East Timor: A Decade On

I present two articles that I wrote in 2002 about East Timor, when I alerted the international community as to the plight of the newest member of the world community and warned what would happen if the community of nations did not use development instead of deployment. I was right.

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.


East Timor calls for help

27.09.2002 |


East Timor, the world's newest nation, has asked the international community not to forget its promises to help the state establish itself in a war-torn island recovering from 25 years of murderous rule by the US-backed Suharto dictatorship of Indonesia, under which up to a third of the East Timorese population was massacred.

East Timorese Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Ramos-Horta declared at an open conference in new York on Thursday that "Peace is a reality but it is fragile. If the donors abandon the country now, the situation could be reversed". He declared that 45% of the country's 850,000 population are desperately poor. Over 50% are under 20 years of age and they need schooling and jobs.

If the international community forgets its commitments, as the hype and hysteria around Iraq grow daily, the 21st century's first nation could become its first victim.



UNO: "Not all Timorese benefiting from economic gains". 41 per cent poverty rate. "Pervasive and widespread" social, cultural and political exclusion (UNO). "Of the 75 per cent of the population living in rural areas, the majority remains entrenched in inter-generational cycles of poverty." (Magdalena Sepúlveda, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights).

The richest earn 180 times the wages of the poorest, there is a "two-track" development approach.

Figures...welcome to the international community, Timor Leste, one in which countries have their sovereign funds stolen and are invaded if they have any wealth.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey