Letter: Justice for Timor

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The Independent Culture
Sir: As a Portuguese anti-colonialist of long standing, I cannot fail to notice that little reference has been made to Portugal as still being recognised by the United Nations as the "administering power" in East Timor.

The Portuguese have the humility to understand the difficulty of nation- making in Indonesia, particularly under Javanese hegemony. But Portugal's recent experience in decolonisation provides significant clues to understanding the situation.

Indonesia maintained the best of relations with the Portuguese colonialist regime, which Jakarta saw as a geographically distant but ideologically close ally in the "Cold War". Upon being caught by surprise by the April 1974 libertarian coup in Portugal, the Indonesians seemed to have run "amok" and managed to compound a difficult problem into a major political tragedy.

Now it is up to the Indonesians to deserve the goodwill and wisdom of the East Timorese to live in harmony and cooperation. And that is why, with more justification than most countries, democratic Portugal, through President Jorge Sampaio during the current session of the United Nations General Assembly, joined the East Timorese in demanding adequate reparation from Jakarta.

It is the least that democratic Portugal could honourably do to try and redeem the share of responsibility that the former colonial dictatorship had in keeping the East Timorese captive and secluded from political evolution in the outside world.


London SW14