/** reg.easttimor: 3282.0 **/

** Topic: IT: Keep Voices Raised To Ensure Hell Is Not Eternal **
** Written 11:25 PM Sep 10, 1999 by Joyo@aol.com in cdp:reg.easttimor **
Subject: IT: Keep Voices Raised To Ensure Hell Is Not Eternal

Irish Times [Dublin] Saturday, September 11, 1999

Keep voices raised to ensure hell is not eternal


If hell exists, its location this week is East Timor. This has been a truly horrendous week for the gentle people of this small half island.

Many Timorese I know and love have been murdered for having values that I can only aspire to. For people involved in the campaign, the nights are spent in close contact with both landline and mobile telephones. The phone rings. "Tom, is that you? This is J***, I want to say goodbye to you, Dino, Jose, Mr Joe and Sylvia." Or maybe it is R****, a most wonderful woman. "Please do what you can".

This week the rottenness of international politics was exposed. Political leaders of the democratic countries (who have unhindered access to the media) ran for cover as questions were asked about their Judas-like betrayal of the people of East Timor.

Soundbites were heard for what they are, nothing of substance. The hand of history certainly was on the shoulder of the Timorese this week, but what a grubby little hand it was as it clutched the filthy lucre that the West makes from trade (especially the arms trade) with Indonesia.

Last May a process was initiated that was to allow the people of East Timor determine their own future. However, the May 5th accords were deeply flawed, and those of us who have followed the issue in recent years were stunned by two aspects of the agreement.

First, the decision to give the Indonesian military security to oversee the process was criminal. Second, that the decision of the East Timorese people was then subject to ratification by the Indonesian puppet parliament was truly astonishing.

The people of East Timor defied intimidation, beatings and threats and went to the polling booths. They came from the forests, from the hamlets, pouring into the polling stations, testimony to the fact that courage could still exist in spite of 24 years of suffering under the brutal Indonesian colonialists. One-third of the population, about 200,000 people, had already died at the hands of their oppressors.

They came to vote because they trusted us, the International Community. They put aside grudge and grievance for the international inactivity of the last 24 years. Observers were met with politeness, smiles, enthusiasm. This process was after all underwritten by the United Nations, the organisation of 182 memberstates. Everything would be all right.

UNAMET, the UN mission responsible for organising the election, carried out voter education programmes explaining to people who had never voted before how to exercise their democratic right.

The day of the vote was a sight for sore eyes as 98.6 per cent of the population took their lives in their hands and voted.

The vote for independence was carried overwhelmingly by 78.5 per cent of the population. But the celebrations were short-lived. Militias, backed by the Indonesian military, went on the rampage. The Indonesian government at first denied that the security situation was out of control and then claimed that the havoc was being wreaked by "rogue" elements.

This is a downright lie. The violence we have witnessed in East Timor since the referendum has been entirely orchestrated at the highest level of the Indonesian army. So cynical was the orchestration that UN and Western journalists were particularly targeted so that nobody would be left who could bear witness to the atrocities being perpetrated.

Remember these names: Dili, Manatuto, Baucau, Liquica, Los Palos, Maliana, Suai, just some of the towns razed to the ground. Young, old and sick forced to take to the hills and forests, babies on their backs. They've been there for the last 10 days, left to forage in the middle of the dry season. This means no crops, no fruit, no berries, limited water. And they are the lucky ones. Others have been forcibly expelled, their whereabouts as yet unknown.

Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo has had to flee to Australia. Bishop Basilio Nascimento has fled into the mountains with over a thousand of his people. The last communication received from him before he fled was "We are being exterminated".

In Dili, Father Domingos Soares and Father Francisco Barreto were killed trying to defend their people. Father Barreto was a good personal friend of mine. I first met him in London three years ago. In scenes reminiscent of penal times in Ireland he celebrated Mass in a one-roomed flat for 20 Timorese exiles. His ending was similar to that of the Nazarene he followed. As the militia approached he went out to plead for his parishioners and was bayoneted to death. May he and all the others rest in peace.

And then dėjà vu for the Timorese as they were once again abandoned, in their hour of need, by the international community. The first abandonment was in 1975 when the Portuguese colonial power lost control of the territory and Indonesia invaded.

The Indonesian occupation was not then, and has never been, recognised by the United Nations.

Nevertheless the world stood by with eyes wide shut as East Timor became the playground of a brutal and corrupt regime.

Its people tortured and raped, its natural resources, particularly oil and coffee, exploited. Twenty four years of sheer hell.

This was the week when hell was to end. Instead hell intensified and again the international community prevaricated, wavered, equivocated. International governments, that is. But, thank God, these governments are out of step with the compassion of their people.

Millions around the world are taking to the streets, boycotting Indonesian goods, cancelling holidays to Bali, phoning the embassies of the big powers. On Wednesday nine million people in Portugal formed a human chain, bringing the major cities to their knees. In Australia, telecommunications, transport and business were forced to a halt.

Here in Ireland the campaign has been inundated with messages of support, embassies have been lobbied and the voice of protest is loud and clear. Governments are being forced to listen to the sheer humanity of their people.

A glimmer of hope on the horizon is the announcement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that she will visit the region. Mary Robinson is the only international leader with her finger on the pulse of our compassion and concern. May she now continue to represent us and go all the way to Dili.

So keep your hearts up and your voices raised and between us we'll make them do the decent thing and show the East Timorese that hell is not eternal after all.

East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign: Suite 16, Dame House, 24-26 Dame Street, Dublin 2. Telephone: 00 353 1 671 9207/ 677 0253 /623 3148. Mobile: 087 286 0122. Fax: 00 353 1 671 9207. Timorese Community in Ireland: 00 353 1 453 1462. Web: http://indigo.ie/etisc/

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