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Britain covered up murders of 5 journalists in 1975 invasion of East Timor LONDON (UK) - The British government tacitly backed Indonesia's 1975 occupation of East Timor and sought to cover up the subsequent murder of two British journalists by the invaders, according to newly declassified documents and media reports. "Certainly ... it is in Britain's interest that Indonesia should absorb (East Timor) as soon and as unobtrusively as possible; and that if it comes to the crunch and there is a row in the United Nations we should keep our heads down and avoid siding against the Indonesian Government," said a dispatch from British Ambassador John A. Ford in Jakarta on the eve of Indonesia's invasion of East Timor on Dec. 5, 1975.

The documents were made public this week by the Washington-based National Security Archive think tank at George Washington University. "What's important in these documents is that they help establish responsibility for the invasion of East Timor," Brad Simpson, a history professor who heads the organization's East Timor documentation center, said Wednesday.

"They reveal not just the tacit support but active and enthusiastic backing by the U.S., British and Australian governments for Indonesia's invasion of East Timor and also the consistent effort to dismiss reports of Indonesian atrocities there." A Foreign Office spokesman in London refused to comment Wednesday on the documents. Indonesia's strongman Gen. Suharto decided to invade after the collapse in East Timor of Portuguese colonial rule following a bloodless revolution in April 1974 that toppled 48 years of right-wing dictatorship.

East Timor had declared independence from Portugal, but it was not recognized by Jakarta or by Western governments. The Indonesian invasion was tacitly sanctioned by then-U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who both met with Suharto in Jakarta a day before the massive land, sea and air assault, documents show.

The small East Timorese army was unable to fight off the invaders but managed to organize a 24-year resistance to the occupation that resulted in the deaths of some 200,000 Timorese -- a third of the population -- and about 10,000 Indonesian troops. The war ended in 1999, a year after Suharto's ouster from power, when the United Nations organized a referendum on independence. The East Timorese overwhelmingly voted in favor of freedom, and after a period of U.N. administration, the territory gained full independence in 2002.

In October 1975, Indonesian special forces conducting covert raids into East Timor in preparation for the December attack murdered five journalists working for Australian media outlets in the border town of Balibo. The victims -- known as the Balibo Five -- included two Britons working for Australian television. Witnesses said they were executed to prevent the outside world from learning about Indonesia's actions, which Jakarta portrayed as clashes between pro-Indonesian Timorese civilians and repressive government forces.

According to a report Wednesday in The Times newspaper, Ambassador Ford asked the Australian Embassy in Jakarta to refrain from pressing the Indonesians for details of their deaths. "Since we, in fact, know what happened to the newsmen it is pointless to go on demanding information from the Indonesians which they cannot, or are unwilling to provide," Ford wrote.



Posted in General @ 01 December 2005 07:15 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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