Subject: NYT Editorial: Indonesia's Responsibility in East Timor
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 10:45:18 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

The New York Times April 23, 1999


Indonesia's Responsibility in East Timor

Deadly violence returned to East Timor last week, and militias backed by Indonesia's army are clearly to blame. Their goal is to thwart a plan by Indonesia's President, B. J. Habibie, to let Timor's people choose between autonomy and independence. A tentative cease-fire signed Tuesday is encouraging, but not enough. The United States and other countries must insist that Mr. Habibie disarm and disband the militias.

Indonesia's 1976 annexation of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor has never been recognized by the outside world or accepted by Timor's people. Mr. Habibie wisely recognized that an Indonesia struggling to recover from economic collapse and moving toward democratic elections would be better off letting East Timor go its own way. Indonesia and Portugal are negotiating arrangements for a vote on autonomy. If the Timorese vote no, Indonesia would concede independence. But this solution could fall apart if Jakarta fails to stop the militias, which have acted with the blessing of local army and police commanders. Washington must warn Indonesia that international loans could be suspended unless it acts.

The autonomy talks should also be completed quickly so that U.N. monitors can be sent.

These are critical days for East Timor. A strong international message to Jakarta can make a difference.

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