|Subject: BBC: World press condemns Indonesia
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 1999 07:20:21 EDT
also: Times [London] editorial: Indonesia's Disgrace: Jakarta entirely to blame for violence in East Timor
BBC Thursday, September 2, 1999
World press condemns Indonesia
sidebar: Counting underway: Newspapers call for more security
After weeks of fears that the United Nations' sponsored referendum on the future of East Timor would descend into violence, the former Portuguese colony is making headlines in the world's press for all the wrong reasons. Across every continent, newspaper editorials have called for calm and criticised the Indonesian government for failing to prevent the slide towards anarchy.
In Europe, it is Portugal which reserves the most criticism for the Indonesian authorities.
The Jornal de Noticias newspaper comments that: "For Indonesia, East Timor has strong emotional connotations because of the thousands of its soldiers who died in the territory in the 23 years of war.
"But foremost in Jakarta's mind is the fear that, if East Timor becomes independent, it may have to give in to those of its other islands also seeking self-rule."
Turning to the East Timorese themselves, the newspaper comments: "The civic maturity they have shown will see them through to their goal.
"The dignity with which they exercised their right of citizenship has earned them the sympathy and admiration of the entire world."
Sidebar: Respect result: Newspapers call on Jakarta to adhere to result
Belgium's Le Soir newspaper said that thousands were now suffering at the hands of the pro-Indonesian militias on the rampage in the capital of East Timor, Dili.
"The methods of the militias make one fear the worst, the systematic elimination of the East Timorese political intelligentsia," says the newspaper.
"Seeing how those bands scoured the streets and set up road blocks and wrenched plane tickets from the hands of people intending to fly out of Timor, such fears do not seem exaggerated."
Uncertainty in Jakarta
France's Liberation newspaper focuses on how Indonesia's politicians will react to what is expected to be a vote for independence.
sidebar: Wild Card: Commentators say militias must be stopped
"One uncertainty concerns the validation of the result of Monday's poll," the newspaper writes.
"Under the agreement it will fall to the Indonesian parliament to endorse or refuse to endorse the territory's eventual independence.
"A refusal is not impossible, since the supporters of Indonesian rule are openly accusing United Nations officials of acting with partiality on polling day."
The Times in London describes the events in East Timor as "Indonesia's disgrace".
"At best, it has neglected its responsibility to maintain order and there is ample evidence that it seeks to profit from armed anarchy," the newspaper writes of the Indonesian government.
But it fears that without "American backbone" the international community may not be able to act in time.
"The need now is to keep Indonesia under strong and constant pressure, if necessary by replacing the troops there now with elite units under unequivocal instructions to disarm these militias.
"Indonesian democracy is on trial."
No word in Jarkarta Post
In south-east Asia, all of the major newspaper lead with reports of the fighting - except for Indonesia's main newspaper, The Jarkarta Post.
sidebar: Ineffectual: Soldiers and police must do more, say editorials
Instead, it focuses on reports that three Australians are being questioned in Dili after being allegedly found in possession of hundreds of unauthorised ballot papers.
In contrast, the South China Morning Post comments that the East Timorese are not likely to be relieved to hear that Jakarta is rushing more policemen to the territory.
It says the police and troops are at best ineffectual and, in some cases, actually assisting the militias.
If there is not going to be an international peace keeping force, Jarkarta must stop the bloodshed itself, it writes.
It if fails to act, it cannot expect the international community to bail it out of its financial crisis. Donors should suspend all aid until the Indonesian government brings the militias under control, the newspaper concludes.
The Sydney Morning Herald's editorial says that East Timor independence leader Xanana Gusmao has "an indispensable role to play" in the coming weeks - and the timing of his release from house release could prove crucial.
sidebar: Fleeing: Many newspapers report on threats to their own reporters
"In the unlikely event that the vote favours autonomy within Indonesia, his presence will be needed to persuade militant pro-independence groups to accept the decision," it reports.
