etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer Four letters from February to May 2000

Journalists in East Timor
To Rebuild East Timor
Indonesia's Battalion 745
Reconciling East Timor

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Letter to the Editor 
The Irish Times
May 31, 2000


Sir, - What Maggie O'Kane says about risk-taking journalists and particularly cameramen, is very true - the work they do can make a difference (May 27th).

As someone closely connected with East Timor, I very much appreciate their work. I also appreciate the fact that Max Staal and Marie Colvin were not the only "believers" in East Timor, as O'Kane implies.

When "the pack of journalists panicked and departed", as O'Kane puts it, more nonnames" than big names in the world of journalism actually stayed on under siege in the UN compound in Dili to keep feeding stories and pictures to the world as best they could.

Six of them were back in Dili when I went there last Christmas; people like the Australian, Heather Paterson, working as a freelance, the Japanese photographer, who lamented (correctly) the slowness and apparent lack of commitment on the part of the Australian army and the UN to cleaning up the devastated town and stimulating rebuilding, and others. They had returned to report the peace which they felt they had a small part in making.

And let's never, ever forget the East Timorese, who had at that time already lived as hunted animals and survived by their wits and sheer courage for years and recent months as the killings escalated. They hosted, interpreted for, drove, and led the foreign journalists to stories and protected them. They allowed themselves to be interviewed openly, in the full knowledge of the peril in which they placed themselves. Without them, the journalists who flew into East Timor from around the world would have found it difficult to get their stories.

Most of these East Timorese were left behind in the end to the mercy of the bloodthirsty Indonesian army and its militias. I met some of them in Dili at Christmas. Some I could not meet, because they are dead, tortured, hacked to death and their bodies dumped in some unknown site. I could not even visit their families in some cases because they are dead too.

- Yours, etc.,

GEOFFREY HEARD, Mentone Vic 3194, Australia.

The New York Times April 26, 2000

To Rebuild East Timor

To the Editor:

You report that a dearth of qualified professionals and lack of consensus about an official national language hinder efforts to rebuild East Timor under United Nations administration (news articles, April 22 and 23).

To rebuild, it is essential for the United Nations and aid organizations to use the languages spoken by the people and to seek local expertise. The United Nations could train workers to use not only English, but also Portuguese, Indonesian, Tetun and other local languages.

The people of East Timor have endured nearly a quarter century of devastation. Listening to the local perspectives is the least the international community can do.

ELIZABETH COVILLE St. Paul, April 23, 2000
The writer is an adjunct assistant professor of anthropology at Hamline University in St. Paul.

The Christian Science Monitor 
March 30, 2000, Thursday


Indonesia's Battalion 745

Your series on Battalion 745 of the Indonesian Army (week of March 13) makes sobering reading. Reporter Cameron Barr deserves praise for the precision and thoroughness of his investigation. The series will bolster the international campaign for justice following the atrocities committed by Battalion 745 during their withdrawal from East Timor.

Your (March 13) editorial "Our reporters on the trail" states: "Without justice against past military abuses, Indonesia faces difficulty in holding its new democracy together." Without justice or commitment to the rule of law, Indonesia has no right to call itself a democracy at all.

Alistair Budd Elsah, Ill.

The Economist 
Feb 18 - 24, 2000

Reconciling East Timor

SIR—A joint Indonesia, East Timor and international tribunal under UN auspices is the best way to serve justice for the East Timorese (“In search of truth and justice”, February 5th). This is the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Commission and would enable all those with a stake in the verdict to take a role.

Indonesia could move its fragile democracy forward by holding members of its military accountable for some of its many crimes. East Timorese, who saw their lives threatened and country destroyed, would have a major say. And the UN, in addition to seeing that those responsible for “crimes against humanity” are held to account, can send a strong message that efforts to undermine an agreed-on internationally sanctioned vote will not be tolerated.

East Timor Action Network/US 
New York


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