In December 1975 Indonesia invaded the ex-Portuguese Colony of East Timor. In December 1989, 14 years later, Australia signed the Timor Gap treaty with Indonesia, putting profits from oil resources above principles. In signing the treaty Australia has acknowledged Indonesia as having the authority to make such a treaty despite the continuing battle by the people of East Timor for self determination.
In September 1988, Australia and Indonesia announced a zone of cooperation for the exploration of oil resources in the Timor Gap. The Timor Gap is an an oil rich area a little to the south of East Timor. Prior to 1975 a dispute existed between Portugal and Australia over the maritime boundary between East Timor and Australia. When Indonesia annexed East Timor it inherited this dispute. However negotiations stalled because of Australia’s initial stand refusing the recognise Indonesia’s illegal occupation of East Timor. But when a 1977 study on the oil potential of the Timor Gap revealed that the area could contain twice as much oil as Bass Strait the lure of profits provided an excuse for the Australian Government to seek an alibi for caving in on the question of the invasion.
The multinational companies, such as Woodside Petroleum, BHP, Shell, BP, Western Mining and Elf Aquitaine, with frozen exploration permits in the Timor Gap don’t give a hoot about the loss of life and suppression of basic human rights in East Timor. They wanted the dispute settled.
By 1978 Australia backed off from refusing to recognise Indonesia’s occupation by recognising that Indonesia had de facto control over East Timor. In February 1979 de jure recognition was granted to Indonesia when the Australian government into into negotiations with them over sea bed boundaries. The Australian and Indonesian Governments along with the big business pirates have betrayed the people of East Timor with the final signing of this treaty a decade later.
But the East Timorese people, represented by Fretilin, will not stop struggling for independence and the left in Australia must continue to call for Indonesia to get out or better still for the East Timorese to throw them out. East Timor, The Hidden War is an excellent resource giving clear background information to this long struggle for justice. The 34 page booklet graphically describes East Timor as a ‘nation imprisoned’ and looks at conditions in East Timor today under the brutal Suharto regime. The second section chronicles the international sell out and cover up of the invasion and the many orchestrated visits designed to convince the world that the East Timorese people were very happy to be a part of Indonesia. The third section, International Responses, looks at both acts of solidarity towards the East Timorese people alongside acts of betrayal and the final section calls for a just solution to the war in East Timor. I believe the only just solution is for Indonesia to get out of East Timor and for an act of self determination to take place. The East Timorese people also need to make strong links with those opposed to the Suharto regime inside Indonesia.
East Timor, The Hidden War features a useful chronology of events, an international list of organisations campaigning for East Timorese Independence, a list of further resources about the struggle and segments at the end of each section on what the reader can do.