LETTER : Time to come off the fence over East Timor

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The Independent Online
Andrea Needham aims to end British complicity in Indonesia's genocidal occupation of East Timor. Very good, but unless she confronts the key issue she will never succeed.

The British public is locked into supporting the genocide, thanks to the inaction of Harold Wilson's Labour government between July 1975 and March 1976. The key was finally turned when the government ignored the killing - in East Timor, in October 1975, by Indonesian troops - of British newsmen Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters and a team from Australian TV. After these murders, Indonesia's president halted the invasion. He knew the West knew exactly what had happened. Our silence allowed invasion and genocide. Britain was rewarded - all too soon - with its first British Aerospace Hawk warplane contracts.

It has taken 20 years to force the Australian government to publish a study of the murders. The two men were killed, the study concludes, by Indonesian forces. Faced by Western inaction over the report, Indonesia's generals believe that the British public backs genocide as a suitable treatment for the East Timorese.

Maureen Tolfree

Sister of Brian Peters

Hugh Dowson

United Nations Association

Bath, Avon