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East Timor - Never Again


27 Sept 1999

Letter to the Editor sent to Canadian newspapers, it was forwarded with a message that anyone who wishes to base their own Letter/s on it are most welcome to do so.


Dear Editor, Finally, after 24 years of genocide in East Timor, with the acquiescence of the Canadian government, the massacres there are front page news. At least one thousand people have been killed since East Timor voted for independence under UN auspices in August. Political and religious leaders seem to be most targetted. An example: A nun, Canossian Sr Margarida, who has been described as: " . about 80 years old, walks slowly, yet has an incredible degree of energy. She spends most of the day playing with young children, in the garden of Bishop Belo - ... totally uninvolved in politics, devoted to helping children and to prayer". Killed.

Probably most Canadians read this and feel some despair, that there is nothing we could do to stop the murders. They may also feel some gratefulness that such things are not happening here, where we live.

I look back over our record as a nation, and feel deep shame. Let us resolve that these deaths not be in vain. Let us truly say, NEVER AGAIN.

Canada always abstained or voted against UN resolutions recognizing East Timor independence and right to humanitarian aid, Canada continued to sell arms to Indonesia, even though we knew the Indonesian government had starved or killed one third of East Timor's population after it invaded East Timor in 1975. Canada wined and dined Indonesia's President Suharto (whose government was repsonsible for the genocide) at the Vancouver APEC summit, and kept him and other leaders of repressive regimes protected from having to even see the protesters who were exercising their democratic right to try to make the truth known to a too complacent society. Some of the protesters were arrested (having committed no crime), some were pepper-sprayed, many have paid a stiff price, continuing to try to hold our deceitful federal government to account for its actions.

Canada and the US acted this way because, as one Western diplomat stated early this September, "The dilemma is that Indonesia matters and East Timor doesn't." In other words, there is money to be made in sucking up to the brutal Indonesian regime, but none to be made supporting the basic human rights of the people of East Timor (or Iraq, etc., etc.)

Our official stance is all the more disgusting when juxtaposed with how we reacted to the situation in Kosovo. As Nobel Prize winner Josť Ramos-Horta stated in April, "but I am really amazed, appalled at the statement issued by the Canadian Foreign Minister, who took a strong stand on Kosovo, [while ] in the case of East Timor, where a genocide has been going on for 23 years, the foreign minister has only the following to say: "I am deeply concerned about recent events in Dili and in Liquica." ............. Doesn't he have any shame to pretend to be so vocal on Kosovo and to make this disgraceful statement on East Timor when children, women are slaughtered in a churchyard, in the capital, right under the nose, the eyes of everyone. What an audacity, what an hypocrisy. -- Josť Ramos-Horta

What does it mean to say: NEVER AGAIN? It means, since the mass media does not tell us about what we could be doing to help bring peace and justice to this world, we must find alternate sources of information. We must support the activists who produce and distribute this information for they are part of an essential global society which must now emerge and we must use the information to make our governments act to end their complicity with killing. If this means that we will no longer be able to buy things like Nike running shoes (made in Indonesia, or some other place where the workers are horribly exploited and environmental concerns disregarded) then so be it!

It means, opening our eyes and opening our hearts to imagine how it feels to be a victim of slaughter. It means taking the time to learn about the consequences of our foreign affairs and trade policies. It means questioning global economic priorities which ride rough shod over 50 years of UN policies set in motion to protect humanity and the environment. It means taking action on the basis of what is right even if we seem, in the short term, to be swimming against the tide.

Jan Slakov, Weymouth, Canada.

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