East Timor: The story begins

Weeks after its official independence, East Timor is confronted by an Indonesian claim for compensation. Jakarta states that during its years of occupation, infrastructures were built, which must now be paid for. Dili makes a counter-claim for compensation after the Indonesian-backed militia launched a campaign of wanton destruction in 1999.

1999 was the year in which the Maubere people of East Timor decided to vote, once and for all, for their independence, after 24 years of dictatorial annexation by Jakarta and an attempt at genocide. One third of the people of East Timor was massacred by the Indonesian Armed Forces, equipped and advised by the USA, after Henry Kissinger gave the go-ahead to invade in 1975.

The Indonesian Armed Forces always treated East Timor like a general’s playground. Many alleged cases of sexual harassment and rape are due to enter the legal process. Apart from these crimes, the Indonesian Armed Forces perpetrated acts of savagery against defenceless civilians during the occupation and destroyed infrastructures which were indispensable for the normal functioning of daily life in the territory, structures which the international community has been forced to reconstruct, under the auspices of the UNO.

Dili never asked Jakarta to intervene in East Timor, nor did it ask for Jakarta to massacre a third of the Maubere population. Dili never asked Jakarta to build, or destroy, any infrastructures in East Timor, a territory which under international law ( if indeed this exists nowadays) never belonged to Indonesia, despite the myriad of blind eyes turned by the international community faced with the territory’s huge oil and gas resources.

Jakarta and Dili can forge a new relationship inter pares but any reference to indemnities is likely to blacken any horizon of good will and hope for a peaceful co-existence in the near future.


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