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The Free Republic

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Wednesday, September 8, 1999

By the middle of the day, Wednesday Sept. 8th 1999, the situation seems to be as follows. I have collated this report from a variety of sometimes conflicting media and personal sources.

The Australian troopship and other warships slipped back into Darwin in the earl y hours of this morning. It is not known why and because of operational reasons nobody is prepared to say why. None the less they have all refuelled and re-prov isioned and can be seen at almost immediate readiness to leave. HMS EDINBURGH is expected to join them today and a New Zealand frigate is also on the way. There are reports of troops moving there from Thailand, the Philippines and New Zeala nd. It is rumoured that the troops who went to sea with the JARVIS BAY yesterday did not return, but this has been met with 'no comment' by the AMF.

The US ships on the other hand are no more active than before.

Australia announced this morning that from what UN sources and our own diplomati c sources have been able to determine, the situation in Dili and other parts of East Timor have become even worse since the imposition of martial law. Portugues e officials and Ex-Patriates in Darwin are claiming that the imposition of Marti al Law is only a ploy to legalise the shootings without having to answer why.

It has also been revealed that the Head of the UN, Kofi Annan, advised President Habibe against the imposition of martial law and that if he did so his and his nations' credibility would suffer. Martial Law was however imposed by the influe nce of the Army after meeting resistance from cabinet. General Wiranto still con tinues to say that it is all exaggerated, his troops are under control etc. He h as still refused to take any telephone calls or other contact from Australia.

Yesterday, many Indonesians who protested on the streets a year ago to get rid of the former government, turned out again. TV news of what has been happening ha s got through to them and they have been protesting against the actions of their own army and polisi. There are signs that this is likely to increase today and that the feeling of the 'non ruling classes' is one of growing horror and disgust.

Counter demonstrations against our Embassy were carried out, but the 'students' were hard to identify and reports are that they were either army recruits or from some private school as they were certainly not from the usual universities.

However the Indonesian Government seems very much at the mercy of the Army, which in turn seems intent on teaching the East Timorese a lesson...that other dissi dent elements in Indonesia will take note of in case they intend to keep pushing their causes.

As at early morning, the UN compound was still intact, with its very large numbe r of refugees and a remaining handful of unarmed peace keepers. However of grea t significance is that the Polisi, formerly guarding them from the Militia (ineffectively) and who had failed to prevent the compound being fired on, have been withdrawn. They were replaced according to UN sources, by a much more discipline d military unit that has taken up positions to defend the compound. On being sent away the Polisi, vented their anger for several minutes by firing their weapons into the air. If as it seems, these troops have been ordered to keep the UN depot safe, then it indicates that there is at least some element of the Indonesi an Army aware of their international responsibilities.

None the less, Australia, having had detailed reports on what is happening outsi de the UN compound took the decision to withdraw its remaining diplomats and the y have been flown to Darwin. This action was taken without waiting for the expi ry of the '48 hours' given to Indonesia to sort out the problems.

UN depots have now been reduced to only the one. Yesterday a daring escape was m ade from one of the last outside Dili, when helicopter pilots stripped the aircr aft of seats and all non-essentials, then flew in and lifted out the maximum num ber of people they could pack in and still fly.

EVENING REPORT. Sept 8th. 1999

It seems to have been a bad day for the East Timorese and a diplomatic disaster for Australia. Masses of people have been moved into West Timor and are being he ld there. UN workers and media even in the West Timor area have been shot at and forced to withdraw to Darwin.

Then the decision was taken to withdraw the remaining UN personnel from the sole UN base left. Militia were reported driving around the streets in captured UN v ehicles. Buildings were on fire all around the compound. A New Zealand Aircraft went in and picked up the remaining UN workers who had apparently been forcibly removed to the airfield at Dili. The fate of the refugees they have been protec ting all these days is unknown. All those people seen on international TV scramb ling through razor wire to reach safety have apparently fallen into the hands of the Militia and the Polisi. Another UN bungle.

