[Fwd: Re: (Fwd) John Pilger on E.Timor occupation]
Green Left Parramatta
glparramatta at SPAMgreenleft.org.au
Thu Sep 23 10:50:46 MDT 1999
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 09:32:03 -0700
From: Green Left Parramatta <glparramatta at greenleft.org.au>
Subject: Re: (Fwd) John Pilger on E.Timor occupation
Patrick Bond wrote:
> Australians with first-hand vision, what do you say? Norm, are you
> there? Does this correspond with the DSP understanding? Does it
> reflect on the debate about longer-term implications of UN
> ------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
> [From today's Manchester Guardian]
> The real reason for the United Nation's peacekeeping role in East
> Timor is
> to maintain Indonesian control
Patrick and debaters,
I cannot do this as adequately as I would like. Please go to the links I
have included if you want to follow my arguement. I am not the DSP's
spokesperson on these issues but I think I refelct the views of my party
and the overwhelminh majority of the solidarity movement here.
John Pilger's article explains well the Australian, British and US
government's long-term complicity with the Indonesian genocide in East
Timor. But I think his opening statement does not follow logically from
the facts he puts forward. However, I agree with him that Australian and
world imperialism will try to make the most of a what I see as a setback
that has been imposed upon them.
The Australian government's (and the West) preferred course of action
following the referendum in East Timor was to stand back and allow the
Indonesian regime, its military and its death squads to slaughter the
pro-independence people and leaders so as to make independence
impossible, or at least to ensure its dependence on Jakarta if
indepdence became inevitable.
Canberra and Washington were fully aware that this scenario would unfold
long before the referendum as an article in the latest Green Left Weekly
outlines (visit http://www.greenleft.org.au/current/377p14.htm). Jakarta
was given the nod to proceed.
Canberra did not want to intervene with a peacekeeping force but was
forced to popular public opinion.
As Doug Lorimer put it succinctly in last week's GLW:
``For 24 years, Australian governments have supported the Indonesian
military occupation of East Timor and opposed the East Timorese nation's
struggle for independence. They have done this because, as Downer so
bluntly put it recently, "in geopolitical terms" (i.e., in terms of the
interests of Australian finance capital) they considered that an
independent East Timor would be an "inconvenience".
``That is, they have considered that the exploitation of the working
people of the Indonesian archipelago by Australian finance capital is
best served by a political arrangement in which all of these people,
regardless of their wishes, are placed under the rule of a single state
power - a power exercised by the Indonesian generals.
``That is why the Australian imperialist state supported the Indonesian
army's 1975 invasion of East Timor, and why it gave legal recognition to
Jakarta's annexation of East Timor in 1976.
``However, the inability of the Indonesian army to extinguish completely
the struggle of the East Timorese for independence has been a running
political sore in Canberra's relations with Jakarta. This is because the
big majority of Australian working people have sympathised with the East
Timorese people's desire for national self-determination.
``Last December, Howard proposed to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie a
"solution" to this problem: Indonesia should agree to a UN-organised
referendum in which the East Timorese people would vote on whether to
remain under Jakarta's rule.
``Howard evidently expected that Jakarta would be able to "persuade" the
East Timorese to vote for integration with Indonesia. Right up to the
August 30 ballot, the Howard government expressed its opposition to a
vote for independence.
``In July of this year, the Indonesian military, which has no intention
of relinquishing its control over East Timor, drew up a plan to
"persuade" East Timorese voters to vote against independence. It funded,
organised and armed pro-integration "militias" to coerce voters to
``If this didn't work, then the plan called for the launching a
genocidal scorched-earth campaign to destroy East Timor, deport the
majority of its people and resettle East Timor with people from other
parts of Indonesia. On September 4, this campaign was put into effect.
``This was an excruciating political problem for the Howard government:
the overwhelming majority of Australians believe that the Australian
government should act to ensure that Jakarta respects the expressed will
of the East Timorese for national independence. But the Howard
government does not want to take measures that will undermine its
collaborative alliance with the Indonesian military.
``To retain its political legitimacy in the eyes of Australian working
people, the Howard government has to present itself as a defender of
democracy in East Timor. At the same time, in serving the interests of
its real masters, the Australian financial oligarchy, it must do nothing
that would jeopardise the political power of the Indonesian generals.
``That is why Howard had to appease public opinion in Australia by
saying he was for Australian troops being sent into East Timor, while at
the same time protecting the political power of the Indonesian army
generals by insisting that this could happen only if the Indonesian
government (i.e., the Indonesian generals) agree to let them in.
``The solidarity movement's demand that Howard send Australian troops to
East Timor to help the East Timorese resistance defeat the genocidal
campaign, far from supporting the continuation of Australia's
imperialist policy toward East Timor, was the sharpest and most concrete
way, in the current conditions, of opposing this policy.''
For weeks Howard continued to talk in general terms of supporting a
peace keeping force but continued to hide behind the excuse that it
needed the permission of Indonesia, ignoring the fact that the UN does
not recognise East Timor as part of Indonesia and that the East Timorese
had just overwhelmingly voted to be independent.
Why did was he (and the Indonesian regime) forced to agree to finally
send the force. In the space of a week or so a mass movement developed
in Australia that frightened Canberra and forced it to act -- please
visit http://www.greenleft.org.au/current/377p15.htm for a deatiled
account of the rise of the movement.
The decision to send the peacekeeping force's immediate result has been
to put a stop to the slaughter of the vanguard of the Timorese
liberation movement. This is the key gain. The importance of this cannot
overestimated. The Indonesian military and death squads goal was to
destroy the movement, make independence impossible and set back the
movement for decades.
Secondly, the Australian mass movement has set back Australian
imperialism's key goal of a strategic political and military alliance
with the Indonesian regime (for a time). It was a massive defeat for the
Indonesian military and I think we will see somes gains from this for
the movement within Indonesia.
I think it is doubtful that it will be politically possible for the UN,
especially the Australians, to allow East Timor to return to Indonesian
East Timor will be allowed to become formally independent and the East
Timorses will beable to choose their own government and policies. That
too is a great gain.
Of course, Australian imperialism has its own designs and will try to
make the most of it. Sure, an independent East Timor will be a
``neo-colony'' of imperialism, just as Fiji or the Solomon Islands are,
but that would have been the case whether Indonesia peacefully gave up
East Timor or remained part of Indonesia.
Was it an advance that Namibia gained its independence (with the aid,
however inadequate, of a UN force) even though it has remained
economically dependent on South Africa? Would anybody argue that it
would have been better to allow apartheid South Africa to have a
completely free rein to crush SWAPO prior to indepdendence that give the
UN a ``precedent'' by deploying a peacekeeping force (visit
http://www.greenleft.org.au/current/377p13.htm for a discussion of the
parallels with Namibia).
I am interested to hear South African comrades assessments of the
Namibian transition to independence.
Yes, as Pilger implies, Australian and US imperialism have their own
agendas and will attempt to make the most of what is a setback that has
been forced upon them (for a discussion of this visit
http://www.greenleft.org.au/current/377p12.htm). That simply means that
the solidarity movement has a huge job to do to.
But the mass movement in Australia that forced the government to
intervene to stop the slaughter, against its will, was motivated by a
sympathy for the East Timorese people and an overwhelming support for
their right to independence. It can be, and will be, mobilised again if
Howard, Clinton and the UN betray that.
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