Letter: Who should speak for East Timor

Click to follow
Sir: The Amnesty reports of the torture of the recently captured East Timorese resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao, and his family are deeply disturbing. For the past 17 years, the East Timorese have suffered appallingly at the hands of the Indonesian military, who invaded the former Portuguese territory and have been responsible for the deaths of perhaps as many as 200,000 East Timorese, a third of the pre-1975 population.

The Catholic Bishop of East Timor, Monsignor Ximenes Belo, spoke out again last week for the absolute necessity of the withdrawal of all Indonesian military forces from the territory, and the holding of a properly supervised referendum which will enable the East Timorese to decide their political future.

The scheduled talks between Portugal and Indonesia in New York on 17 December should concentrate minds on these issues. The Portuguese have long demanded that East Timorese leaders should be included in these talks, something which the British government now appears to endorse. What more appropriate way forward than to insist on Xanana Gusmao's immediate release from Indonesian custody so that he can represent his people, whose cause he has sustained so valiantly for so long.

Yours sincerely,


Tutor in Modern History

Trinity College


8 December