Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Indonesia feels the diplomatic heat over turmoil in East Timor

Australia, the United States, and the Vatican have revived diplomatic pressure on Indonesia to deal with concerns over the situation in East Timor. An impasse Indonesian policy toward East Timor has existed since Indonesia invaded and annexed the former Portuguese colony in November 1975.

Last month, Portugal reaffirmed its determination to consult all parties concerned in its nine-year-old search for a solution. And a Portuguese parliamentary commission on Timor is seeking to visit the territory to see conditions there first hand.

About these ads

There are signs that Indonesian rule in Timor is becoming increasingly repressive as Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, finds its efforts at ending the guerrilla rebellion there frustrated.

Accurate reports of what is happening inside the territory are nearly impossible to come by, so tight is the information blanket imposed by the Indonesians. However, news trickles out to Lisbon via refugees arriving here and from correspondence smuggled out by priests and sympathizers of the Fretilin guerrilla movement whose main foreign representative, Abilio Araujo, is based in Lisbon.

Mr. Araujo, who left Timor in 1975, said that recently arrived refugees had told of atrocities perpetrated by Indonesian soldiers during a fresh anti-guerrilla campaign south of the Timor capital, Dili, in late June.

Other refugee reports reaching here claim that in the first week of June, Indonesia launched a large-scale attack on pockets of resistance around Dili using three battalions of men (about 3,000 soldiers) in the suburb of Comoro. A further battalion, including tanks, was in operation on the opposite side of Dili, apparently trying to secure the defense of the capital where incidents of urban guerrilla warfare have been reported recently.

Earlier this year a smuggled letter reached Lisbon from the Roman Catholic apostolic administrator in Timor, Fr. Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo. It was addressed to his predeccessor, Msgr. Martinho da Costa Lopes.

Fr. Belo alleged that Indonesian efforts at stilling the Timorese rebellion were bringing ''disease, hunger, persecution, and the loss of freedom'' to the people.

A source close to Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, says that Amnesty had reports of secret military court hearings in Timor of suspected guerrillas and alleged sympathizers. The source, who declined to be identified, says that Amnesty is concerned about the impartiality of such proceedings.

About these ads

While in Asia last month, Secretary of State George Shultz conveyed United States concern to Jakarta about the limited access to East Timor.

Western diplomats and Timorese refugee officials have criticized Portuguese efforts at resolving the Timor problem as slow and sometimes inept. Late last year 105 United States congressmen, led by Rep. Tony P. Hall (R) of Ohio, wrote the Portuguese premier, urging action to end the ''tragedy of East Timor.''

Similar sentiments were voiced recently by Pope John Paul II during an audience with Indonesia's newly appointed Vatican envoy. And left-wingers at the Australian Labor Party's congress this month declined to let the Timor issue be brushed aside.

Officially, Portugal supports a negotiated solution to the question of Timorese independence, insisting that all sides must be consulted in such a procedure. But lately, Foreign Ministry officials have suggested that Lisbon might make concessions on the self-determination issue.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.