Indonesia: September 7, 1999


The growing unrest in East Timor has its roots in the 16th and 17th century colonial wars between Holland, Britain and Portugal. The loser was Portugal, but they held on to a few out of the way colonies. One was East Timor (the Dutch had West Timor.) The Portuguese were more laid back running their colonies, and this was one reason why East Timor became largely Catholic. This created a Christian island, well, half a an Island, in a Muslim sea. When Portugal withdrew from it's colonies in the early 1970s, Indonesia moved in an took East Timor by force. The locals did not get along with the Indonesians. The religious differences, and the widespread use of Portuguese, were minor compared to the economic exploitation of the Indonesian army. From the 1960s to the present, Indonesia became increasingly corrupt. The government stayed in power by granting economic favors to those who supported it. The armed forces got, among other things, a free hand in East Timor. Aside from killing over a hundred thousand East Timorese, the army took a cut of just about everything. Indonesians came in from other islands to do the dirty work, both military and economic. When the corrupt Suharto government fell to public uproar in 1998, the East Timorese called for a referendum on their independence. The ten percent of the population with a vested interest in the army's rackets saw an end to their livelihood and organized into armed militias (equipped and supported by the army) to terrorize the population into voting against their own interests, and independence. The Indonesian government, still fearful of an Army coup, is reluctant to face down the generals. The armed forces is apparently trying to drive out the most influential independence advocates and get another vote. With so much to lose, many in the armed forces on East Timor are willing to try desperate measures. The government has allowed the military to send ships and aircraft to assist in moving terrified East Timorese out. 

September 6; The government has declared martial law in East Timor, but the army and local police are not yet willing to do anything to stop the terror campaign of the anti-independence militias. Several nations, including Australia, have called for a UN peacekeeping force to go in and pacify East Timor. The UN, knowing that such an action, so soon after the unpopular (in the UN) NATO campaign in Kosovo, it not likely to get enough votes. Australia has put two brigades on alert to move to East Timor. Meanwhile, army troops have been seen joining militiamen in looting and killing. UN personnel and foreign journalists have been singled out and most have fled East Timor as a result. The government has sent four more infantry battalions to East Timor, but unless these fight the army troops already in East Timor, it won't do any good.

September 5; The UN has accused the Indonesian government of organizing a campaign of terror in East Timor. However, it appears that the Indonesian army is acting on it's own, in opposition to its own government's policies.




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