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WIPLF, Australia, letter on East Timor

8 September 1999

The situation for our near neighbours in East Timor has degenerated into chaos while the militias, backed and sometimes constituted by the Indonesian armed forces, continue to kill and burn and more recently bomb houses turning the people out of their homes and trucking them in thousands to West Timor.

The Australian Foreign Affairs Minister and Prime Minister both continue to press the US to be part of the coalition of willing nations who will contribute to the UN peacekeeping force which is being assembled - but still waiting on Djakarta for their agreement. New Zealand, Canada and the UK have already indicated that they will contribute troops towards this international force. The US has promised "logistical support" and help with transport.

There are already more than 15,000 Indonesian troops and police in East Timor with more arriving all the time. The East Timorese Resistance have shown remarkable restraint thus not allowing the Indonesians to claim that what is happening is a civil war. It clearly is not. It is a genocide in the making.

Resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao was released yesterday and is presently in the British Embassy in Djakarta. Bishop Belo has flown to Darwin and will fly from there to Rome at the weekend.

Rather than contacting the US Embassy here and pressing them for what our politicians are already working for so assiduously, we decided that it might be more useful to draw people's attention to the fact that despite their human rights rhetoric, the US Government intervenes when it suits US strategic interests. Thus we have sent the following letter to the editor to various national newspapers around Australia.

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Australian Section, GPO Box 2094 ADELAIDE SA 5001


Letters to the Editor

"The Courier Mail"

BRISBANE, Queensland

Dear Editor

It is understandable that Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs should express "disappointment" at the US response - or lack of it - to calls for the US to join an international peacekeeping force to halt the genocide in East Timor. Like Mr Downer, many Australians are asking questions about Australia's relationship with our so-called "key ally" in the light of this present prevarication. Cardinal Clancy, for instance, says that there is "dismay and anger throughout the country" about the lack of intervention. Why is the US prepared to intervene so massively in Kosovo, for instance, when it hesitates about East Timor?

As the US wavers about whether they are over-stretched, their rhetoric of intervening in Kosovo and in the Gulf "in defence of human rights" is exposed once more as a fašade. The US habitually does not intervene in defence of human rights; the US intervenes where and when it suits the strategic interests of US capital.

There are those who care about human rights and this includes many, many US citizens. It does not however, include the US Government, the US State Department or the Pentagon.

Australians will remember this: that, despite their rhetoric about human rights, the US Government intervenes to protect and further the economic interests of US corporations.

Mary Ziesak and Cathy Picone

Joint National Coordinators

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Australian Section

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