[TimorLesteStudies] New Article: Ben Larke: 'And the Truth Shall Set You Free': Confessional Trade-Offs and Community Reconciliation in East Timor

Bu Wilson Bu.Wilson at anu.edu.au
Wed Aug 12 14:47:32 EST 2009

Larke, Ben (2009). '. . . And the Truth Shall Set You Free': Confessional
Trade-Offs and Community Reconciliation in East Timor. Asian Journal of
Social Science, Volume 37, Number 4, 2009 , pp. 646-676(31)


In East Timor, as with many nations dealing with the legacies of
colonisation and occupation,
divisions and allegiances forged in the past are combining with other
contemporary factors to
destabilising eff ect. Th e civil unrest of 2006/2007 provides the most
recent example of the propensity
for violence to escalate rapidly in such a climate. In this context, past
experience in promoting
and facilitating re-integration following the mass displacement in 1999 in
East Timor
may off er lessons for those seeking to address social cohesion in the wake
of more recent displacement.
Th is paper assesses the work of the Community Reconciliation Process
implemented by
the Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (Commonly known by the
acronym CAVR) in order to provide a reflection on what was achieved and
highlight some of the
shortcomings that might similarly befall current, and future, attempts. In
doing so, the process,
and particularly the use of narrative, is considered in terms of its
performative elements: the
circumstances in which the scripts were written; the stage on which they
were acted out; the
actors who voiced them, and the audience who listened. It is argued that the
Community Reconciliation
Process, through its mechanism that synthesised customary reconciliation
and elements of the formal justice system, facilitated a reintegrative
process that had at its core
the exchange of confession, apology and shaming for the right to re-enter
the social group from
which perpetrators had been excluded. This process, however, may have
occurred at the expense
of the competing needs of those who had been victimised.

reconciliation, truth commissions, East Timor, conflict resolution,
traditional justice, narrative

Bu Wilson
Regulatory  Institutions Network (RegNet) Research School of Pacific and
Asian Studies
College of Asia and the Pacific,
Australian National University 
Canberra   ACT   0200 

T: 02 6125 3194
F: 02 6125 1507
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E: Bu.Wilson at anu.edu.au


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