
here in the Philippines was a step towards learning and building
peace in East Timor. The struggle for peace is not only with
individuals but also with organizations, communities and even
nations. Balay Mindanaw is hoping that its peacebuilding initiatives
will have an impact not only here in Mindanao and the Philippines
but also, hopefully, in East Timor.
About East Timor
East Timor was a Portuguese
colony since the 16th century until Portugalís decolonization of
the country which started in 1974. It declared itself independent on
November 28, 1975 but nine days later it was invaded and occupied by
Indonesian forces before the declaration could be internationally
Indonesian rule was marked
with violence and brutality. It is estimated that 60,000 to 200,000
were killed in the period of 1975-1999.
A UN-supervised referendum
was held on August 30, 1999 to choose between special autonomy
within Indonesia and independence. A total of 78.5 percent choose
independence. However, violent clashes broke out afterwards, which
were allegedly instigated primarily by elements within the
Indonesian military and aided by the Timorese pro-Indonesia
The United Nations
Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) provided an
interim civil administration and a peace keeping mission in the
territory of East Timor from its establishment on October 25, 1999
until its independence on May 20, 2002. Its responsibilities
included providing a peacekeeping force to maintain security and
order; facilitating and coordinating relief assistance to East
Timorese; facilitating emergency rehabilitation of physical
infrastructure; administering East Timor and creating structures for
sustainable governance and the rule of law and assisting in the
drafting of a new constitution. East Timor finally gained
independence on May 20, 2002.
Flag of East Timor
estimated population of 1,115,000
Alongside the Philippines, East Timor is one of only two
predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Southeast Asia
Has a total land area of 15, 410 square kilometers
Form of Government: Parliamentary Republic
President: Jose Ramos-Horta
Prime Minister: Xanana Gusmao