East Timorese Betrayed

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Following East Timor's UN-sponsored ballot on August 30 a wave of terror unprecedented in East Timor's grim history has descended on the country. Indonesian military and police and their licensed thugs, the militia, have plunged East Timor into anarchy and, worse, all the indications are that far from being spontaneous this genocide long been planned in the highest echelons of the Indonesian government. As one example, it is now known that police sent by Indonesia into the country to "maintain order" were in fact military personnel in police uniforms.

The planning behind this evil and barbaric act is apparent: first the Western observers and journalists were either driven from the country or into the UN bases in Dili. These became enclaves of safety as the Indonesians went on a murderous and indiscriminate rampage that has slaughtered hundreds of East Timorese men, women and children. The next stage was to forcibly load the survivors onto trucks and boats and deport them to Indonesian West Timor and surrounding islands, indeed some have been sent as far away as West Irian. East Timorese fumed in this way from the country are now estimated to number anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000.

Behind the veil of secrecy the most abominable acts have been perpetrated. In Suai, on East Timor's southern coast, approximately a hundred refugees, men, women and children, and the nuns and priests who were sheltering them, have been slaughtered. There have been reports of mass executions of Timorese trucked out of Dili. Dili itself is a smoldering ruin -- three-quarters of the city has been burnt to the ground. Armed gangs of militia, soldiers, and police continue to roam Dill, looting, burning and terrorizing survivors cowering in the UN's Dili compound. At the nadir of deals brokered in this terrible saga these East Timorese were handed over to the "care" of the Indonesian military in return for guaranteeing the safety of the UN. These are the events we know about. If the barbarities reported in the past weeks are to Indonesia's eternal shame the behavior of the civilized West has not been much better. Surely to sponsor a referendum, have the East Timorese declare their hand, and then to abandon them to a pitiless fate is the depth of moral bankruptcy.

Australia has been the chief offender. For 25 years Australia, trading on its status as a liberal white democracy, has been the apologist for endless Indonesian human rights abuse. Right to the eleventh hour Australia has been backing Indonesia's demand to control security in the country. And where has all this grovelling and fawning got us? Wiranto (who was trained at Duntroon), the Indonesia Minister for Defense wouldn't even answer the phone calls of his Australian counterpart -- a real tribute to 25 years of a "special relationship." Woe to a country whose leaders are without vision.

America has been as bad. Much is asked of America, but if you're the world's only superpower that goes with the territory. How hollow now ring the calls of presidents, vice-presidents, senators and congressmen who have at one time or another called for justice in East Timor. Now it is America's failure to commit that has given the spineless "leaders" of Australia and elsewhere the out they need. The West won't send in peacekeepers because it fears the Indonesians -- who incidently have continued their military buildup -- will resist. That is a moot point. These heroes' specialty has always been unarmed civilians. It is more likely that faced with a determination the moral fiber of Western leaders doesn't possess, the Indonesians, having fulfilled their evil promise: to destroy the base of this fledgling country, would scurry off. The Indonesians have no right to be there: the UN recognizes Portuguese sovereignty, not Indonesia's; the people, for whatever that means in contemporary Western democracies, have spoken.

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