East Timor

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at SPAMmail.telepac.pt
Mon Sep 6 17:06:32 MDT 1999

Gary MacLennan wrote:

> >
> >Why did Indonesia agree to a referendum in the first place?
> >
> George,
> This is a mystery to me.  Some commentators say that the Indonesian elite
> could not afford to police East Timor anymore and so wanted to get rid of it.

Yes, that's what did it.
Indonesia was spending many hundreds of millions of dollars annually in East
Timor, in security and also in some "developmentist" investment, basic
infrastructure, a bloated civil service and social engineering.

It's been 24 years now since Indonesia invaded the territory and no progress was
visible in terms of accommodation of the east-timorese people within the
indonesian nation. They hate the stick and don't have much sympathy for the
carrot either. The base of support for integration, as shown in the referendum
(some 21,5%), must be roughly equal to the one the pro-indonesian party APODETI
already had in 1975, when the portuguese colonial army packed in a haste and left
the territory plunged in civil war.

Since the last financial crisis, this effort has become quite a burden for
Indonesia (for the ruling elite, that is). On the other hand, the post-Suharto
establishment is trying to clean up the country's image on the humanitarian
front, which no doubt will facilitate access to new credit. Leaving East-Timor is
a win-win option, in terms of filling their pockets.

> But obviously another faction in the Army wants to oppose all separatist
> tendencies in the Archipelago.

The military hard-liners, followers of Suharto's son-in-law Prabowo Subianto, are
the dominant force in Timor right now. And they're making a very blunt show of
it. Just last sunday, Foreign minister Ali Alatas, Defense minister Wiranto and
Justice minister Muladi have traveled to East- Timor with the ostensive purpose
of definitely restoring law and order on the territory. They were unable to leave
the Dili airport, for "security reasons". They gave a press conference there
(protected by the marines, a fraction of the armed forces generally loyal to
Wiranto and the new "democratic" establishment) and left for Jakarta.

> I think it is ominously significant that that piece of opportunistic filth
> Sukarnoputri opposes independence for East Timor. She may be trying to
> snuggle up to the generals.

Quite frankly, I think she's just very stupid. She is probably an addict to
nationalist Pancasila rhetoric and too obtuse to read the writing on the winds.
That is, the new ideological terms of relationship with the "international
community" (I just love that expression).

> In the meantime the death toll is now well over a hundred and climbing.

There's no way of knowing what is happening right now. Apparently the Indonesian
government has completely lost control of the situation. The pro-indonesian
militias have been active for some time. Since the result of the referendum was
announced, they went on a rampage. And the indonesian army and police went from
benign complacency to active collaboration in the generalized murder and looting
taking place there right now.

The "mulai mutang" (white people: journalists and U.N. personnel) have left en
masse. There are only a few of them left - and considering leaving soon -,
paralyzed on the U.N. headquarters in Dili.

Naturally, these events are causing a major national commotion here in Portugal.

João Paulo Monteiro

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