|Subject: LAT Editorial: East Timor Needs Help
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:14:33 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
07/26/1999 Los Angeles Times Editorial
East Timor Needs Help
It is increasingly clear to the Indonesian government and to outside observers that East Timor , the desperately poor half-island, will vote for independence in late August, if the U.N.-sponsored referendum takes place. Pro-Jakarta militias backed by the Indonesian military continue to terrorize the population, intending oting. The world should not stand aloof. The United States and, especially, Indonesia's regional partners, must pressure Jakarta into restraining its military. They should also look beyond the referendum and help prepare East Timor for independence.
After nearly 25 years of bloody occupation by Indonesia, the mountainous province the size of New Jersey seemed finally to have a chance to decide its own future. Under a May 5 U.N.-brokered agreement with Indonesia and Portugal, East Timor 's colonial master until the early 1970s, the 800,000 Timorese will opt either for "substantial autonomy" or independence from Jakarta. Despite violent intimidation by the anti-independence militias, most observers believe East Timor will vote overwhelmingly to go its own way. Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo, the co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace prize with Jose Ramos-Horta for their support of the Timorese people against Jakarta, would prefer autonomy within Indonesia, but he is reconciled to East Timor 's separation.
As an independent country, East Timor will need all the outside help it can get. Since the Portuguese left, nearly one-third of the population has died as a result of starvation, epidemics, war and terror. In recent months alone, some 5,000 people have been slain by the anti-independence militias.
Aside from coffee and some prospects for revenue from oil and gas in the Timor Sea, the province has no economy to speak of and no experience with governance. It will be starting from scratch, first under Indonesian supervision and then with U.N. protection.
Without outside help, East Timor will not survive. Australia, its closest neighbor to the south, and Portugal have pledged substantial help, and Washington is also pitching in. With Indonesia as its key member, the Assn. of South East Asian Nations should help by opening regional trade opportunities for Timorese goods.
East Timor has paid with more than 200,000 lives to get this far in its struggle for independence. For its bravery, it has earned worldwide respect and sympathy. It will soon need more concrete help.