Subject: Jakarta Eye: East Timor revisited

Jakarta Eye Editorial 
East Timor revisited

"Where there is oppression, there is resistance." Mao Tsetung.

So the peace keeping forces are to finally leave East Timor we hear this week. Is this the end of another chapter for East Timorese and Indonesians affected by 26 years of violence, death and destruction? Far from it.

Dr. H. Roeslan Abdulgani, the Indonesian Ambassador to the UN from 1967-1971 believes in 1975, Indonesia was" struck by that old disease known as arrogance," and put too much trust in its intelligence operations when it came to annexing East Timor, while belittling the force of the independence movement of the East Timor people themselves.

"We also were hit by a certain naiveté, and had too much trust in American whispers that East Timor would become a base for the People's Republic of China if it was not soon annexed by Indonesia"

He admits that in 1999 " we made the miscalculation that in the options of autonomy or independence, the autonomy option would win'.

Roeslan concludes 'This arrogance, naiveté and miscalculation have left a bitter and sad inheritance for the present generation. Like a nation struck by the law of karma or a curse, depending on your viewpoint. We who wanted to tear apart the unity of the East Timor people, now find ourselves thrust down a bottomless pit of dissension within our very own body and soul"

In response to such soul searching the West, collectively, steadfastly refuses to see any of the multi-dimensional issues, preferring to batter Indonesia at the very time it needs understanding, in its struggle to right the wrongs of 32 years of pillage and destruction by ex president Soeharto and his family and cronies.

The US sent a missile carrier, complete with Harrier strike aircraft, and 2000 marines to deliver a food consignment to those in need inside East Timor. The same US, one notes, that proudly tells the world that Singapore has built docks to accommodate US aircraft carriers. Australia's hasty decisions last year, to become the policeman for US interests between Darwin and Timor, completely missed the point. Australia has long denied a presence in the region to the US military, but with their 'gung-ho' approach to East Timor, as being peculiarly an Australian responsibility, have effectively opened the door for the US.

The newly independent country is, after all, a wasteland now, so the issue is, of course, the oil riches in the Timor Gap

One observes feverish activity on many of the hundreds of sites devoted to East Timor, all with a standard, off the shelf, rabid anti-Indonesian theme, much of it at variance with the real facts.

One example alone will suffice to illustrate, and to sideline Portugal into its rightful place as having the worse colonial record of any country. They spent nothing on their Timor colony, and, in the midst of a civil war, walked away leaving the East Timorese to hang like apes in the trees. On the other hand, Indonesia did invest and develop. For example, in 1974, after four centuries of colonial rule, East Timor had a total of 50 schools, and no colleges - it now has 687 schools and three colleges. The province then had only two hospitals and fourteen health clinics, but now has ten hospitals and almost two hundred health centers. Perhaps more tellingly, there were 100 churches in 1974 and there are now 518.

US assistant secretary of state Kenneth Quinn testifying to a senate committee in March 1992 said ' Indonesia has, on a per capita basis, funneled over six times as much of its own economic development budget into East Timor as to any other province." He noted also that, in nominal terms, the 170 million US dollars from Indonesian Government grants, was almost exactly one hundred times more than the average yearly development expenditure for East Timor in the last days of colonial rule (and all of this was in loans to be paid back to the Portuguese)

Earlier misinformation was identified by the highly respected Richard Woolcott (Australian Ambassador to Jakarta 1975-78 and also Permanent Representative at the UN) when he observed, " In 1976, Francisco Da Cruz was quoted by the world press as saying 60,000 had been killed in East Timor. The next day he said he had been misquoted. What he had said was 60,000 had 'lost their lives or homes' and this figure included over 30,000 refugees from East Timor who had fled the civil war to Indonesian West Timor'. Mr. Woolcott went on to say 'through a process not unlike think of a number and double it, and what is called incestuous interquote- and with the active assistance of the pro-FRETELIN lobby - what began as a figure of 60,000 was gradually escalated to 200,000 or a third of the population."

The view from Indonesia was that UNAMET was provocative, and defended the interests of the West. Some extreme opinion here saw it much more simply, as a golden opportunity for the West to access and exploit the natural resources in the region.

Extreme, or otherwise, this Indonesian perspective was rarely heard outside Indonesia and the alleged sexual harassment of 19 Indonesian females by highly paid foreigners of UNAMET, the incidences of the Indonesian flag being lowered and replaced, and other reported incidents, were never commented on by the UN.

The subject of militias believed to be working under instructions from the military to harass and destroy is fully documented from the stand- point of the West but in hammering this theme home at every chance, they are sidelining natural logic.

If the West, collectively, say that all East Timorese who last year wanted integration were 'militia', what was the point of having the ballot as this suggests immediate civil war if the 'militia' lost the vote. The population at large is not 'armed militia' any more now than it was in 1975 and later. The majority of the East Timorese community, the farmers, those owning small businesses and 'ordinary' people know that the new 'independence' means they have to start all over again, and with no certainty that they can sustain a relative prosperity as they have did under the Indonesian flag from 1975 to 1999.

The military will always attempt to justify oppression in East Timor by their fight against the armed insurgents, Fretelin, and may indeed have used the secession issue as justification for the excesses, but the issue of East Timor, even for Fretelin, did not start out as secession - the quarrel was essentially with the New Order Government, and specifically with Soeharto and the brutality of the military.

These armed guerillas, Marxist to a man, now appear as champions of free speech and democracy

The military felt they had lost a swath of their empire, and they feel betrayed over East Timor as well as wondering why they lost so many troops and officers in the struggle, the long, tortuous fight against armed guerillas almost a quarter of a century long, and for what. Is it any wonder that they sided with the pro-integrationists, or, worse, the 'militia'? Can the anti-Indonesia armchair critics imagine the depths of emotion attached to this issue?

It took the US ten years to overcome the Vietcong militia in a war of attrition which they lost anyway.

The Jakarta Eye September 25, 2002

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