AFTER 23 bloody years it seems that Timor is about to get its independence, or is it? Far from being a response to pressure from below, these latest proposals from Habibie have come from above – from the Clinton-led US insisting that Indonesia resolve its human rights problem in Timor and find a 'political solution' in the name of 'democracy'.
Or is this a suberfuge to mount a civil war? A civil war would make a referendum difficult and even defeat an independence vote.
Indonesia may pull out its troops but it has been arming anti-independence para militaries for the last few months. Reports carried in the Australian Green Left Weekly stated that Indonesian troops are reactivating the paramilitaries and "planning to distribute 20,000 weapons". Some of the paramilitaries are from outside East Timor, but many are unemployed and displaced East Timorese.
We can be forgiven for some cynicism. How did the situation in East Timor arise? Can it be the world's no 1 imperialist power is about to give away any rights to super-exploit this small Pacific Island just like any other?
In 1974 Portugal was kicked out of its African colonies and out of East Timor by Fretilin the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor. Within months 30,000 Indonesian troops invaded the country and established the bloody regime that has lasted for nearly 25 years against the opposition of the people and their resistance movement.
Some 200,000 thousand people, about a third of the original population, have died during the occupation. Their leaders have been assassinated or like Xanana Gusmao, imprisoned.
Why then, after nearly 25 years do Habibie and other political leaders including the Foreign Minister Ali Alatas- talk of as referendum on independence? Is this for real or is there some fly in the ointment? Maybe Habibie is hoping that the thousands of migrants who have been re-settled in East Timor will swing the balance. Maybe he hopes that armed right wing factions will disrupt the referendum and defeat a vote for independence?
Is this a victory for the democracy movement in Indonesia that forced the resignation of Suharto and is pressing for major constitutional changes? Or is it merely a ploy to delude the masses into accepting a few cosmetic changes under the name of 'human rights' while the old regime of brutal capitalist rule continues
There is no doubt that the US wants to keep the Habibie regime in power so that it can deliver on the IMF deal imposed after Indonesia's economic collapse last year. To do this without imposing a Suharto type military regime, Habibie has to appear the democrat and head off Sukarnoputri and the movement for democratic reforms.
This is why the U.S. Senate recently passed a resolution calling on Indonesia to introduce democratic reforms including the self-determination of East Timor.
Workers should not be taken in by the promotion of human rights by the US. The nature of US imperialism has not changed since 1965 when if backed and partly funded Suharto's bloody coup and his ruthless slaughter of up to one million workers and peasants who were in the Communist Party or happened to be Chinese. The US did not object to the invasion of East Timor either.
Nor did the US allies in the South Pacific Australia and New Zealand. They dutifully lined up behind the US and refused to question the role of Indonesia or support the right to self-determination of the East Timoreans.
NZ support in 1975.
It was hardly an accident that on the very day that Indonesia dispatched its troops to East Timor, December. 6, 1975, President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger were visiting Jakarta.
As Chomsky points out, this was not surprising – the US had already engineered the overthrow of Sukarno when he told them "Go to hell with your aid". Sukarno had had enough of US bribery and corruption, and CIA subversion and dirty tricks under the pretext of "aid". Behind this humanitarian smokescreen the US was preparing to replace Sukarno with Suharto in 1965 and launch a massive massacre of workers, peasants and communists.
By 1975 the US made no secret of its growing alarm that Indonesia could still be the next state to fall to the wicked communism after Vietnam. The US had just lost its war in Indochina. Vietnam and Cambodia had fallen to the dreaded "communism". The US was paranoid about East Timor falling to the Fretilin and becoming a new "Cuba" of the Pacific. It would become a beacon for all other liberation and anti-imperialist movements in the region and So for the second time in a decade, the US sponsored an anti-communist pogrom – this time the suppression of Fretelin.
The payoff of this decade of blood for US imperialism was the virtual destruction of one of the most powerful working class movements in Asia. This has allowed an unchallenged ripping off of massive super profits it has pumped out of Indonesia for 25 years. Hungry for the rich pickings of oil timber and other mineral, Mobil, Atlantic Richfield, Tenneco, Union Carbide, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Alcoa, Freeport Sulphur and Uniroyal made big killings. Cheap labour also attracted US, and other MNCs, like Nike into clothing and footwear production.
Indonesia's recent crisis has only made US (and other imperialist companies) even more hungry for control over its rich resources and labour. The collapse of the economy had nothing to do with Indonesia's potential wealth. It was caused by a combination of corruption at the top (Suharto's family ripped off US$50 billion) and the greed of US (and other banks) for a larger share of the wealth.
Under the current regime of IMF imposed austerity, the opportunity for US banks and firms to take complete control of Indonesia's economy is what is behind the US campaign for human rights. It is a democratic smokescreen behind which US interests will takeover the whole economy.
This in the final analysis is what explains the about turn of the US and its regional client states, Australia and New Zealand on East Timor. The assets and resources of the region which are currently jointly managed with the Indonesian state will be privatised and bought-up by the giant MNC's as part of the IMF plan to restore the Indonesian economy. The most profitable carve-up will be Pertamina which oversees the huge oil fields in the Timor
Carving up Pertamina.
Pertamina, Indonesia's state owned oil monopoly is about to be broken up and privatised. The Dec 24, 1998, Far Eastern Economic Review reports "as the spirit of reform spreads in Indonesia," legislation is working its way through the parliament that would break up Pertamina's monopoly in refining, distributing and selling oil. The resulting competition—from foreign oil companies—will help the government "peel away subsidies that provide Indonesians with some of the world's cheapest petrol, diesel fuel and kerosene."
The drive to break up Pertamina is coming from foreign investors who criticize it as corrupt and inefficient. One executive at a Western oil company said, "What we want is Pertamina off our backs so we can regain control of our businesses."..."Pertamina's backers are taking shelter behind a web of laws rooted in the 1945 constitution," says the Review, "stipulating that Indonesia's natural resources belong to the state and that economic areas affecting people's livelihood shouldn't be in private hands."
It is obvious that the US oil sisters like Mobil and Atlantic Richfield using the racist attacks on Asian values and Suharto's corruption to justify their takeover of the nationalised oil industry. In their mad rush to cream off the super-profits from oil they are being cheered on by their little brothers and sisters in the South Pacific – Australia and New Zealand.
No faith in the US-Indonesia fake independence moves!
No Indonesian or UN sponsored referendum!
For immediate release of all political prisoners! Return all refugees!
For the immediate removal of all Indonesian troops!
For the immediate disarming of anti-independence paramilitaries!
For the formation of Workers and Peasants councils and armed militia!
From Class Struggle No 26 March-April 1999