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.