Earl Candler, an unarmed US Policeman, who was part of the UN peace keeping force, was brought into Darwin badly wounded. He was able to give an interview in wh ich he said he was shot quite deliberately by a soldier/soldiers of the Indonesi an Regular Army. One of them had walked to a point near his clearly marked UN ve hicle, loaded, aimed and given him a burst. Only the fact he was wearing a flak jacket and the courage of his East Timorese driver saved his life. Two bullets p enetrated his flak jacket, but doctors have operated to save his life and he is reported to be in stable condition. He insisted that his attacker was not a militia man, but a regular soldier.

His story is only one of hundreds. Many of the sick and injured are US citizens who were UN observers of the free elections. Most tell stories of assault, gunfi re and threats from Regular Indonesian troops and Polisi, not just the Militia. Most insist that the Militia are only an arm of the Military. One can only hope that since they are Americans the US Media will pick up on thi s and start to show more interest.

DIPLOMATICALLY the day started out with Australia informing Indonesia that time was pretty much up. We have withdrawn most of our diplomatic staff and our natio nals have been advised to go home. In the afternoon and evening however things h ave got much worse. Firstly the US re-affirmed that it will not assist. Then the Indonesians advised that they will not in any way accept any armed forces landing in 'the province' .

Next Indonesian newspapers started with pictures of their troops under banners proclaiming they were ready for war. Our Embassy was stormed and the flag burned. Similar attacks occurred against Australian Consulates. Here in Australia there were similar attacks against Indonesian consulates and e mbassies by East Timorese refugees, but these were mostly contained by the polic e. Australian Unions have forced the cancellation of almost all flights by 'Air Garuda' the Indonesian airline and have stopped the movement of goods etc.

In the late afternoon stories were leaking that CANADA had been 'counselled by t he White House and as a result were now backing away from any sort of Military s upport for an Australian led expedition to save East Timor. Instead Canada would only provide 'logistic' support. Similarly ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and the Phillipines have suddenly 'cooled' to being participants and are also withdrawing.

A major meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers was scheduled tonight in New Zealand, but only Australia and New Zealand have turned up...to be lectured by the US Foreign Minister.

Nonetheless a tired and emotional looking Prime Minister Howard, admitted that the Government was being over whelmed by public demand to do something, with or without the Americans and that there seemed nothing that could be done without a state of war because Indonesia refuses permission for other forces to land. He re-iterated that President Clinton had made it clear that nothing could or would be done without the express permission of Indonesia.

East Timorese refugees and spokespeople are pointing out that there are no less than 10 resolutions of the UN stating clearly that the 21st territory of Indonesia does not exist and East Timor is not Indonesian territory. Therefore, they ask, why do we have to wait for them to give permission.

It was also announced this afternoon that there are 5,000 US Marines here in Australia, but their main role is to protect joint facilities as will be the role o f the US warships in the event of war. It was said several times today that US Sailors are reluctant to take too much shore leave in Darwin and when they do they are moving quietly about with eyes downcast in embarrassment.

As of late evening, it is obvious that the ASEAN countries have got cold feet and are backing out. This leaves Australia, NZ and our sole British 'gunboat' faci ng this UN disaster. Indications are that even if the UN finds that genocide and political ethnic cleansing is taking place in East Timor, no resolution will be made for a peace keeping force without Indonesia agreeing. AND certainly without the approval of the White House.

800,000 people trusted the UN and voted. 78.5% voted for freedom. Naively they t rusted that the UN and the other countries of the world would protect them. Over the past few days and no doubt for some time to come, they are about to pay the price for that trust.

I believe a state of war will eventually occur between Australia and Indonesia because it seems to be slipping further and further down a slippery slope of no r eturn. Who knows what it will end with, but one thing is for certain. The people of Australia will never, ever again, trust their main allies, the United States of America...a Dingo of an ally, who is leaving us to stand alone.