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East Timor As Seen From Dublin

By Scoop's Correspondent In Eire -W.S. Sumpter

East Timor dominates the front pages of the press here as it does, no doubt, in New Zealand, and there is a clear sentiment that the United Nations has made another catastrophic mistake.

Though the news today that the militia have claimed to have called a ceasefire and the violence around the UN compound has lessened is seen as a step back towards credibility.

But the violence is the expression of a brutal regime that has been inflicting terror in the region for 24 years, and, as most people are now aware, with the silent, sometimes active, complicity of the same western Governments now condemning it.

For those 24 years Indonesia has been a good friend of western capital, kindly letting US and UK companies share in the spoils of their violence in places like West Papua.

Australia has benefited from oil in the Timor Sea.

The world's fourth largest country has been an excellent source of cheap labour and resources and a large purchaser of western arms.

You can't change history. But if Indonesia had invaded New Zealand its army would have killed close to one million of us by the time we made the front pages of the world's media. During 24 years of occupation the United States would have said nothing and many would have been killed by British bombs.

It is a system that places the ability of a few corporations to make money above the lives of some obscure inhabitants living on the eastern half of a small island that should be blamed, just as much as the UN, or any one evil army general.

Western Governments have never been any more in favour of an independent East Timor than the Indonesian military, and you can be sure they view the current crisis as an irritation, not as a chance to crusade for humanitarian values a la Tony Blair and kosovo.

In New Zealand we know the power of western capital for the way it has dispossessed the country of many of its assets and left thousands of people slaves to a market that couldn't give one hoot about their lives.

Lucky us we aren't worth more.

Of course the UN must accept responsibility for its failure and lack of foresight. But so too must all the western Government's that turned away from East Timor for 24 years for fear of hindering the opportunity to make money.

That includes New Zealand. It was only a matter of months ago defence Minister Max Bradford went on National Radio and defended his decision to continue the links between our military and the Indonesian military. The very same military currently killing innocents.

The only plausible reason for associating with murderous thugs must be to avoid upsetting them in case they decide not to buy our butter.

Foreign Minister Don McKinnon is still denying anything similar to East Timor is happening in other parts of Indonesia, presumably in an attempt to convince Jakarta that if it would just let go of East Timor it could continue its repression elsewhere.

The New Zealand Government has let us down and should be made to feel the same shame that we do at their cowardice and inaction for a quarter of a century. They should not be forgiven lightly.

And then there is the media who said nothing or next to nothing for so long.

Why did they say nothing? Because the politicians didn't?

In the meantime the diplomatic efforts to convince Jakarta to stop shooting people will go on, as will the shooting.

And the streets of Dili will become ever more the home only of ghosts and armed men.

The irony is of course that in the face of Indonesia's enormous army only the threat of western capital being withdrawn has any chance of convincing Indonesia to stop destroying East timor.

As one wise person said, raise your voice now.

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