Indonesian violence in East Timor continues


The following is an abridged version of a February 24 statement by JOSE RAMOS-HORTA on Indonesia-orchestrated violence in East Timor.

There is abundant information concerning the Indonesian-instigated violence in East Timor. Gangs of youth, unemployed, common criminals and drug addicts, as well as Indonesian Muslim extremists, are armed and given money by the authorities. Often directly supported by soldiers, they launch murderous attacks against civilians in many parts of the country. Attacks have occurred in Turiskai, Same, Ainaro, Viqueque, Balibo, Atabae, Maubara, Liquica.

In spite of the fall of the dictator Suharto and the positive pronouncements by President BJ Habibie, the Indonesian authorities are continuing the same policies of arrogance and violence against the people of East Timor, causing more suffering among our people and wasting the scarce resources provided to them by the international community.

The Indonesian military have been directly implicated in the recent religious and ethnic violence. Mob violence is planned by the military, sometimes directed at Christians and ethnic Chinese, other times directed at Muslims, as happened in Ambon and Kupang. A pattern of army instigated religious and ethnic violence is emerging not only in East Timor but in many parts of Indonesia.

The East Timorese resistance has exercised utmost restraint since the fall of Suharto, but our patience is running out. We keep our options open as to our next course of action if the situation continues to deteriorate.

Time and again, the East Timorese resistance leadership has proposed an end to all armed activities in the territory. A United Nations peace-keeping mission in the territory is now a matter of urgency. I have proposed the creation of a safe heaven in East Timor where resistance fighters would assemble under international humanitarian protection. Indonesian troop presence should be scaled down and the remaining forces confined to designated areas.

All of this has been rejected by the Indonesian side. Instead of reducing the number of troops in the territory, as has been urged by the UN secretary-general, United States, European Union and Australia, the Indonesian authorities have increased the number of troops, which now number well over 20,000. A militia of at least 1000 criminals has been trained and armed to terrorise the civilian population. Many of these criminals are not native East Timorese, but radical Indonesian Islamic youth members.

We reject as blatant hypocrisy the latest "proposal" by the Indonesian military commander in Dili that the East Timorese Resistance Armed Forces (Falintil) and the gang of criminals should be disarmed, while the Indonesian army remains intact in East Timor.

The Falintil is as legitimate as those armies of national liberation that fought for independence in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, to mention a few. The Indonesian army is in the same role as the racist white South African army in Namibia — it is preposterous that such a gang of criminals should pretend to be a neutral force between the Falintil and the armed gangs on Jakarta's payroll.

Indonesia should leave by January 2000, as President Habibie desires. The UN should take over administration of the territory for a period of up to five years. With Indonesia relinquishing its claims to the territory, the door is wide open for the UN to move in and help prepare the territory for statehood.

The small group of "pro-Indonesia" elements should not fear an independent East Timor. They will realise that in an independent East Timor they will be real citizens of a proud country. In Indonesia they have been and will always be lackeys. Their own honour and self-esteem will be restored.

Doomsday comments about how East Timor would descend into civil war if the Indonesian army were to suddenly leave is like suggesting that Jews would start killing each other if Hitler had not slaughtered them first.

These patronising and racist comments ignore the role of the Indonesian army in East Timor in the last 23 years, and the on-going campaign orchestrated by Jakarta to destabilise the territory. The Indonesian army is the most dangerous and destabilising force in the archipelago.

Another argument is that East Timor is not viable economically. Is Indonesia viable? Yes, thanks to an IMF bail-out package of over US$40 billion. It is viable, thanks to a US$10 billion package offered by tiny Singapore. It was viable as the World Bank, ignoring massive corruption and fraud, poured into Suharto's coffers more than US$20 billion over the past 30 years. East Timor will not need this amount of "generosity".

Commentators refer to Indonesia's "billions" poured into East Timor. We would like an international audit into the tens of millions of dollars looted from our people's wealth — our fine arabica coffee, sandalwood, marble, fisheries, that became monopolies owned by the Suharto family and the generals who invaded East Timor.

If any shame is left, if any sense of honour is there, if any sense of duty to the republic is felt by the military hierarchy, there is chance for them to show it, leave East Timor now without causing more suffering to our people and shame to the Republic.