Letter: Timor: what ethics?

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The Independent Culture
Sir: So Jakarta is offering the possibility of full independence to East Timor ("Timor is offered `freedom' at last", 28 January). Is this believable when behind the scenes it is arming and inciting pro-integrationist militias and conducting a war in cyberspace to delete East Timor as a virtual-reality sovereign state from our computer screens ("The day East Timor was deleted", 29 January)?

Perhaps the Indonesian embassy spokesman in London was closer to the mark when he asserted that "the handover of the [Internet] domain to East Timor is beyond imagination, since the government of East Timor will not exist".

What then of Britain's role? Even as Indonesia's Supreme Deliberative Assembly prepares to meet in Jakarta next August to consider East Timor's future, the delivery of 16 British Aerospace Hawk 200-series multi-role combat jets will be commencing. Three will be flown out a month at the cost to the British taxpayer of pounds 42m for each delivery. Meanwhile, in the "Timor Gap" between East Timor and Australia, British companies will continue to participate in the exploitation of a resource - potentially the 25th largest oil and liquid natural gas field in the world - which by rights belongs to the East Timorese people.

What sort of message is all of this sending to Jakarta? That arms and oil are more important to us than the welfare of the Timorese? Some ethical foreign policy this.


Trinity College, Oxford