Subject: Toledo Blade: Editorial: Turn the screw on Indonesia
Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 08:55:25 +0000
The Toledo Blade [Ohio, USA] December 9, 1998
Editorial: Turn the screw on Indonesia
AFTER civil disturbances and a widespread popular movement ousted Indonesia's President Suharto, optimism abounded that a new regime would work more diligently toward a resolution of the crisis in East Timor. The predominantly Christian territory was invaded and occupied by Indonesia in 1975 after Portugal withdrew from its former colony.
But a deadline by which Portugal and Indonesia were to agree on autonomy for East Timor has passed, another setback on a long and bloody path toward self- determination for that territory.
Indonesian rule over the territory is rightly not recognized by the international community, but to this point neither the United Nations nor the United States has taken a strong enough line with the Jakarta government to encourage Indonesia to withdraw.
The unmet deadline suggests that new Indonesian President B.J. Habibie has no more interest in withdrawing his occupying forces from the territory than his predecessor. Just a couple of months ago reports said Indonesia was not downsizing its military contingent in the territory as it had claimed. So how can it be trusted?
Indonesia has exhibited a flagrant disregard for international law since the invasion more than 20 years ago, when the predominantly Muslim nation invaded the basically Roman Catholic territory. Since then the world has paid scant attention - a response unlikely if the tables were turned and it had been a Muslim nation invaded.
The United Nations, formed in part to protect smaller nations against the expansionist dreams of larger neighbors, has failed in its mission with East Timor.
Now, as aid pours into Asia to prop up the battered economies, an opportunity has arisen for this country to take a stand, to hold a hammer over the head of Indonesia: Not one dime of aid for that country until a non-negotiable demand is met that there be an election in East Timor, with only those of Portugese descent eligible to participate. The vote should be monitored by the United Nations, of course.
Why does this matter to Americans? Because when possible this country must stand up for the little guy, assist small countries being bullied by pushy, intransigent neighbors. Obviously we believe that in a free vote the indigenous people of East Timor will choose independence - a turn of events that would be the ultimate validation of the efforts of Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos Horta, who in 1996 won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in bringing attention to the conflict there.
East Timor was invaded and has for more than two decades been kept subservient. Reason enough for this country to pay attention.
TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 1420 80153 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh, 1973-1998