Alistair Reith on East Timor
During a debate on recent events in East Timor at indymedia, Dunedin socialist Alistair Reith has put forward an interpretation of Timorese history which will not, I think it's safe to say, meet with the approval of this blog's new friend-cum-corrections service in Dili. Contrary to what that fat old sod (it's his pseudonym, not my insult) might say, though, there are a few Timorese who would agree with the southern man. Here's Reith:
If you live in Dunedin, you should have come along to the film screening Solidarity did the other day, a John Pilger doco on East Timor [called Death of a Nation?]. The Australian, NZ, US, British, and just about every other govt in the world gave Suharto financial, diplomatic and even military support during his reign, at the very same time as he was oppressing ET and in the full knowledge that any weapons they sold him would be used to murder the Timorese people.
FRETILIN guerrillas, without any outside help or support, fought against the Indonesian occupation for the entire time, using captured weapons and ammunition, and propped up only by the support of the Timorese people and the knowledge that they were fighting for a just cause.
Eventually, in the late 90s, Suharto was overthrown, and in the ensuing disorder FRETILIN forces turned the tide and began to push back the occupying forces.
Australia was alarmed by this. It had done well from Suharto's occupation of East Timor, for example the signing of a treaty with Suharto's government that gave it the right to exploit the massive oil and natural gas reserves off the coast of East Timor. Needless to say, the Timorese people were not consulted over the theft of their natural resources.
It obviously didn't like the idea of a leftist, militant national liberation group which had condemned it for supporting the occupation and stealing the Timorese people's resources taking power.
So, by this time it's obvious that independence is coming, whether Australia and it's fellow imperialist buddies like it or not. So now they have the choice between independence on the Timorese people's terms, with a transitional revolutionary FRETILIN government in charge, and in all likelihood nationalisation of the Timorese people's resources, or they have the choice of independence on THEIR terms. Take a guess which option they chose...
An Australian led and UN backed military force then invaded East Timor. It was obvious that FRETILIN had the Indonesian army and the pro-Indonesia paramilitaries on the back foot by now, but hey, obviously the rich white man knows what's best. Their first actions were to DISARM FRETILIN FORCES, and intern them unarmed in concentration camps. They did NOT disarm the pro-Indonesia paramilitaries, they didn't even TRY to do so, and the paras were left free to go on a murderous rampage throughout East Timor for the next wee while.
It's very similar, actually, to what the US did to Cuba in the Spanish-American War, where the Cuban people had been fighting Spain for about 20 years and had almost won, when the US suddenly invaded and made sure that Cuban independence was on THEIR terms.
This was no "liberation". The Timorese people could have and would have won that for themselves, and if we really wanted to help them do so we would have supported them in it. Instead, imperialism invaded and made sure that the newly independent state would not get too uppity, and that all their business investments would be kept secure. Who cares about the needs of the Timorese people so long as Australian and New ZEaland capitalists are kept happy? Today East Timor is one of the poorest nations in the world, despite it's huge natural wealth, which is instead ruthlessly exploited by foreign capitalists.