Subject: AHRO: Open Letter


Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão
President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Your Excellency

Never, during the years of solidarity with East Timor's struggle against the Indonesian occupation, never could I, or would I have imagined you, the once charismatic Timorese FALINTIL hero, promise that East Timor would lobby the US congress in February 2005 about withdrawing the embargo on Indonesian military requirements. How quickly the mighty fall in our estimation and in their ethics.

I confess that I was shocked to see you embracing Wiranto, shocked to hear your opposition to an international rights tribunal. But these are internal matters for Timor and up to the Timorese to protest. However, your offer to lobby for the US resumption of military cooperation impacts on the lives of the Achehnese and West Papuans, and on their behalf, I strongly protest.

As recently as 26 November 2004, you stated "The Timorese people experienced all the horrors of war and of systematic violence and this contributed immensely to their understanding that peace is a basic right of every human being and consequently, of every people." Once your words would have resonated with the highest of principles, but now they ring with hollow hypocrisy and pathos.

It is bad enough when governments who have not experienced Indonesian military brutality support or have military ties with Indonesia, but it is obscene when you and the government of Timor Leste, who have had first hand experience of the same massacres, extrajudicial executions, torture, disappearances, rapes, arbitrary detentions that innocent Achehnese and West Papuans suffer at present, betray the people of Acheh and West Papua.

And that your offer to lobby is made post-tsunami beggars belief exploiting for Timor’s own political ends the double tragedies the Achehnese suffer: bereavement of the hundreds and thousands of deaths in the tsunami catastrophe, and the killings by the Indonesian security forces. The former unintentional, the latter of deadly intent.

While the resumption of military ties is supposedly for spare parts for planes, in July and November 2004, Acheh Human Rights Online sent out urgent appeals against air-strikes using US- made OV-10 Broncos against GAM strongholds killing innocent farmers and displacing hundreds of villagers. You, above all, would know that GAM, Acheh's national liberation army, is the equivalent of FALINTIL which you once commanded and that lifting the US military embargo will have a terrible impact on GAM fighters and their armed struggle against 'a despotic and murderous regime'.

Why the about face of your principles? Has Timor Leste's security been severely threatened by the Indonesian government or has the US or Australian governments threatened to withdraw aid? Or, is it the pragmatism of trade?

But if, as according to the speaker of the DPR, Agung Laksono, it is a Timor Leste government initiative: "They initiated it themselves after seeing the situation in Aceh. . .because according to you, “There are a lot of military needs that Indonesia cannot fulfil because, among other things, their planes need to be fixed and there are no spare parts," (Joyo Indonesia News 28-1-05) then the sacrifice of Acheh and West Papua is unconscionable.

Sincerely Dr Vacy Vlazna
Coordinator, Acheh Human Rights Online Australia

(Former Convenor of East Timor Justice Lobby and Australia East Timor Association )

Mr Jose Ramos Horta
Foreign Minister
Timor Leste

Dear Minister,

So, you are going to lobby the US Congress to lift the embargo and restrictions concerning military equipment supplies to Indonesia in the full knowledge of the terrible consequences the Achehnese and West Papuans will suffer as a result:

In your words:

"The Indonesian army was part of the Suharto regime and is equally responsible for the mismanagement of the country's resources, an accomplice in the corruption and nepotism that ate away the public funds. It has a lot to answer for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in East Timor, West Papua and Aceh." (INTERNATIONAL PHYSICIANS FOR PREVENTION OF NUCLEAR WAR XIII World Congress, Melbourne, Australia, 6 December 1998)

"But the Indonesian military are part of the problem in East Timor and elsewhere in the region. Unless countries like the United Kingdom take drastic action, freeze financial assistance, freeze all military co-operation, we are going to continue to see for a long time this army operating with impunity in East Timor, in Aceh, where thousands of people have been slaughtered over the years, where this vicious violence is going on, in West Papua where an indigenous people have been slaughtered for decades now." (BBC August 27, 1999)

'The resumption of U.S. military aid or training to Jakarta now would be a "disaster" in view of the chaos in Aceh and West Papua, Ramos-Horta warned. "It would be like jumping onto a sinking boat or into a house on fire," (Washington Post, December 22, 2000)

West Papua is a shameful case of international abandonment and betrayal,' says Ramos Horta . 'What is being done to the people of West Papua is what was being done in the Americas, in Argentina, Chile or in Australia, on the arrival of the Europeans - simply disposing of, killing off, the local inhabitants. This is happening right now, at the end of the twentieth century, and the world is guilty for what's happening. Not only Indonesia; Australia, New Zealand, the United States - all are guilty, humanity is guilty for what is happening to the West Papuans.' ( New Internationalist Jan- feb 1998)

BETRAYALl! Remember the old days when we in solidarity with East Timor wondered how Gough Whitlam, Gareth Evans et al slept at night? Well, now you know.

Let me remind you of your just contempt for the betrayals by the Australian government:

“East Timor resistance leader Jose Ramos Horta said Sunday Australia's foreign policies were morally bankrupt and devoid of new ideas after Canberra gave its support to Indonesian military chief General Wiranto. The 1996 Nobel peace prize winner said the move highlighted a government lacking courage. "Australia's foreign policy is morally bankrupt, devoid of new ideas, devoid of courage," he said in Sydney. . . .Ramos Horta, who lives in exile, said Australia should cease military cooperation with Indonesia until it had achieved genuine democracy. "The problem with Australia is that instead of supporting democracy -- and democracy means that the army must get out of politics in Indonesia -- it goes on embracing the same people that kept Suharto in power for 32 years," he said. "Embracing the same thugs who are responsible for the genocide in East Timor, the killings of the students in Jakarta." (AFP Nov 29 1998)

A highly respected Achehnese in exile wrote to me: “Can you tell me what's the matter with this man? He has been asking the US to restore military support for Indonesia, telling everyone to help Indonesia militarily to crush GAM, he has been the best spokesman for Indonesian military. He opposes bringing to court those Indonesian generals involved in the atrocities in East Timor.…is he thinking that now that his people is free the rest of the world can go to hell?”

