Steve's Adventures in Indonesia -- East Timor comment

This page was the front page for my Indonesia story from September till December 17 1999,
and is on black background in mourning for all those murdered in East Timor.

On August 30, 1999 Indonesia held a referendum in East Timor for the people to choose whether they wanted to become an autonomous province of Indonesia or an independant nation.

On September 5 1999 the UN announced that of over 98% who voted, over 78% chose Independence.

Since then, we see every night on the TV news, reports of abominable atrocities in East Timor, carried out by "militia" who Golkar's Darusman acknowledges it is commonly known were created by the military.

I'm listening to ABC News Radio -- a constantly updating stream of information about the Timor Leste situation . . . A Catholic Sister, Ann Forbes, telling horrible stories. I'm crying with her.

I went to the rally for a Free East Timor in Perth today, in my job as sound recordist for ABC-TV News. I had the chance to speak with a few of the folk there. I fought the tears that tried to come. Then the Ch 7 cammeraman came over and joked that he was looking for his free East Timor, like he'd missed a bargain. I couldn't possibly hit him -- you get like that in the job if you're not careful.

The UN's Kofi Annan has just been reported as saying Indonesia must allow peace keepers in or risk being held guilty for crimes against humanity. Unions worldwide are imposing bans on Indonesia.

I've been meaning to put some sort of caveat on this site since the atrocities started, but was finally prompted by an abusive email from an anonymous person today.

Indonesia IS a beautiful country. Most of the people _I'VE_ met there have warmed my heart. This week especially (and any time I think about East Timor) I am in trauma. Indonesia is such a complicated country to try to understand. I love it and am horrified at the same time. Just as I would be if I suddenly found out that my wonderful loving mother was also a sadistic mass murderer. I would still love her, but how do you start to understand ? ? ?

After listening for seven days to an unfolding horror story I'm sure there is so much more we're not being told. "Lebih baik mati dari pada menanggung malu" -- better dead than embarrassed. That's the Indonesian way.

Will we ever know the full story?

Here's the ABC News Page for East Timor. There are other good sites, including the BBC, but from an Australian perspective, the ABC's continual updating is great. There's more info there than you can get in a single browsing session, and when you come back it's all been updated. Please have a look.

And when you finish, please come back and have a look at some of my pictures. If the wonderful Indonesian people were allowed to see what is really going on they wouldn't allow it to continue. I believe this.

The editor of Jakarta Pos said on the Sunday program that over 90% of respondants to an online poll were in support of sending in peace keepers.

Last night I heard President B J Habibie announce the decision to allow UN peace keepers in. This is the beginning of the end of the dispute, and the beginning of the rebirth of the Independant East Timor.

I probably won't need to add to this page now, but I'll leave it in place until things have settled down.

Now here's the rest of the site . . .

© Steve Gill -- 18 December 1999