East Timor: An ASEAN-UN Solution

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NAPSNet Special Report

Recommended Citation

Walden Bello, "East Timor: An ASEAN-UN Solution", NAPSNet Special Reports, September 09, 1999, https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/east-timor-an-asean-un-solution/

September 9, 1999

This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles on the crisis in East 
Timor.  This article is by Walden Bello, Executive Director of Focus on 
the Global South.


Perspective Sept. 8, 1999

East Timor: An ASEAN-UN Solution
By Walden Bello

The world failed East Timor once, in 1975, when it offered little protest 
to the bloody annexation of that country by Indonesia.  Key international 
actors, including Australia, the United States, and ASEAN, either 
supported the takeover behind the scenes or tacitly approved of it.  For 
the next 24 years, many governments engaged in a conspiracy of silence as 
over 200,000 Timorese lost their lives under Jakarta's harsh rule.

The world cannot afford to fail the people of East Timor again.  As 
Indonesian troops and Indonesia-supported militiamen wreak mayhem on the 
people after the historic vote for independence last week, it is 
imperative that the international community acts to prevent an act of 
ethnic cleansing on the scale of Bosnia and Kosovo.

The Indonesian government's putting East Timor under martial law "to 
restore peace and order," as Foreign Minister Ali Alatas put it, is an 
Orwellian joke with grisly implications.  Jakarta is not out to curb the 
militia thugs that it has armed and set on an unarmed people.  The 
Indonesian military is out to greatly reinforce its bloody rule and to 
make this permanent, in defiance of the Timorese majority's historic 
opting for independence last week.

There are several immediate steps that the international community must 

The United Nations must immediately constitute an armed peacekeeping 
mission and send it to Timor within hours.  Every minute now counts if we 
are to prevent the uncontrolled taking of thousands of civilian lives.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must call an emergency 
meeting of its foreign ministers to condemn the Indonesian government's 
abetting the massacre and offer police and troops from its member 
countries-with the exception of Indonesia--to serve as the core of the UN 
peacekeeping mission.  This must be made even without the Indonesian 
government's approval.

The Philippine Government must take the lead in this enterprise, working 
closely with the Thai government, ASEAN's other liberal democracy.  ASEAN 
Secretary General Rodolfo Severino, a respected member of the Philippine 
foreign service, must firmly advise his Indonesian hosts that this time, 
the Philippines and ASEAN are prepared to break with Jakarta.

Such a move is long overdue and will go some way toward rectifying the 
Philippines' and ASEAN's pusillanimous record on East Timor, the 
highlights of which were the member states' unwillingness over 24 years 
to challenge Jakarta's annexation and repression, the Fidel Ramos 
administration's banning of the Asia Pacific Committee on East Timor 
(APCET) meeting in Manila in 1994, and the Ramos and Chuan Leek Pai 
governments' banning of Timorese representatives like Jose Ramos Horta 
from entering their respective countries.

ASEAN has long been part of the problem.  It must now be part of the 

ASEAN's moves must be coordinated with the United Nations.  The UN 
General Assembly must convoke a special session to immediately recognize 
East Timor's independence and impose sanctions on Indonesia for failing 
to provide the order and security that it promised in the Tripartite 
Agreement  of May 5, 1999.

ASEAN and the UN must call on the Indonesian government to immediately 
withdraw its police and soldiers, disarm the militiamen, and stop 
expelling Timorese from their homeland on the pretext of helping them 
escape the violence.  

ASEAN and the UN must compel the Indonesian government to immediately 
recognize the overwhelming vote for independence and guarantee the safety 
of independence leader Xanana Gusmao, and allow Gusmao, Archbishop Carlos 
Belo, Jose Ramos Horta, and other key Timorese personalities to freely 
travel through Indonesia and to East Timor to participate in the process 
of constituting a government.

A great part of the cause of the East Timor tragedy was Washington and 
Canberra's complicity in the Indonesian takeover of 1975.  This 
historical debacle cannot now be undone by a unilateral commitment of US 
and Australian troops to that country.  The short-term gains of such a 
move would be outweighed by the long-term instability and conflict into 
which it would plunge Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.  All 
commitments of armed peacekeepers to East Timor must be done under the 
mandate of the UN and ASEAN.

The international community must act now to spare a small nation whose 
identity was forged in 24 years of heroic defiance of repression from 
further bloodshed.

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