In defence of the East Timorese Resistance - reply to Paul F

Paul.Benedek at Paul.Benedek at
Thu Sep 30 20:29:07 MDT 1999

> Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 23:18:49 -0700
> From: Paul Flewers <paul.flewers at>
> Subject: Re: Reply to Phil, Gary, Carrol, Jonathan and others
> Jose G Perez wrote: < The people of East Timor have a leadership that's
> been fighting arms in hand against first the Portuguese and now the
> Indonesians for decades. >
> So why did this leadership go full steam ahead for an independence
> ballot to which it knew the Indonesian state would respond with
> brutality, without, so it seemed from all the reports I read and saw,
> preparing the east Timorese people for resistance?
> Paul F
        [Benedek, Paul]  The Resistance leadership made a conscious change in the past
few years from the predominance of the armed struggle (which they understood they
could not win), to a strategy of mass mobilisations in the cities and towns,
internationalisation of their struggle (eg protests anytime a UN official came to East
Timor; occupying embassies in different countries etc), and grass-roots organisation
of the population, especially the youth.
        The leadership saw the weakeness of the regime generated by the pro-democracy
movement in Indonesia, and won the right to a referendum, for which they had
campaigned since 1975. They then organised a mass campaign on the ground, where some
300,000 leaflets were distributed to the East Timorese people, and self-defence units
set-up in some areas. In the areas where self-defence units were coordinated, even
where the units only had sticks and rocks as weapons, there was far less militia
attacks. However, let us not underestimate the long campaign of brutality organised by
the Indo military which forced the retreat of the guerilla forces, and the subjagation
of the people - organisation in such circumstances is very difficult.
        The ET resistance leadership, in my opinion, took the correct decision to
strike while the iron was hot, to demand and win the referendum - but my opinion
doesn't count one iota - the people of ET must decide. The people of ET have faced 24
years of brutality and killing from the military - that was not going to stop them
struggling for the victory they have wanted for so long. The ET PEOPLE wanted this
referendum, as much as the leadership - they've demanded it for years. And they knew
the dangers and heard the threats during the campaign, but that did not stop them
voting for independence.
        We may not agree with every decision that the East Timorese resistance
leadership made. However we should give it our fullest support in its just struggle
for self-determination.

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