Letter: Britain backed brutal Suharto

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YOUR REPORT "Last chance for East Timor" (29 August) refers to the "passive support" the West gave to the Indonesian dictator Suharto when he annexed the territory in December 1975. A closer examination of the historical record reveals a more substantial role of Western support for the Indonesian regime. Ever since his brutal rise to power in 1965, with the covert aid of the CIA, Suharto had been looked upon with favour by the West as someone who would provide "stability" in the region, to the benefit of Western strategic and corporate interests there.

Just months before East Timor was invaded, the British ambassador in Jakarta informed the Foreign Office that "the people of Portuguese Timor are in no condition to exercise the right to self-determination" and "the arguments in favour of its integration into Indonesia are all the stronger". The UK has abstained on most UN resolutions condemning the invasion and, like the US, has supplied vast amounts of arms to Indonesia, including British Aerospace Hawk jets which continue to be observed in raids over East Timor.

According to a spokesman for the independence movement, Britain has been "the single worst obstructionist of any industrialised country" concerning international action against Indonesia for its brutal actions. Far from playing a passive role, the United States and Britain have actively supported Indonesia in its violence against the people of East Timor.

DAVID CROMWELL

Southampton, Hampshire

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