We all know about the escalating terror — and struggle — in East Timor. The movement for independence for East Timor has forced the Indonesian regime to allow the United Nations to hold a referendum in which the East Timorese can vote for "autonomy" within Indonesia or, by voting no, for independence.
But this is only a partial victory. Little is guaranteed to the East Timorese.
UN personnel will be in control of the ballot and disseminating the official referendum information, but the Indonesian army, with a history of terror, intimidation, torture and massacre in East Timor, is in charge of maintaining "peace and order" for the referendum.
As the first UN personnel arrive in East Timor, the Indonesian army and its gangs of militia thugs are still killing and terrorising the people. The fact that the recent agreement between Portugal and Indonesia signed at the UN did not insist on Indonesian troop withdrawal, or even that the Indonesian troops be confined to barracks, indicates that the US and British governments, key players in the UN, are not applying maximum pressure on the Indonesian government.
The Australian government also refuses to apply real pressure on Jakarta. It continues to state that it prefers autonomy within Indonesia for East Timor. It refuses to withdraw its formal recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor.
John Howard makes public statements of confidence in the murderous Indonesian army and Australian military ties with Jakarta have not been cut.
In coming weeks there will be a struggle to force the UN and the Indonesian government to create the conditions in East Timor for a free and fair vote. The UN secretary-general will, at some point, formally assess whether such conditions exist. The East Timorese resistance must make its own assessment and decide on whether to boycott or participate in the referendum.
During this period, the East Timorese need the maximum possible international solidarity. In particular, they need their supporters around the world to increase political pressure on their own governments to press the UN to take a firmer stance on the conditions for the referendum and if possible force Jakarta to withdraw its troops from East Timor altogether.
Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) appeals to all people to participate in and encourage others to participate in the international day of solidarity for East Timor and Indonesia on Saturday, May 22. The marches and rallies will demand the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor, the disarming of the terror militias, the cutting of Australian military ties with Jakarta and the freedom of all political prisoners in Indonesia and East Timor. For more details, see page 30.
Now is a time to act.
For a free East Timor!
By Max Lane, national coordinator, ASIET