/** ips.english: 422.0 **/

** Topic: RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: United Nations at a Critical Juncture **
** Written 9:08 PM Sep 8, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.


*** 08-Sep-99 ***

Title: RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: United Nations at a Critical Juncture

By Alejandro Kirk

LISBON, Sep 8 (IPS) - While the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday, Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi urged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set an example himself.

''Take a UN plane today and fly to East Timor. Disembark in the Dili airport, go to UNAMET (UN Assistance Mission in East Timor) headquarters, besieged by the killers, (and) simply sit in a chair there, taking a photographer along with you,'' the writer - who resides in Portugal - wrote in a newspaper column.

Tabucchi, Josť Saramago - a Portuguese writer and Nobel Literature laureate - and local analysts and diplomats denounced Wednesday the ''hypocrisy'' of the so-called international community with respect to the crisis in the former Portuguese colony occupied by Indonesia since 1975.

Jakarta's emphatic refusal Wednesday to agree to the sending of an international peacekeeping force to East Timor forced the UN to begin considering tough measures that the permanent members of the Security Council have preferred to put off.

Portugal, as the legal administrator of the territory, has been waging an intense campaign among the members of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to send in a military force ''with or without'' Jakarta's permission, in the words of Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio.

But, asked Saramago, ''how much do the people of East Timor weigh in the balance of power of China and Russia? How much is an inhabitant of Dili worth on the New York Stock Exchange?''

Portuguese diplomat Fernando Reino, a veteran negotiator on East Timor, said ''the Security Council and in consequence the United Nations end up as accomplices of a machiavellian and sinister (Indonesian) plan'' to squash the will of the East Timorese, who voted Aug 30 for independence.

Political analyst Fernando Rosas said the latest developments in East Timor ''reveal in all its splendour the cynicism of the 'right to humanitarian interference','' touted by NATO during its bombing of Kosovo.

''To attack and invade Kosovo, an area of strategic interest for the United States, they and the governments of Europe disregarded the UN, the UN Charter, international law, anything that could have been an impediment,'' said Rosas.

''But to help the martyred, defenceless people of East Timor, and after decades of criminal complicity with Indonesia,'' the United States and Great Britain ''have come up with nothing more effective than sending a delegation to Jakarta to meet with the Indonesian government,'' he added.

The mild reaction by the United States and Great Britain to the tragedy in East Timor - compared to their determined stance in Kosovo - is fresh evidence of a politics based on double standards, said analysts.

The insistence by UN Security Council powers that Indonesia must agree before an international peacekeeping force is sent in stands in contrast with the legal situation of the territory, over which Indonesian sovereignty has never been recognised, stressed Reino.

''The credibility of the United Nations is increasingly at stake,'' said the diplomat, who concurred with U.S. political scientist and semanticist Noam Chomsky that ''the key to the problem lies in Washington.''

The low-key warnings directed at Jakarta in the last few days by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook contrast sharply with the determination they demonstrated against Yugoslavia and Iraq in the weeks prior to the December and March bombings of those two countries.

Also glaring is the silence of U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair - who East Timorese independence leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Josť Ramos Horta recently termed ''Europe's most hypocritical leader.''

A BBC reporter commented Wednesday that the 60,000 displaced people documented by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in West Timor ''outnumber those displaced in Kosovo'' prior to the NATO airstrikes.

Information from the UN mission in Dili refers to 200,000 displaced and thousands killed, in a population of less than 600,000.

According to special envoys posted by the Portuguese press in Jakarta, the United States fears that sending in an international force would trigger a violent backlash by the hard-line wing of the Indonesian armed forces.

But Reino pointed out that all of the officials of the current Indonesian regime were cronies of former dictator Suharto, and said the present game of rumour-mongering was aimed at ''winning time'' to carry out an ethnic cleansing campaign in East Timor.

Rumours of a coup and the replacement of President Habibie by army chief General Wiranto or one of his trusted collaborators were flying around Jakarta Wedneday night.

While it is determined whether the rumour is merely a new manuevre and whether there is any difference between civilians and the military in Indonesia, in Dili the strategy of intimidation is having a crushing effect: the UN is now also pulling out, leaving the island without international observers.

It is also leaving the 2,000 refugees in its headquarters at the mercy of pro-integration militias and Indonesian troops, giving rise to accusations of ''betrayal'' by Timorese staff.

''Exactly what occurred in 1975-78,'' said Ramos Horta, when some 250,000 Timorese - one-third of the population - were massacred amidst the silence of the international community.

Thousands of Timorese, including Catholic Bishop of Baucau, Basilio do Nascimento, injured and expelled from his residence, have already fled to the mountains in search of protection from East Timor's independence fighters.

But the guerrillas are fully aware that they cannot militarily defeat the Indonesian army.

Independence leader Xanana Gusmao - released from house arrest in Jakarta Tuesday - urged the resistance fighters not to yield to the temptation to intervene, and promised there would be no civil war. Speaking of reconciliation, Gusmao only called - from the British Embassy in Jakarta - for international aid. (END/IPS/tra-

Origin: Montevideo/RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR/