Letters: Plunder in Timor

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Plunder in Timor

Sir: In spite of a resounding victory in the vote for independence for East Timor, why the continuing bloodshed? Why the deportation of so many thousands of East Timorese?Why the urgency from militia spokesmen about "partition'?

Important economic interests are at stake. Lucrative coffee plantations and oil deposits are situated in the western districts of East Timor, the very area which the militias are now desperately trying to retain for their Indonesian masters. The army has had a large hand in running the coffee plantations and retired military men are desperate to hang on to their investments. Partitioning East Timor is an obvious way.

East Timorese have voted for independence but it looks doubtful whether they will get it or whether any of their resources will be left to them if they do. The ultimate resource they have is their people. Of these, 800,000 of a population of 850,000 are displaced or refugees, and the country has been burned to the ground. The Indonesian transmigration minister's stated intention to settle refugees in far-flung Indonesian islands reinforces the sense that there is a strategy on the part of sinister forces within the Indonesian establishment determined to retain its fiefdom.

This strategy must be vigorously opposed by the international community, which must now make certain that East Timorese are allowed to return home and rebuild their country. Oil and coffee revenues channelled into East Timorese hands will be one of the few sources of funds which will give its people a chance to succeed.


Asia Policy Officer

Catholic Institute for International Relations

London N1