Time to act for Indonesia and East Timor


Picture By Sean Healy

Urgent action is needed in solidarity with the people of Indonesia and East Timor.

In East Timor right now, the Indonesian military is arming and training militia gangs in an attempt to terrorise the population into submission. Last month, massacres occurred in Liquica, Dili and Suai in which these terror gangs, with the assistance of the armed forces, shot and hacked to death more than 100 people. Assaults and killings occur in East Timor every day.

On April 17, the militia gangs held a rally outside the governor's residence in Dili. Many had been trucked into Dili by the Indonesian military. High-ranking Indonesian military officers were in attendance.

At the conclusion of the rally, militia leader Eurico Guterres called on the terror gangs to go and "arrest" all pro-independence leaders in Dili "and kill them if necessary". Terror gangs assaulted the house of Timorese independence leader Manuel Carrascalao, killing at least 12 people, including his 17-year-old adopted son.

The military wants to ensure that the August 8 referendum on East Timor's future becomes a hollow farce, rather than a genuine act of self-determination. It hopes a terrorised Timorese population, in hiding from murderous gangs, will be too afraid to reject Jakarta's empty promise of limited "autonomy" in favour of independence.

In Indonesia, the military regime is also threatening a massive crackdown. Since the resignation of the dictator Suharto after massive demonstrations nationwide last May, the military has found itself being criticised from all sides. The Indonesian people have demanded an end to the military's right to intervene in any civil or political matter, and an end to its brutal repression of dissenting voices.

In mid-April, a majority of officers at a meeting of the RAPIM ABRI (Military Leaders' Assembly) argued in favour of a "Tiananmen Square" solution to Indonesia's unrest: "Send the tanks in".

A wave of government propaganda has been launched against the leftist People's Democratic Party, including threats to ban it again (the PRD was banned from July 1996 until September 1998), arrest more of its leaders and "liquidate" it. Eight leaders of the PRD remain in jail, the regime's promises to release them having been repeatedly broken.

The military and President B.J. Habibie want to ensure that elections scheduled for June 7 produce a "new" government which, like the old, is committed to maintaining the privileges and wealth of the elite and the power of the military. If achieving this requires escalating the repression, killings and "disappearances", they will do it.

So now is a decisive time for East Timor and Indonesia. These countries could go one way or the other.

The threat of a brutal military crackdown is real, but so too is the possibility of victories in the struggles for democracy, freedom and independence. The people of Indonesia and East Timor remain defiant, and we in Australia must act now in solidarity with them.

Action is needed against our "own" government. Not only do Prime Minister John Howard and foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer refuse to call for Indonesia's withdrawal from East Timor; they also help the Indonesian regime whitewash its real record there. Howard's much-vaunted April 27 meeting with Habibie in Bali served primarily to allow Habibie to posture as a "supporter of democracy".

The Australian government is the number one supporter of the Habibie regime and Indonesian military: Australia is the only country to officially recognise East Timor as part of Indonesia, and the Australian military trains Indonesian commandos and conducts joint exercises aimed at making the Indonesian military a more efficient killing machine.

This has to stop. Recognising that it is time to act, Resistance is initiating protest actions across the country, including an "international day of solidarity" on May 22. These actions will support the Indonesian and East Timorese peoples' desires for democracy and freedom, and for an end to repression and fear, by demanding:

  • Indonesia: free all the political prisoners!

  • East Timor: Indonesian forces out! Stop the killings, disarm the anti-independence militias!

  • Australia: end all military ties! Withdraw recognition of the Indonesian occupation!

We urge you to attend and help publicise the emergency pickets and the May 22 international day of solidarity, to find out the truth about what's going on and to keep active in solidarity with the people of Indonesia and East Timor.

[Sean Healy is the national coordinator of Resistance.]