THE UNITED Nations has a choice in East Timor: march in the troops or face a humanitarian disaster. Tragic that Indonesia's new president, who rang in East Timor's freedom as heir to the Suharto regime, has to pay for the militia's terror. The UN naively handed over the job of protecting the people of East Timor to the Indonesian state. Now it faces the danger of joint responsibility for the murders, because it rejected ensuring the security of the people through neutral troops. UN troops mean a capitulation for Indonesia. Even more, the Indonesian faithful fear an Asian Kosovo, the late revenge taking by the Timorese against their torturers.The UN has awakened the hopes of the Timorese, now those hopes must be fulfilled.
Neue Zurcher Zeitung
KILLING REIGNS in East Timor. What was previously feared has now become brutally clear. The conditions necessary for holding a referendum never existed, because those who are unprepared to give up East Timor, under any circumstances, have the whip hand. Indonesia's security forces, the still-intact central pillar of the old Suharto dictatorship, provide the support for these elements. In its commitment to a referendum, the UN too willingly let itself be led by its expectation that a new democratic Indonesia could quickly be built from the ruins of the collapsed autocratic order. Foreign military intervention, and the deployment of a peace-keeping force, are, at the moment, probably the only practical answer to the referendum debacle.
THE BLOODSHED is not the result of clashes between pro- and anti-independence militia. Instead, pro-Jakarta thugs are indiscriminately attacking residents who yearn for independence and peace. The situation is unacceptable. The Indonesian government must immediately suppress this reign of terror in East Timor and close the curtains on more than two decades of rule there.
UN OFFICIALS explain that the murders, the looting, and the exodus were all predictable. Yet the referendum was promoted by the UN. A threat to suspend IMF aid to Indonesia will probably be the next step. After that the Security Council, as a mere act of formality, will convene to accept decisions already made in Washington, and try to do something, albeit late and inadequate. For the UN's already tarnished credibility this is the coup de grace.
TERROR DOESN'T need witnesses: genocide can be committed in the shadows. It is becoming predictable that the militias, growing impatient, will force the issue and try to precipitate civil war, thus justifying army intervention. That, in turn, would also provide the perfect example to hold up before Indonesia's separatist regions and show the chaos that can result. With every hour that passes, Timorese people are being terrorised, mutilated and killed. Instead of witnessing the birth of a nation we are seeing its assassination
WITH TOTAL impunity, if not complicity from the army, pro-Indonesian militias have unleashed terror in East Timor with a campaign that bears all the hallmarks of a new episode of ethnic cleansing. It is incomprehensible that the UN did not take precautions to prevent the bloodbath that followed the predicted vote for independence. The militias have imposed a news blackout. They want no witnesses to their crimes. Any possible democracy in Indonesia will be stillborn if it crushes the wishes of the Timorese. We cannot rely on Jakarta or international pressure. International intervention is needed urgently and at least neighbouring Australia and ex- colonialists Portugal are ready and able.
ESSENTIALLY, HABIBIE is being blamed for everything that's happened and is about to happen in East Timor. Politically, the fallout from the East Timor explosion may yet finish him off. Habibie has governed the nation with weak legitimacy and with his credibility constantly undermined by his own actions. His chances of retaining the presidency in November must surely be diminished now. East Timor adds to a list of failures which makes him unlikely to be a serious presidential candidate.