Letter: Massacre in Timor

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Sir: For the Indonesian military, everything is going to plan in East Timor. The international media are being forced out and the UN presence has been incapacitated, giving the army's militia proxies a freer hand to execute its scorched-earth policy in the territory.

What other depredations await the pro-independence majority? A Benigno Aquino-style assassination of their leader, Xanana Gusmao, when he is taken back to East Timor? Meanwhile, the calculation that the "international community" would steer clear of upsetting its cosy relationship with Jakarta has proved correct.

What effective action is the British government going to take to save the people of East Timor and the credibility of both the UN and its own "ethical, humanitarian" foreign policy? In addition to an armed intervention force, sanctions are now a necessity, and are justified by the actions of the Indonesian army.

Given that real power lies with that pariah institution, any embargo must be targeted directly at its interests. A UN ban on all military co- operation with Indonesia, including transfers of arms and spare parts, would affect the army's ability to quell separatist movements elsewhere in the archipelago and generally diminish its political power. Without measures that threaten the institutional standing of the military, there will be no shift in Indonesian policy on East Timor.

Britain and its allies must act now or preside over the transition to independence of a country whose population and leadership have been decimated and physical infrastructure destroyed. Surely the East Timorese are not going to be betrayed again this time.


Newcastle upon Tyne