The Guardian February 17, 1999


East Timor:
Conflict, confusion and terror

The recent spate of conflicting and ill-thought-through pronouncements 
from Indonesia about the future of East Timor appear to reflect the 
contending views within the Indonesian leadership on tactics in the present 
situation rather than any sincere desire to end the wrong done to the East 
Timorese people.

General Yunus Yosfiah, Indonesia's Information Officer, grabbed world 
headlines when he "warned" the East Timorese that if a plebiscite in the 
occupied country rejected autonomy within Indonesia, then Indonesia's new 
People's Consultative Council might retaliate by giving them independence, 
cutting them adrift from Indonesia.

This odd threat was reiterated by Foreign Minister Ali Alatas. That it was 
a tactical error was soon realised however and only two days later it was 
repudiated: Ali Alatas announced that there would be no referendum for East 
Timor.

As Andy Alcock of South Australia's Campaign for an Independent East Timor 
commented, "No western leader or the UN Secretary General expressed outrage 
about this [even though] the invasion and continued occupation of East 
Timor are illegal under international law.

"Further, the removal of resources from a nation under occupation also 
violates international law."

Indonesian leaders may talk about autonomy and even independence, but the 
Indonesian armed forces (ABRI) are busy meanwhile in arming right-wing 
death squads to terrorise the East Timorese into accepting integration.

In Ainaro, a "civilian" death squad called MAHIDIN (Mati Hidup Demi 
Integrasi  literally "life or death for integration") was responsible for 
the shooting of a number of young men on January 21, 1999.

They were also responsible for acts of detainment, torture and arson of 
people's homes in villages in the area.

Based on human rights monitoring and complaints filed by victims in the 
last two months (December 1998  January 1999) alone, the organisation 
Yayasan HAK has verified 21 deaths in East Timor from extra-judicial 
executions by death squads (sometimes assisted by ABRI soldiers), 17 
detained and tortured, and six forced disappearances.

Yayasan HAK reports that 7,608 East Timorese refugees have been forced to 
leave their homes to seek refuge in Catholic schools and churches from 
terror, intimidation, destruction and arson perpetrated by the ABRI-armed 
"militias".

Asks Andy Alcock: "Why do we not hear at least one democratic leader 
calling for the instant withdrawal of Indonesia from East Timor to halt the 
genocide and the human rights abuses shown?

"Nobel Peace laureate, Dr Jose Ramos Horta, requested that Australia 
participate in a peace keeping force in East Timor along with NZ and 
Portugal. John Howard poured cold water on that idea very quickly."

Jose Luis de Oliveira, Secretary of Yayasan HAK, points to "a concerted 
effort" on the part of ABRI "to engineer the Timorisation of this war".

Setting East Timorese to kill each other would provide convenient 
justification for continued Indonesian occupation to "keep the peace" and 
serve to prove that East Timor was in fact "not ready" for independence.

Under considerable pressure, the Government last week released Xanana 
Gusmao, President of the CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance), 
from Cipinang prison. He remains under "house arrest", a prisoner whose 
home is technically an annexe of the prison.

Indonesia's Justice Minister Mr Muladi said the transfer was to enable Mr 
Gusmao to play a key role in talks. At present the talks concerning the 
future of East are between Indonesia and Portugal with no East Timorese 
involvement.

The transfer of Mr Gusmao, an apparent "concession" by the Indonesian 
Government, does not guarantee that the leader will be able to play a full 
role in any negotiations over East Timor's future.

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