Back in July 2002, when you first suggested Acheh and West Papua accept Indonesia’s ‘genuine’ offer of autonomy, while surprised, the benefit of the doubt was gleaned by such clues as "No government in this country should ever be imprudent or foolish enough to offer sympathy or support for Papua or Aceh's quest for independence," for it was generally assumed that there had been Indonesian threats against Timor’s security. An Indonesian directed-script also seemed apparent in the later gesture of: "We particularly support permanent membership status for Indonesia because we believe in the need for balanced representation within the Security Council which will encompass all the world's major civilizations and faiths," he told the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting of national leaders on Wednesday.” (29 September 2004)

Sadly, in your rush to distance Timor from Acheh and West Papua your good reputation and moral high horse have been traded for a diplomatic donkey. The following statement contradicts the noble rhetoric of an earlier speech: "East Timor was therefore separate from any other claims within the Indonesian Republic. In the 24 years of our struggle . . . we never once said that we support self-determination equally for Aceh or Irian Jaya (Papua)." (The Age April 26, 2002)

From the Chittagon Hill Tracts in Bangladesh to Bougainville in the South Pacific, from Sri Lanka to India, from Chechnya to Abkhazia, from the Ogoni in Nigeria to the West Papuans, millions of peoples seek to assert their most fundamental rights and if we attempt to

find a common denominator for the problems I have just listed there is one: the right of these peoples to self- determination ( underling mine)….The events of the last few months in West Papua illustrate my point. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a chance I would advise you to see an excellent documentary by Claudio Von Planta on the West Papuan struggle, entitled Rebels of a Forgotten War. The documentary records the colonisation of West Papua by its new coloniser, Indonesia, and decades of brutalities and destruction of their environment and wealth, the threat to their survival as a people by a strategy of population transfer. The problem of West Papua will not go away and the West Papuans are learning to be more effective both on the home front and internationally and will pose an even greater problem for Jakarta than East Timor. The conflict in West Papua has grown from bad to worse since its annexation in 1969 because the anger in the hearts of the people stems from desperation at seeing their very existence threatened. But no outside force has ever offered that impoverished people any moral or material support. Indonesia must look in East Timor, in Aceh and West Papua for the roots of the problems it faces. (An address to The Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, London, 23 April 1996.)

The hypocrisy gets worse when you plead with the Australian government to grant asylum for the Timorese refugees who no longer fear persecution but refuse point blank asylum for real refugees from very real persecution and slaughter by Indonesian security forces backed by Indonesian government policies:

Dili´s interim foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta, appealed to Australia Thursday to reverse course and allow about 1,600 East Timorese refugees remain in the country. Despite the "absolute peacefulness" of East Timor today, Ramos Horta told Lusa he was "appealing" to Canberra for a "gesture of solidarity".(LUSA 27 Dec 01 )

"We can assure our Indonesian neighbours, brothers and sisters, that East Timor is not going to be a haven for anyone in Indonesia who wishes to dismember the Republic of Indonesia," he said. (The Age April 26, 2002)

OK, it’s one thing to suggest to Acheh and West Papua to accept autonomy, but why minimize the legitimacy of their right to self-determination?

In 1942, after the expulsion of Dutch forces from Acheh by the Japanese and Achehnese, and in 1945 after the Achehnese drove invading Dutch troops under Allied protection from Acheh and Medan, the Netherlands made no attempt to return to Acheh. Therefore in 1949 the Netherlands illegally handed over a non-existent sovereignty over Acheh to the Republic of Indonesia without Achehnese consent When the treaty was signed, Acheh enjoyed its sovereignty as an independent state. Portugal abandoned East Timor in 1975, East Timor did not go through a de-colonization process; therefore the seven-year abandonment by the Dutch would also entitle Acheh to the same process.

“West Papuans say their misery began with a UN-assisted vote [in the so-called Act of Free Choice] in 1969 in which 1,022 elders were bribed and intimidated into supporting the territory's assimilation into Indonesia. The elders, who were deemed to represent all one million West Papuans, voted unanimously in what is now known as the Act of No Choice. A UN official who oversaw the event has since described it as a whitewash, but at the time it was passed over by the UN general assembly, under pressure from a US administration bent on ensuring Indonesia did not sway towards communism.” (Irish Times April 26 2004)

You deserve the utmost respect for the many years of dogged championing of Timor's right to independence; in that regard the past is indelible. However it is thoroughly disillusioning to see your government’s betrayal of the people of Acheh and West Papua soiling the international image of East Timor and betraying, surrendering its principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms for every people. To think I once thought Orwell’s Animal Farm a mere children’s fable.

So what is the truth behind the betrayals? Either Timor hasn’t won its freedom from Indonesia or Timor Leste’s government is freely betraying Acheh and West Papua for pragmatic reasons. The latest Timor government initiative to lobby the US to lift the embargo and restrictions concerning military equipment supplies to Indonesia regretfully makes it more difficult to shake the image of pragmatic pigs on hind legs.


Dr Vacy Vlazna
Coordinator, Acheh Human Rights Online

(Former Convenor of East Timor Justice Lobby and Australia East Timor Association )


Back to February menu 
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from