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Timorese Rights

WHEN Indonesian troops opened fire recently on a funeral procession in occupied East Timor, killing between 50 and 100 people, many scratched their heads, wondering, "Where's East Timor?"For the record, East Timor shares the island of Timor with an Indonesian province. Since 1975, when East Timor was granted its independence from Portugal and subsequently was invaded by Indonesia, Portuguese-speaking Timorese have clamored for the right to nationhood. Despite a yearly parade of Kuwait-like resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly, UN Security Council, and in the United States Congress, Indonesia continues its occupation. Relief organizations estimate that nearly one-seventh of the population has died from starvation or from fighting. Amnesty International presses its concerns over extrajudicial executions and "disappearances." Meanwhile, US aid to Indonesia continues. In its defense, Indonesia says it regrets the loss of life but points to "premeditated provocations by irresponsible elements." The funeral was for a young independence activist who had been caught hiding in a parish church. American reporters Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman, who were present at the funeral and were beaten after the massacre by Indonesian troops, dispute the government's account. They say that while mourners had chanted Timorese independence slogans, the funeral march had been peaceful. Pragmatists say East Timor is a lost cause. As in many former Portuguese colonies, Timorese were left untrained for independence. And observers point to Indonesia's staunch friendship with the US. But friendship is no excuse for a massacre. Congressman Stephen J. Solarz (D) of New York has proposed that future aid to Indonesia be contingent on how Jakarta carries on its promised investigation into the incident. US concern for justice and human rights demands no less.

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