Subject: Boston Globe & NY Times Editorials

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NY Times Editorial

The Boston Globe May 20, 2002



WHEN BILL CLINTON and his former UN ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, attend ceremonies today in Dili, the capital of East Timor, marking the nation's independence, they will be celebrating a joyful birth of freedom and democracy. But the new nation will be Asia's poorest country. Like all newborns, during itsearly years independent East Timor will need mindful help from all who wish to see it flourish.

The United States has a particular moral debt to the Timorese, who survived nearly a quarter-century of Indonesia's brutal occupation. For the sake of a Cold War partnership with Indonesia, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during a 1975 visit to Jakarta gave a green light to the dictator Suharto to invade East Timor. What ensued was a nightmare of brutality that killed off more than 200,000 East Timorese from a population of 750,000.

Clinton himself has a certain culpability for failing to prevent or stop in time the vengeful campaign of murder, rape, and destruction that Indonesian military officers loosed upon the East Timorese after the people voted overwhelmingly on Aug., 31, 1999, to be free of Indonesian rule.

The United Nations, which will be represented at today's festivities by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has its own share of guilt for not heeding pleas for protection and warnings of bloodshed that were addressed to it before the 1999 Timorese vote for independence. As in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, the UN stood aside while the victims were being slaughtered and raped.

Only after Clinton, realizing he had been foolish to trust Indonesia's generals, sent a warning to Jakarta did the UN authorize a peacekeeping force for East Timor composed mostly of armed Australian troops.

With this sorry record of international indifference in the background, a donors' conference last Tuesday and Wednesday in Dili pledged $360 million of aid to the world's newest nation. Of that, $80 million to $90 million is intended to cover projected budget gaps for the next three years, and the rest will be targeted for badly needed development projects. East Timor today needs almost everything. But above all it needs aid and investment to create jobs for its youthful population - certainly until oil and gas revenues from reserves in the Timor Sea begin to materialize in four or five years.

It is time to make good the debt owed to the Timorese in the spirit of a statement this week by Pope John Paul II: "I pray that the many sacrifices of recent years will now inspire the building of a society of justice and solidarity. May God bless the people of East Timor with true freedom and lasting peace."

The New York Times Monday, May 20, 2002


A Nation Is Born

he country of East Timor, now just hours old, is a child of adversity, born of bloodshed and destruction. Independent for the first time in nearly 500 years, East Timor is small and vulnerable, one of the 20 poorest nations of the world, relying on the kindness of strangers who in the past have treated it roughly. Yet the midnight ceremony - in which a United Nations transitional administration turned over power to the Timorese - was a joyous and optimistic occasion. Indeed, there is reason to think that with concerted international help East Timor can succeed despite its many disadvantages.

A former Portuguese colony, East Timor was annexed by Indonesia in 1975 with the United States' assent. The occupation was so brutal that a fifth of the population was killed over 20 years. In 1999, Indonesian troops destroyed 80 percent of the infrastructure, killing hundreds more. The country was left with little but burned-out buildings and untrained people. Life expectancy is 57 years. More than half the people are illiterate; nearly half live in poverty.

Last week international donors pledged to give the country $360 million over three years. This help is not just a moral imperative. It is a bargain. Aid will likely be temporary. East Timor has offshore oil and gas reserves that should begin to give it independence from aid in 2006.

Perhaps most important, East Timor's development during the two and a half years of U.N. administration indicates that it will be relatively well governed. The country has shown an admirable democratic tendency. Major decisions have been made with widespread consultation. East Timor's president, José Alexandre Gusmão, is a guerrilla leader turned political prisoner and has often been compared to Nelson Mandela, sharing his democratic instincts and conciliatory spirit, even toward former adversaries like Indonesia.

Good relations with Indonesia are crucial, as East Timor shares an island with part of Indonesia, and will not be able to defend itself should Indonesian militias resume their rampages or pay allies inside East Timor to cause violence. Washington must also be wary that its new coordination with Indonesia's military is not taken as an invitation to mischief. Recently declassified documents reveal that the United States approved Indonesia's 1975 invasion, on the grounds of fighting Communism. Washington must be very careful not to repeat its mistakes in the name of fighting terror.

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