East Timor

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at SPAMmail.telepac.pt
Fri Sep 10 17:14:31 MDT 1999

Jim Monaghan wrote:

> J. Monteiro writes
> >Timor Lorosae will be independent. If not this year, then surely the
> >next. The indonesians will go, on their own free will. That's why they
> >signed the accords. They're going to keep them. To go back now after the
> >referendum is unthinkable. But they sure don't want to be humiliated in
> >the process. From their perspective, they have tried their best in East
> >Timor. It failed. So they are leaving. Period. No recriminations. No
> >moral lessons.
> I find this a bit trusting. The Burmese military agreed to elections. They
> lost and are still there.They will go if their backers, the USA, tells
> them in a forceful mabber. That is cuts off aid military and economic. The
> Imperialists armed the Indonesian military they are accessories.
> Jim MOnaghan

Nah. Burma is nowhere, in terms of international politics. I don't think they
receive much military aid from the US, if any at all. Their main backers are
the chinese.

Not so Indonesia. The US went to war in Vietnam to "defend" Indonesia. They
have very vital strategic and economic interests there. Sure, they want to
appease the indonesian generals and they are afraid of chaos and
disintegration in the archipelago. But in these "humanitarian" days, they also
want their client states to behave. Particularly client states who have
murderous intents against peoples who have some patronage and have access and
support in western governments, media and civil society. As is the case of the
east-timorese, initially by the effort of the portuguese government, and then
much due to the international lobbying talent of Jose Ramos-Horta, the
vice-president of the Council of National Resistence in East Timor and Nobel
Peace Prize winner.

There was a referendum in East Timor. The result was sanctioned by the UN.
Clinton has already said that there is no going back on independence for East
Timor. And this is very important. Clinton said so. Imperialism these days is
not so much about conquering territory, resources and markets, in particular
places. It is about maintaining a global system of coercion and credible
threat. Of course there is political expediency. But it is (specially these
days) wrapped up on a discourse of *principles* (democracy, human rights, free
trade, etc.) The word of the president of the US on such a matter cannot be
taken back without consequences. From now on, if Indonesia is to refuse
independence to East Timor (against the stated will of the US and in clear
violation of an international treaty signed under the UN's auspices), it will
become a "pariah state". And that doesn't suit the ruling circles in Jakarta.

The political establishment in Jakarta is clearly convinced of the necessity
of granting independence to East Timor (Timor Lorosae is the official name of
the new country). The problem is the military. They have been engaged in a war
for sovereignty over East Timor for the last 24 years. They have had many
losses (especially during the invasion) and have developed a cult of warrior
sacrifice. No army likes defeat. Especially in a situation that, from a
strictly military point of view, was far from desperate. The resistance
fighters (FALINTIL) has only managed to survive due to the inaccessible hills.
There were times when they had barely two dozen fighters. Now they have about
1.000 men, poorly armed. They are no match even for the militias, let alone
for a modern army with 20.000 men on the terrain. The military feel betrayed
by the politicians (classical stuff). Many of the high ranking officers are
Suhartoists. They also have some businesses on the territory, which is very
common in the indonesian army (ABRI). On whatever island it is stationed, a
military commander has first hand access to local businesses.

East Timor is a highly militarized society. Its almost a military bunker.
Losing East Timor will be cataclismatic for the indonesian military
establishment and could bring about interesting political developments. The
military stationed there are in a state of near rebellion. If insurmountable
pressure is put on the indonesian government to allow an international peace
keeping force in East Timor, a serious crisis can occur. There are reports
that military fortifications have been built against foreign intervention.
They may take to fight the aussies. However, this would be only out of pride
and desperation. The very pattern of brutality that is being brought about on
the territory indicates that even these militaries are convinced of its loss.
Now they are systematically destroying all infrastructure (bridges, power,
telephones, telecommunications, public buildings, etc.) the indonesians have
built in East Timor. The logic of it being that the new independent state will
have to start from scratch and not profit from indonesian investment.

The tragedy of the situation is that, on the time it will take to cool down
these enraged tigers, many people who have found refuge in the hills will die,
of hunger and disease. This could be many tens of thousands of people. But
Wiranto is going there tomorrow with the delegation from the UN's Security
Council. Maybe he's the man to resolve this murderous stand-off.

João Paulo Monteiro

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