By Jon Land
While the people of East Timor contemplate the prospect of voting in August on whether to reject or accept the Indonesian government's offer of "autonomy", they are also preparing for an increase in attacks from the pro-integration terror gangs. The leaders of these 20 or so gangs have vowed to continue their acts of murder and intimidation against those who support independence — the overwhelming majority of East Timorese.
The pro-integration gangs are armed and funded by the Indonesian military. The pledge by President B.J. Habibie and defence minister General Wiranto that Indonesian troops and police will oversee "security and stability" during the ballot in August reassures no-one except the pro-integration militias and the Australian government, which prefers that East Timor remain part of Indonesia.
There is no commitment from the Indonesian authorities to disarm the terror gangs, which continue to act with impunity.
Despite the "peace agreement" brokered by Wiranto on April 21 between pro-integration thugs and leaders of the East Timorese resistance, the violence perpetrated by the gangs has continued. Stage-managed pro-integration rallies are held and people are forced to attend.
From April 21 to 24, there were reports of mass killings in and around the town of Suai in the south-west of East Timor, which is under siege by pro-integration gangs. In the towns of Maliana, Maubara and Liquica, there have been killings and the burning of homes. Independence supporters have been forced to sign forms declaring allegiance to Indonesia.
An urgent appeal issued on April 26 by the Communication Forum for the Women of Timor Loro Sae (Fokupers) told of the deteriorating situation in Liquica district:
"On Monday, April 26, we received information from our source in Aswmano village, Liquica, that the situation there is getting worse. The Indonesian military and the paramilitary Besi Merah Putih declared an ultimatum that all villagers must move to Liquica town by Thursday, April 30. If they do not follow this ultimatum, they will be killed. Before, the Indonesian security forces only demanded that all males 12 years of age or older come down to Liquica town. But the number of males who arrived was insufficient for them. So then they demanded that all the villagers — everyone from newborn babies, mothers who just gave birth, pregnant women, elderly people, even the sick and paralysed — relocate to Liquica. If the people do not arrive by the deadline, they will not be allowed to enter Liquica town and they will be sadistically killed."
The pro-integration gangs and the Indonesian military hope to terrorise the East Timorese people into submission and abandoning their quest for freedom. There urgently needs to be an intensive campaign to support the independence struggle.
If there is to be a fair and democratic vote in August, Indonesian troops must withdraw from East Timor and the pro-integration gangs must be disarmed.
Pickets, rallies and protests actions like the May 22 day of solidarity initiated by Resistance are also necessary to oppose the policies of the Australian government, which continues to recognise Indonesia's illegal occupation of East Timor and refuses to break military ties with the Indonesian military.
[Jon Land recently returned from East Timor. He is on the Action in Solidarity with Indonesian and East Timor national steering committee.]