East Timor

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at SPAMqut.edu.au
Sat Sep 4 02:06:54 MDT 1999

The  result has just come through of the East Timor referendum. An
astonishing 75% or so voted for independence from Indonesia and rejected
the offer of autonomy within the Indonesian state.

The Indonesian military have been terrorizing the East Timorese through the
use of death squads and armed militia thugs, both before and subsequent to
the voting. A blood bath is now being openly threatened by the militia and
the East Timorese leader Gusmao has been returned to prison in Jakarta.  He
had been under house arrest.

The situation is obviously very unstable, both within East Timor and
mainland Indonesia.  The vote in itself marks a triumph of courage and of
the will to resist what has been a brutal occupation by the Indonesian Army
of a tiny country.

The UN could step in and facilitate independence but they are still
unwilling to front up to the likes of the Indonesian military. They are
more than prepared to bomb Iraq and Serbia into the stone age but when an
opportunity for genuine peace keeping emerges, there is a distinct lack of

The Australian Govt too hesitates although it has been trying to distance
itself from the ruling clique in Jakarta.  The Labor Party had developed
very close personal links with the butcher Suharto and since his fall there
has been a new openness in terms of the coverage of what is happening in
East Timor and in terms of discussion as to what the Australian State
should do.
The result is that we are now seeing pictures of the complicity between the
Indonesian military and the armed marauding thugs.  However when Indonesia
invaded East Timor in 1975 they massacred some 200,00 East Timorese.  There
was not one photograph of this posted anywhere in Australia.

So now there is some openness and doubt and hesitation as to what should be
done.   I think the reason is that no one quite knows what is going to
happen in Indonesia.  The economic crisis has provided a political crisis
and this in turn seems to be exacerbating the economic one.  The situation
could spiral out of control. If only...

The DSP (Green Left weekly) are calling some rallies next week and I will
be speaking at least one of these in Brisbane.  But these will of course be
too small. This is when we need a strong Left which would force the issue.
Nevertheless despite the weakness of the Left the fact of the vote is a
tremendous boost for progressive forces here.



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