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Indonesian violence in Timor continues

Jose Ramos-Horta - February 24, 1999

[The following is a statement by Nobel Peace Laureate, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, on Indonesia orchestrated violence in East Timor.]

Sydney – There is abundant and well documented information concerning the Indonesian instigated violence in East Timor. Gangs of youth, unemployed, common criminals and drug addicts as well as Indonesian Muslim extremists are armed and given money by the authorities. Often, directly supported by soldiers, they launch murderous attacks against civilians in many parts of the country. Attacks have occurred in Turiskai, Same, Ainaro, Viqueque, Balibo, Atabae, Maubara, Liquica.

In spite of the fall of the dictator Suharto, and the positive pronouncements by President B.J. Habibie, old habits die hard. A culture of lies, deceit, arrogance, violence and corruption, deeply ingrained in Indonesia, is also it's legacy in East Timor.

Even though the Republic is thoroughly bankrupt, the Indonesian authorities are continuing the same policies of arrogance and violence against the people of East Timor, causing more suffering among our people and wasting the scarce resources provided to them by the international community.

The World Bank, IMF, and the rich industrialized countries continue to waste tax payers money to fund a country literally ruled by criminals. There are other countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia more deserving of international assistance.

Serbian ethnic cleansing in Bosnia pales by comparison with the savagery of the Javanese in Catholic East Timor, Christian West Papua and Muslim Aceh.

The Indonesian military have been directly implicated in the religious and ethnic violence in recent past. Mob violence is planned by the military, sometimes directed at Christians and ethnic Chinese, and other times directed at Muslims as it happened in Ambon and Kupang. A pattern of army instigated religious and ethnic violence is emerging not only in East Timor but in many parts of Indonesia.

The Suharto clique is directly implicated in destabilizing the entire region with its ill gotten fortune. An international criminal court should be established to try Suharto. His fortune stashed away overseas should be immediately frozen. An international warrant should be issued against Suharto and his son-in-law Gen. Prabowo.

The East Timorese resistance has exercised utmost restraint since the fall of the Suharto regime. But our patience is running out. We keep our options open as to our next course of action if the situation continues to deteriorate.

Time and again, the East Timorese resistance leadership has proposed an end to all armed activities in the territory. It has called for a permanent UN presence in the territory to monitor the situation. A UN peace keeping mission in the territory is now a matter of urgency.

I have proposed the creation of a safe heaven in East Timor where resistance fighters would assemble under international humanitarian protection. Indonesian troop presence should be scaled down and the remaining forces confined to designated areas.

All of the above has been rejected by the Indonesian side. Instead of reducing the number of troops in territory as it has been urged by the UN Secretary-General, US Administration, EU and Australia, the Indonesian authorities have increased the number of troops in the territory now numbering well over 20,000.

A militia of at least 1,000 criminals have been trained and armed to terrorize the civilian population. Many of the these criminals are not native East Timorese but rather are radical Indonesian Islamic youth members.

We reject as blatant hypocrisy the latest "proposal" by the Indonesian military commander in Dili that all armed groups should be disarmed – the East Timorese Resistance Armed Forces (FALINTIL) and the gang of criminals – while the Indonesian army would remain intact in East Timor.

The FALINTIL is as legitimate an army as those armies of national liberation that fought for independence in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe to mention a few.

The Indonesian army is in the same role as the racist white South African army in Namibia or the racist army of the white minority regime in Rhodesia. It is preposterous to say the least that such a gang of criminals should pretend to be a neutral force between the FALINTIL and the armed gangs on Jakarta's payroll.

Jakarta has always underestimated the East Timorese capacity to resist. We are determined to resist with all means at our disposal and we will not refrain from looking into means to increase the costs to Indonesia.

I find it hard to swallow that a country so thoroughly mismanaged, bankrupt, sunk under the weight of corruption and all sorts of crimes, a country so dependent on international hand-outs to feed its millions of starving people, should aspire to the status of a colonial power.

Indonesia should leave by January 2000 as President Habibie desires. No tears will be shed by the East Timorese people. When they finally leave, they will leave behind a country thoroughly destroyed, a society profoundly traumatized by its 23 year savage colonization, a culture of violence, corruption and lies that were alien to the East Timorese traditional society prior to 1975.

Beginning in January 2000, the UN should take over the Administration of the territory for a period of up to five years. With Indonesia relinquishing its claims to the territory, the door is wide open for the UN to move in and help prepare the territory for statehood.

The small group of "pro-Indonesia" elements should not fear an independent East Timor. They will realize that in an independent East Timor they will be real citizens of a proud country. In Indonesia they have been and will always be lackeys. Their own honor and self-esteem will be restored.

Doomsday comments about how East Timor would descend into civil war if the Indonesian army were to suddenly leave is like suggesting that Jews would start killing each other if Hitler had not slaughtered them first. The same doomsday scenarios were predicted by most commentators in regard to South Africa in the months preceding the establishment of black majority rule. These patronizing and racist comments ignore the role of the Indonesian army in East Timor in the last 23 years and the on-going campaign directly orchestrated by Jakarta to destabilize the territory.

The Indonesian army is not the "stabilizing force" as some commentators write. It could have been, it could be and it still has a chance to redeem itself. But the reality is that far from being a element of stability and the glue of the country's unity, the Indonesian army is in fact the most dangerous and destabilizing force in the archipelago.

Another argument is that East Timor is not viable economically. Is Indonesia viable? Yes, it is, thanks to an IMF bail-out package of over US$40 billion. It is viable, thanks to a US$10 billion package offered by tiny Singapore. It was viable as the World Bank, ignoring massive corruption and fraud, poured into Suharto's coffers more than US$20 billion over the past 30 years. East Timor will not need this amount of "generosity".

Commentators refer to Indonesia's "billions" poured into East Timor. We invite the Jakarta government to launch an audit into how these so-called "billions" were actually spent. We also would like an international audit into the tens of millions of dollars looted from our people's wealth – our fine arabica coffee, sandal wood, marble, fisheries, that became monopolies owned by the Suharto family and the generals who invaded East Timor.

It would also be necessary to list the items carried away into ships anchored off the Dili harbor during the first days of the invasion in 1975. Refrigerators, cars, motorbikes, bed frames, mattresses and even doors and windows were carted away by the Indonesian soldiers sent into East Timor to "liberate" East Timor, Genghis Khan style. Trucks and cars were driven away into West Timor. The local Dili warehouse was emptied of millions of gallons of beer, wine, soft drinks, construction equipment.

The result of these audits would be most interesting indeed and would once and for all discredit Jakarta's claims and of its apologists that Jakarta poured "billions" into East Timor!

If any shame is left, if any sense of honor is there, if any sense of duty to the Republic is felt by the military hierarchy, there is chance for them to show it, leave East Timor now without causing more suffering to our people and shame to the Republic.