"If the vote goes the other way, there is little doubt that Xanana will be the leader of independent Timor. He needs to be in East Timor, then, when the result of the ballot is announced.
"Getting the timing of his release right will matter a great deal in terms of the challenges ahead."
Wild card militia
The International Herald Tribune comments that the anti-independence militias "remain the dangerous wild card".
"The high turnout at the referendum points to a substantial pro-independence majority," it writes.
"How will the militias, armed and encouraged by Indonesia's armed forces, respond? The answer lies to a large extent with Indonesia, which can control the militias if it chooses.
"Mr Clinton and Indonesia's other friends overseas may once again be called on to communicate to the (Indonesian President) Mr Habibie how much is at stake."
An editorial in The New York Times also reminds Indonesia of President Bill Clinton's warnings that relations with Washington will be damaged if it fails to end the violence.
"Whatever the results of the referendum, Indonesia remains officially responsible for security in East Timor for the next several months," it writes.
"President Habibie must send disciplined and reliable forces into East Timor to disarm the militias and see that the referendum results are carried out."
The Times [London] September 2 1999
LEADING ARTICLE [Editorial]
Jakarta is entirely to blame for the violence in East Timor
By calling for intervention by foreign peacekeepers in East Timor, New Zealand has expressed the worry of many watching violence worsening there. East Timor, invaded by Indonesia in 1975, is gripped by violence again as it waits for the results of Monday's referendum. Yesterday armed pro-Indonesia gangs trapped 150 people inside the UN compound in the capital, Dili. New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Don McKinnon, wants either UN troops or a non-UN force to intervene before more lives are lost. But Mr McKinnon's call to arms, even if it were heeded, would not deal with the immediate emergency.
Jakarta is to blame for the instant resumption of paramilitary violence once the polling booths closed. At best, it has neglected its responsibility to maintain order; and there is ample evidence that it seeks to profit from armed anarchy. Indonesia proposed the referendum; but, reluctant to let the potentially oil-rich territory go, it is fomenting unrest. In breach of its solemn pledges, it is letting pro-Indonesia militias rampage. Its 15,000 police and thousands more troops, whose job is to keep the peace, seldom conduct patrols and intervene late, if at all, as civilians are terrorised and even murdered.
The awkward fact is that whatever the result of the vote, Indonesia is in charge of East Timor's security for the next three months. It insists it has enough troops and police to handle problems. It is hostile to foreign troops entering without its permission before November, when its parliament will ratify the results of voting; it threatens to respond with troops of its own.
The United Nations has, as indeed it should have done, stopped talking about contingency plans to pull its UNAMET monitors out of East Timor in case of trouble. Instead, the Security Council has voted to strengthen the current UN vote-monitoring presence over the next three months, raising the number of military liaison officers from 50 to 300 and doubling the number of police to over 400. But it is unlikely that the Council, which went into emergency session yesterday on East Timor, will vote to send in a fully-fledged peacekeeping force. For their own different reasons, both China and Russia would be expected to object.
Perhaps more important still is probable American reluctance. US officials do not want any more peacekeeping. Their hands are full with Kosovo, East Timor is low on the list of US priorities, and Washington is wary of risking "imperial overload" through too much world policing.
Without American backbone, New Zealand's hope of a non-UN force would also become unrealistic. Mr McKinnon envisaged components of that force as being, possibly, US, or Australian, or South-East Asian members of ASEAN. But Australia, the first state to recognise Indonesia's annexation of East Timor, has much vested in its close relationship with Indonesia and would prefer East Timor to vote against independence; Indonesia is a member of ASEAN; and the region's biggest power, Japan, is nervous of playing even the smallest military role in Asian conflicts.
Above all, the gap between a positive UN decision and actual deployment could be weeks or even months. The need now is to keep Indonesia under strong and constant pressure to keep its promises, if necessary by replacing the troops there now with elite units under unequivocal instructions to disarm these militias. Indonesian democracy is on trial. It should be left in no doubt that its most powerful friends, and financial backers, will not forgive failure to deal justly, at long last, with East Timor.