Letter: Early Timor warning

Sir: Your front-page report provides yet more proof, if any were needed, of the murderous collaboration of the Indonesian army and the militias in East Timor ("Revealed: proof that Indonesian army directed Timor slaughter", 20 September). But the report does not reveal the ample advance warning that the West had about such links, and the likely outbreak of violence following the 30 August referendum on independence.

According to the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper, Western intelligence services were aware of the army's plans and warned the United Nations many months ago: "Documentary evidence, clandestine intelligence intercepts and eyewitness accounts show that the atrocities in East Timor had been carefully conceived for nearly a year by the Indonesian army. The aim, quite simply, was to destroy [East Timor]."

On 1 May, Bob Lowry, Australia's leading specialist on the Indonesian army, described the militias in the Australian Financial Review as "well organised death squads" and said that they were "fundamentally an extension of the TNI [the Indonesian army]," secretly organised in October 1998 "to wage a proxy war on the army's behalf against the independence forces."

In early May, murderous orders set out in an Indonesian army document were obtained by pro-independence leaders: "Massacres should be carried out from village to village after the announcement of the ballot if the pro-independence supporters win," it said, adding that the independence movement "should be eliminated from its leadership down to its roots."

Western governments cannot truthfully claim that they were unaware of the build-up to the East Timorese slaughter. What do Messrs Blair, Cook and Byers have to say now?

DAVID CROMWELL

Southampton

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