Letter: Oil is thicker than blood

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The Independent Online
"EAST TIMOR," Richard Lloyd-Parry's otherwise penetrating analysis stated, "is a poor backwater with ... few natural resources apart from coffee and sandalwood" ("Local militia crack down on go-it-alone Timorese", 20 June).

The truth is very different, according to leading Indonesian academic Dr George Aditjondro. His latest book gives the clue. Is oil thicker than blood? A study of oil company interests and western complicity in Indonesia's annexation of East Timor has just been published in the USA by Nova Science, and is being prepared for publication in Indonesia.

"Weird as it may sound," says Dr Aditjondro, "I believe that the biggest perpetrators of human rights violations [in East Timor are not the soldiers and paramilitary men] who only know how to pull a gun's trigger or hack their machetes." Instead, he argues, one of the most central of all the issues in East Timor's agony is the interest of major oil companies - such as Philips Petroleum, Mobil Oil, Woodside Petroleum (half-owned by Shell), Santos and Petroz - in turning the whole island of Timor "into another Brunei Darusalem in Southeast Asia".

Dr Aditjondro, despite being honoured for his environmental work by the then President Suharto, was forced to flee from Indonesia for daring to speak out over East Timor.

In seeking to end what may be the worst case of genocide, in proportion to population, since the Nazi Holocaust, it is unwise to take on trust the "official line" that East Timor is a "poor backwater" which survives because "Indonesia subsidises the territory on a huge scale" (to quote again from Mr Lloyd-Parry's otherwise excellent article).

HUGH DOWSON

United Nations Association

Western Region, Bath

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