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Subject: SMH: Timor moves.......
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 1998 11:14:19 +1000
From: "Geoff McKee" <>

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Date: Thursday, 11 June, 1998


-titled "Timor moves"

INDONESIA'S president, Dr B.J. Jabibie, says he is willing to consider some form of special status for East Timor if East Timorese rebels lay down their arms and the United Nations recognises Indonesia's sovereignty over the territory. These conditions are unlikely to be met. But this first sign of movement in Jakarta's thinking over East Timor may not be President Habibie's last word on the issue.

The passing of the Soeharto era offers the best possible time to deal with unfinished business in East Timor, to draw a line under its unhappy recent past and help secure its peaceful future. The unfinished business is the act of self-determination which should have taken place under UN auspices after Indonesian troops invaded East Timor in 1975, when Portuguese authority in the colony collapsed. The stage-managed act of self-determination conducted by the Indonesian authorities in 1976 has never been recognised by the UN, which still considers East Timor to be Portuguese territory.

Australia's position on East Timor has long been problematical. Its recognition of Indonesian annexation, however justified it might once have seemed on pragmatic grounds, can no longer be seen that way. Also, many Australians are ashamed that their country, having benefited from the risks ordinary East Timorese took to protect Australian soldiers from the Japanese during World War II, has turned its back on them and chosen instead to support Indonesia's forcible annexation of their country.

The Australian Government might find it very difficult now or at any time to take the lead in righting the wrongs done to the people of East Timor. But it should at least encourage Dr Habibie in his new thinking on the territory and do nothing to impede other international efforts to ensure a free act of self-determination is allowed to the people of East Timor. If the consequence of that is independence for East Timor, Australia should welcome it. Neither the inconvenience of revising the border treaties nor concern about the possible balkanisation of Indonesia should deflect Australia from this. The inconvenience of revising border treaties is nothing compared to the freedom of a whole nation, as East Timor might well claim to be. And the balkanisation of Indonesia is extremely unlikely. Rather there is a strong argument that a resolution of the East Timor problem through independence would strengthen, not weaken Indonesia.

------------------------ Poster's comment:

For "border treaties" in above Editorial, we can infer "Timor Gap Treaty".

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