E. Timor economy has gained under Indonesian rule, visitor says
A Portuguese parliamentarian has visited Portugal's ex-colony of East Timor and reports that there has been economic progress in the territory since Indonesia invaded it in 1975, but that the general population is unhappy with the Indonesian occupation. Miguel Anacoreta Correia, a Christian Democrat, received special permission from the parliament in Lisbon to make the fact-finding mission last month, at his own initiative. His was the first visit by a Portuguese official since the invasion.
Portugal cut diplomatic relations with Indonesia because of the invasion, and the UN does not recognize Indonesia's claim to sovereignty. In its view, Portugal is still the administering power, although Indonesia's control is formally recognized by some leading Western countries, including the United States and Australia, and by most Islamic countries.
``I refuse to make propaganda for anyone,'' Mr. Anacoreta Correia says. ``It doesn't help Timor if we distort the truth and, being familiar with the situation in Portugal's ex-colonies of Angola and Mozambique today, I have to admit that economic life in East Timor under Indonesia is much more prosperous.''
He says positive developments in health, education, and economic progress are undeniable.
``It was difficult to assess such a complex situation during a five-day visit,'' the parliamentarian says, ``but it is obvious that the Timorese reject Indonesia, or at least those aspects of Indonesian administration identified with the Army and security. Although everybody emphasized that things had improved in the past few years, . . . I was told that persecution is commonplace, that there is a tight system of control, that denunciations are frequent, and that people are afraid to speak. . . . The psychological situation is bad.''
Anacoreta Correia's visit was organized by Gen. Beni Moerdani, Indonesia's minister for the armed forces.
During his visit, Anacoreta Correia says, he had freedom to travel where he wished, although he was closely watched by Indonesian security agents. And he was able to speak directly to many people who still speak Portuguese. He says he visited the urban centers of Baucau, Lospalos, Suai, Maliana, and Aileu, the island of Atauro -- which is a detention center for people suspected of guerrilla links -- and two resettlement camps.
In Dili, the capital, he visited the Comarca prison, which has been the focus of claims by Amnesty International, a London-based human rights organization, of mistreatment of political prisoners. There were 133 prisoners, of whom 39 were soldiers and 94 political detainees, he says.
Anacoreta Correia says he noted malnutrition in country areas but saw no evidence of starvation. His most negative impression, he says, was at Cai Rui, a village which has been rebuilt on ``strategic hamlet'' principles at. It was populated largely by ex-prisoners transferred from Atauro Island, and had an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.
Zinc-roofed huts had been built on a grid pattern in an area where the natives' former traditional village existed. Anacoreta Correia says he was not told what had happened to the original homes.
A request to Indonesian authorities to organize contact with Timorese guerrilla leader Jose Gusmao Xanana was rejected, he says, on grounds that it would take too long to organize. Anacoreta Correia says that, although he saw no direct military action, he believes armed resistance to Indonesia is continuing.
Since 1983, Indonesian and Portuguese diplomats have been negotiating behind closed doors in New York over the sovereignty of East Timor, under the UN secretary-general's supervision, but little progress has been reported.
``After my visit, I still believe a credible act of self-determination has not been held,'' Anacoreta Correia says. He dismisses an idea circulating in official circles here that a referendum held simultaneously with the next scheduled Indonesian elections, in 1987, could satisfy this need.
``I do not believe this meets the demand for credibility,'' he says, adding that the international community had solved problems more difficult than the East Timor issue. ``Getting Soviet troops out of Austria after the Second World War was more complicated, but that was done.''