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Editorial Timor deserves peace at
- Subject: Editorial Timor deserves peace at
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 08:08:00
Subject: Editorial Timor deserves peace at last
February 3, 1999
Timor deserves peace at last
After nearly 25 years and unknown thousands of deaths, Indonesia has
that it was wrong all along in its policy towards East Timor. The government
will now go to great extremes to try to justify its past actions. But last
week's announcement clearly shows that Indonesia has finally come to its
senses. The only difficulty now is that Jakarta policy has so badly disrupted
and split East Timor that even a promise of independence could cause still
violence and tragedy.
First, though, there is time for brief thanks to Indonesia for finally
realising its gross errors towards East Timor. It was wrong to invade the
colony when Portugal suddenly pulled out in 1975. It was wrong to annex East
Timor and incorporate it into Indonesia in 1976. It was grossly and terribly
wrong to send military forces to overwhelm the guerrillas and their supporters
through more than 20 years of bloody battle. It was morally and brutally wrong
to suppress peaceful protests and slaughter East Timorese in their own
It is noteworthy that almost all countries refused to recognise Indonesian
claims over East Timor. In fact, among countries with influence in Jakarta,
only Australia recognised Indonesian rule. Thailand, like most of the world's
countries, did too little and remained too silent ? but neither did our
government capitulate to Jakarta's claim that its occupation of East Timor
it the right to incorporate the land into Indonesia.
Nor has Portugal any right to the moral high ground over its former colony.
Lisbon all but ignored East Timor during its 300-year rule. And at the first
blush of democratic rule at home, Portuguese officials simply cut and ran from
East Timor. The sudden, unannounced departure of Portugal in 1975 was the
specific cue taken by Indonesia to take over the territory. It did this with a
missionary zeal. But its efforts turned into an ill-starred venture that
brought death to East Timorese on a genocidal scale. An estimated 200,000 East
Timorese were killed or starved by Indonesia. That gave Jakarta a well-earned
dose of notoriety which rightly continues to haunt Indonesia's international
Two years ago, freedom fighters Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop Bello won the
Peace Prize. Jakarta thundered about a plot against Indonesia. Last week, in
announcing the new plan which will result in East Timorese freedom, Foreign
Minister Ali Alatas said Indonesia would be well rid of the political
The problem is that the past 24 years and more of violence have fractured East
Timor. It is impoverished economically, culturally and politically. Most of
natural leaders have been killed by the Indonesians. Opinion is split several
ways in the former colony. Some favour outright independence. Others feel that
the poor territory would prosper better as an autonomous region of Indonesia.
Others want a referendum so that all Timorese can decide their fate.
Indonesia's harsh and powerful military is having its wings cut in Jakarta,
still could side with pro-Indonesian factions in East Timor.
All of this is frightfully dangerous for an area which has been brutalised and
traumatised by a recent generation of violence. The international community
stood aside, largely silent, while East Timor has suffered. At the least, it
should now guarantee a peace for Timorese to decide how to proceed. Thailand
and Asean allies must press Jakarta to live up to its promises, and to keep
armed forces out of Timor politics.
There is a real danger of new civil strife in East Timor over the future.
Indonesia must keep out of the territory's political business now and let the
Timorese decide their future. It is past time to end the tragedy of East
Indonesia's friends, including Thailand, may be able to help to keep the
© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 1999
Last Modified: Wed, Feb 3, 1999
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