The Guardian September 8, 1999

East Timor:
Indonesia aims to kill freedom vote

by Lynne Androniki

On Monday August 30 the East Timorese defied the violence and intimidation 
to turn out en mass to vote for their future. The 98 percent turnout 
exceeded all predictions. On Saturday September 4 the results were 
announced; 78 per cent rejected Jakarta's proposal of "autonomy", that is, 
the overwhelming majority of the East Timor population have called for 
independence. The predictions of widespread violence and the destruction of 
infrastructure and homes following the vote have been proved correct.

Communications infrastructure, food supplies and food supply networks and 
transportation are known to be the areas targeted by the military-backed 

It is expected that there will be widespread food and water shortages 
leading to starvation.

The military are also attempting to engage the pro-independence FALANTIL 
forces in open combat.

It has been known for some time that the Indonesian military planned to 
pull out of East Timor violently and destructively, if at all.

Reports in the last two weeks have centred on claims that East Timor had 
fallen into a state of chaos or anarchy, with the militias taking control 
of the streets.

These reports were then backed up by sympathetic comments from Australian 
and overseas politicians who repeatedly stated that they were deeply 
concerned by the escalating violence of the militias. Australia's own 
Downer and Howard led the way.

What is clear is that the violence and destruction the East Timorese have 
been experiencing over the past two weeks is a continuation of the violence 
and destruction the East Timorese have known over the past 23 years.

This is not civil war. This is not East Timorese pro-Jakarta supporters 
retaliating against those who supported independence.

This a planned and carefully orchestrated attack on the East Timorese 
people by the military of Indonesia.

The Australian Government is fully aware of this.

While some East Timorese have been appointed to lead and participate in the 
militias it has always been known that these militias are largely staffed 
by Indonesian military officers in plain clothes, or by paid agitators from 
West Timor and neighbouring islands.

It has also been known that the militias are funded and supported by the 
Indonesian military. The military and the Indonesian police have stood back 
and watched as the militias carry out their bloody atrocities.

Indications from the East Timorese members of the militias, before the 
ballot and after, were that they feared for their lives as well as for the 
safety of their families.

Some inferred that it was only the Indonesian military members of the 
militias who were carrying out the killings, and more recently the looting 
and destruction of homes and infrastructure.

They have been used by the military to perpetuate the lie of civil war and 
to add legitimacy to the military's continued presence in East Timor, that 
is, that the military are needed to keep the peace between warring East 
Timorese factions.

This lie began months before the ballot and has continued.

On the day of the ballot and the days thereafter the military became more 
blatant about their involvement in the violence. And as the foreign 
journalists pulled out en mass the open involvement of the military 

Military officers have been shooting at Western observers, UN staff as well 
as East Timorese civilians.

Activists for independence and their families have been targeted as have 
those East Timorese working for the UN. As early as last Sunday, September 
5, the day after the results of the ballot were announced, the military 
were seen setting houses alight and looting.

The economic interests of the Indonesian military and the Jakarta elite, 
including leading figures in the Suharto family, are well known and 

The resources controlled by this group include land, oil, marble and large 
plantations. These interests are more heavily concentrated in the western 
area of East Timor, towards the border with West Timor and along the 
southern coast.

Partition plans

Fears that the Indonesian military plan to partition East Timor and 
maintain control of the western part have been reiterated many times over 
the past two weeks and the militia and the military strength in these areas 
add support to this claim.

With all this in mind it may seem astounding that the Australian Government 
has heavily lobbied the Indonesian Government, calling on them to take 
control of the violence in East Timor.

The Australian Government has specifically requested of Indonesia that 
its police and military take control of the situation in East Timor.

This plea from Australia really is astounding given that it is 
indeed the Indonesian military and police who are already in control of the 
situation in East Timor and are the source of the violence.

Further, what is clear is that the Indonesian political elite backed by the 
military, wants the violence to continue in East Timor. It is not in their 
political or economic interest to stop it.

The idea of seeking permission from the Indonesian Government before 
intervening is just as incredible as relying on the Indonesian military and 
police to take control of the situation. And yet that is how Downer 
responds to calls for intervention.

Australian complicity

Australia was and is party to all this. For 23 years Australian Governments 
have tied their political and economic interests with Indonesia's rulers 
over its brutal occupation of East Timor.

An Australian Government signed the Timor Gap Treaty carving up the spoils 
of East Timorese oil between Indonesian and Australian corporations.

Australian Governments have continued to provide military aid and training 
to Indonesia, in full knowledge of the atrocities being committed against 
the East Timorese people.

Foreign Minister Downer earlier this week described the possibility of a 
small independent nation in the Indonesian archipelago as "an 

And whilst Australian policy has moved since April this year, when Howard 
gave his support to the Jakarta-supported autonomy proposal, there is still 
no evidence that the Government is prepared to move far enough to play a 
major role in stopping the violence and destruction as the Indonesian 
military re-invade East Timor from within its very borders.

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