East Timor: A Travesty of Omissions

Source: The New Statesman

It is ten years since East Timor’s referendum on freedom from Indonesia – but, as the gaps in a new film show, the western cover-up continues

On 30 August it will be a decade since the people of East Timor defied the genocidal occupiers of their country to take part in a United Nations referendum and vote for their freedom and independence. A "scorched earth" campaign by the Indonesian dictatorship followed, adding to a toll of carnage that had begun 24 years earlier when Indonesia invaded tiny East Timor with the secret support of Australia, Britain and the United States. According to a committee of the Australian parliament, "at least 200,000" died under the occupation, a third of the population.

Filming undercover in 1993, I found crosses almost everywhere: great black crosses etched against the sky, crosses on peaks, crosses in tiers on the hillsides, crosses beside the road. They littered the earth and crowded the eye. A holocaust happened in East Timor, and it tells us more about rapacious western power, its propaganda and true aims, than even current colonial adventures. The historical record is unambiguous that the US, Britain and Australia conspired to accept such a scale of bloodshed as the price of securing south-east Asia’s "greatest prize" with its "hoard of natural resources".

Philip Liechty, the CIA operations officer in Jakarta at the time of the invasion, told me: “I saw the intelligence. There were people being herded into school buildings by Indonesian soldiers and the buildings set on fire. The place was a free fire zone . . . We sent them everything that you need to fight a major war against somebody who doesn’t have any guns. None of that got out . . . [The Indonesian dictator] Suharto was given the green light to do what he did."

Britain supplied Suharto with machine-guns and Hawk fighter-bombers, which, regardless of fake "assurances", were used against defenceless East Timorese villages. The critical role was played by Australia: this was Australia’s region. During the Second World War, the people of East Timor had fought heroically to stop a Japanese invasion of Australia. Their betrayal was spelled out in a series of leaked cables sent by the then Australian ambassador in Jakarta, Richard Woolcott, prior to and during the Indonesian invasion in 1975.

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