Letter: East Timor bluff

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report ("Troops sent in despite promises", 24 October) that Indonesia is secretly reinforcing its military presence in East Timor while boasting of public troop withdrawals should come as no surprise.

From the time of its 1975 invasion of the former Portuguese territory until now, Jakarta has consistently lied about what has happened in East Timor.

Even the horrendous death toll (an estimated 200,000-plus out of a pre- 1975 population of 700,000) was blamed on the East Timorese themselves - the supposed result of an ongoing "civil war" between local factions.

When foreign journalists, such as the five who died in October 1975, got close enough to expose Indonesian duplicity, they were murdered, their deaths being conveniently presented as the result of "cross-fire".

Indonesia now pretends that it wants to resolve the East Timor issue by offering "autonomy", a proposal which will exclude any act of free choice by the East Timorese people themselves.

This, we are told, is a "generous" and "final" offer by a new government in Jakarta which has turned its back on the excesses of ex-President Suharto's autocratic rule. But has it?

President Habibie, the erstwhile dictator's protege, was himself responsible for overseeing Indonesia's munitions industries which supported Jakarta's East Timor occupation.

Several of his close aides and ministers have been involved in bloody military operations in the territory which have claimed civilian lives.

Why should Jakarta's original aggression be rewarded by forcing East Timor to accept Indonesian sovereignty?

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