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|The Issue of East Timor||| Print ||
Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem
The Issue of East TimorThe Portuguese arrived in the island of Timor in the beginning of the sixteenth century and they settled in the eastern part of the island. They were followed by the Germans who occupied the western part of Timor. During the Second World War, Australia sent her troops into East Timor and established in there a buffer zone; afterwards, it was occupied by the Japanese. In 1945, the Indonesian Republic was founded within the borders bequeathed from the German colonial powers and at the time Indonesia did not consider East Timor to be part of her territories. In the wake of the Second World War, the Portuguese resumed their control of East Timor. In 1975, Portugal expressed her wishes to withdraw from Timor and this led to a civil war between the various parties. Some of them called for maintaining some links with Portugal, while others called for total independence. On 28 November 1975, the Revolutionary Front issued a communiqué in which they declared the unilateral independence of Timor and the founding of the East Timor Republic. This was followed by another communiqué issued by all the other groups, calling for the merger of Timor with Indonesia.
On 7 December 1975 Indonesia sent in her troops and controlled East Timor. This was only one day after the American president Ford and Henry Kissinger had met with the Indonesian president in Jakarta. Six months later, Indonesia announced that she had annexed East Timor and considered her as one of her provinces. The General Assembly of the United Nations condemned the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and rejected her annexation of the province. In a series of successive resolutions, the General Assembly called for the self determination of the people of East Timor. This call was reflected in several resolutions issued between 1976 and 1982 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. What is remarkable is the fact that the number of states supporting these resolutions diminished over the years. For instance, the resolution issued on 19 November 1976 was backed by 75 states, whereas the resolution issued on 13 November 1982 was backed by only 50 states. On the other hand, the number of states opposing the resolutions increased from 20 states in 1976, to 46 states in 1982.
In 1985, the United Nations Committee for Human Rights dropped all the accusations against Indonesia with regard to East Timor from its agenda. Also in the same year Australia recognised the sovereignty of Indonesia over East Timor. This was followed after a few months by a joint declaration made by the Indonesian and Australian governments, stating that they were about to undertake a joint venture aimed at exploiting and modernising the oil resources in south East Timor. This area had been the subject of a dispute between the two countries. The activation of the East Timor crisis falls within America’s endeavour to settle the outstanding issues throughout the world, especially since the East Timor crisis carries the remains of the old European colonialism. America aims at rearranging the areas of the old colonialism in a new manner that will secure the achievement of her interests. As soon as the Indonesian president Habibi took office, he announced that Indonesia was prepared to relinquish East Timor if her people wished. A referendum was organised in East Timor under the auspices of the United Nations and the results showed that the majority of the East Timor residents expressed their wish to gain independence from Indonesia.
By scrutinising the international reactions to the East Timor issue since the beginning of Indonesia’s control of the province and up until now, one observes that the condemnations of this action were not too harsh. These condemnations were reflected in a host of resolutions issued by the General Assembly of the United Nations, where America enjoys a great deal of influence. America for her part did not resort to strongly worded criticism nor to hostile condemnation towards Indonesia. The harsh condemnations and the claims of massacres and torture being perpetrated against the people of East Timor were confined to the Human Rights organisations. Meanwhile, Albright made a statement after the results of the referendum were announced, in which she said: "This historic consultation is a major step toward the birth of a new nation. Independence will come to East Timor through a process designed by the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal, with the assistance of the United Nations". She also said addressing the people of East Timor: "you have faced dangers and hardships over recent weeks" She failed however to mention the dangers and the hardships faced by the people of East Timor throughout the past 25 years of Indonesian dominion over the province.
Commenting on the United Nations resolution No 1264, issued on 15 September 1999, which authorises "the establishment of a multinational force, under a combined command" "to restore peace and security in East Timor" President Clinton said in a statement issued by the White House on Thursday 16 September 1999 "This mission is in America's interests for several reasons. Indonesia's future is important to us, not only because of its resources and its sea lanes, but for its potential as a leader in the region and the world. It is the fourth most populous nation in the world; the largest Muslim nation in the world. All Asians and Americans have an interest in a stable, democratic, prosperous Indonesia."
It is also noted that the events witnessed in East Timor in the wake of the referendum's results, and the actions undertaken by the militias loyal to Indonesia. With the pretence that the Indonesian army could not control those militias, which had been established and trained by the army themselves. Which collectively show that the whole of this scenario was fabricated in order to justify foreign intervention in this issue, hence the United Nations’ resolution 1264, stipulating the set up of a multinational force. Australia was assigned to lead the force and participate with half of the number of the troops, which reached 7500 soldiers. This is because Australia has a host of historical with the people of East Timor and they share the same religion. Australia’s geographical proximity has also helped the flow of East Timor refugees into her lands. Australia enjoys a special relationship with Indonesia. She for instance was one of the very few countries that recognised the sovereignty of Indonesia over East Timor. Australia shares with Indonesia the resources of the buffer zone mentioned earlier. Furthermore, this will also help Australia acquire a greater role in the region and will help activate her role within the APAC organisation, which will serve the interests of the United States.
The fact that the United States did not participate effectively in the international forces, but rather confined her role to sending 200 soldiers, half of whom are in East Timor, offering telecommunication and logistic assistance, information and transport, as well as assistance from the American fleet in the Pacific, all this indicates that America is reassured that matters would run smoothly in her favour and that she does not worry about the presence of any forces that may impede her arrangements, a matter which would necessitate her direct intervention in the crisis, as was the case in Kosovo for instance.
One of the matters that America aims to achieve on the periphery of these events is to instil the concept of the need to implement the United Nations resolutions, no matter how old these were, especially that the United Nations resolutions related to East Timor oppose the annexation of this region by another state and call for the self determination of its people. This is similar to the United Nations resolutions related to the Palestinian and the Golan issues. Among the other concepts that America aims to instil is that of the refugees’ return to their respective countries, from which they were forced to flee, as was the case in Kosovo; this cannot also be separated from the Palestinian issue.
The Media Forum of Hizb ut-Tahrir
23 Jumadah Al-Akhirah 1420h