Chomsky et al miss the point re: East Timor

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at
Sun Sep 12 19:32:10 MDT 1999

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky wrote:

> And this humble guy in Buenos Aires is tired to witness everywhere.
> Yes, the breakup of Indonesia (be prepared to
> listen to some pundit explaining that you cannot hold a
> counry unified over tens of hundreds of islands!) is the
> ultimate goal! If, with the means provided by the 16th. and
> 17th. centuries, three minor empires could break the Malays
> into three disparate pieces, what is it that we, the
> INDISPENSABLE EMPIRE, cannot imagine? One, two, a thousand
> East Timors! Keep an eye on the chains of islands that
> constitute the Pacific rimland of Australia, and the
> policiy of the Australian bourgeoisie fostering those
> micro-states all over the place.

Dear Nestor,

As I've said, I'm not very enthusiastic of east-timorese nationalism.
But, you certainly cannot reduce it to an imperialist plot. These people
have been fighting for 24 years completely on their own. Not a rifle,
not a pair of boots, not a canteen full of water has arrived to them
courtesy of any western nation, least of all Australia who has been
training KOPASSUS counter-insurgency units, selling weapons and having
joint military exercises with the indonesians for decades. Australia
signed a deal with Indonesia to divide the "Timor gap" oil fields,
recognized East-Timor's annexation long ago and has been claiming since
the early 80's that "it is high time that the East Timor issue be
withdrawned from the UN agenda".

The vast majority of the east-timorese wants independence badly and have
nothing but absolute revulsion for indonesian brutal occupation. In
these circonstances, though I would much prefer that their political
development would be done in under an indonesian federation (rather than
as a client statelet of Australia), I think that, at this point, we have
no other option than to, in leninist spirit, support their right to
self-determination. Independence now, free association later. The key
word here is consent.

I don't think the indonesian state will be badly crippled by
east-timorese secession. As for secessionist disease spreading, I don't
see any separatist movement in the archipelago nearly as relentless and
articulate as the east-timorese. Furthermore, I'm not sure the timorese
(and that goes to the whole island, east and west) righly belong to the
malay family. Their features seem to be more of polynesian stock. That
(and not only the cultural legacy of portuguese colonialism) is
certainly  a big factor explaining their resentment of javanese military
domination. You know, there is imperialism besides the white men's. The
problem is not on the "races", but on the social structures. To fight
only white imperialism is just a form of negative euro-centrism.

The east-timorese are not "strike-breakers" and opportunist seekers of
western humanitarian protection. They are not professionals of mediatic
victimisation like the bosnians or the albanians. They are fighting the
indonesians since Brejnev's time, when CNN didn't exist and they were
considered dangerous communists by the State Department. This was their
chance. I don't think we have the right to say they shouldn't grab it
now. BTW, the east-timorese nationalist movement still have a sizeable
marxist current within it and they are fully supported by the indonesian
PRD, the inheritor of the late PKI, decimated during Suharto's takeover.

João Paulo Monteiro

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