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Konformist: Greed At Core Of Indonesia's Timor Problem

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  • Robalini@aol.com
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com http://www.konformist.com/1999/etimor.htm
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 7, 1999
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.


      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      Released September 22, 1999

      The Wisdom Fund, P. O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202
      Website: http://www.twf.org --
      Press Contact: Enver Masud

      Greed At Core Of Indonesia's Timor Problem
      by Enver Masud

      WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At its core the problem of East
      Timor, and indeed much of Indonesia, has a lot to do
      with greed rather than the Muslim-Christian divide
      portrayed in the media.

      From ancient times until the 7th century AD Indonesia
      was ruled by various Hindu kingdoms among which the
      Majapahit Empire became the most powerful. Sumatra was
      then known as the "island of gold, and Java as the
      "rice island."

      Muslim traders began arriving in the 13th century, and
      Islam spread peacefully through the islands. The
      descendants of the Hindu kingdoms retreated to the
      islands of Bali and Lombok where they flourish to this

      With the fall of Muslim Spain in 1492 (as in the
      Americas, Africa, and South Asia), came 350 years of
      brutal colonial rule and exploitation. First to arrive
      were the Portuguese in 1511 AD. The Portuguese were
      followed by the Dutch (1602 to 1799 AD), the British
      (1811 to 1815 AD), and again the Dutch (1816 to 1908

      The colonial masters took slaves, forced the natives
      to grow crops for export which resulted in famines,
      and destroyed the thriving inter-island trade.

      By 1908 nationalist movements began seeking
      self-government, and Indonesia declared independence
      on August 17, 1947. Sukarno, a leader of the
      independence movement, became president. He was
      overthrown in 1965 by Suharto in a U.S. backed
      military coup in which it is reported that one million
      people, mainly Chinese, were killed.

      When the Dutch and Portuguese formally partitioned
      East Timor between them in the 19th century, East
      Timor remained a part of the Portuguese colony. The
      governor of Portuguese Timor, in 1974, granted
      permission for political parties, and five emerged.

      Said to be lacking popular support Fretilin, the party
      seeking independence, resorted to terror, civil war
      broke out, and on August 27, 1975 the governor and
      Portuguese officials abandoned the capital Dili. The
      U.S. armed, trained Indonesian military entered East
      Timor to stop a civil war.

      Fretilin, supplied with arms from the Portuguese army
      arsenal, declared East Timor independent. The four
      other parties in East Timor declared their
      independence and integration with Indonesia. East
      Timor became the 27th province of Indonesia, but this
      claim was not recognized by the UN.

      Rich in natural resources, Indonesia's primary problem
      is the equitable sharing of these resources. Foreign
      interests, and internal corruption, add to the
      inherent difficulty that while Java is Indonesia's
      most heavily populated island, many of the resources
      are located in less populated islands.

      According to former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia,
      Edward Masters, Indonesia did more in 35 years to
      develop barren, infertile East Timor than Portugal did
      in four centuries.

      Indonesia allocated development funds to East Timor at
      a rate six times the national average. In 1975, less
      than 10% of Timorese were literate, there were only 50
      schools, and no colleges. By 1994 East Timor had 600
      elementary schools, 90 middle schools and three
      colleges. Under the Portuguese East Timor had only two
      hospitals and 14 health clinics. By 1994 there were 10
      hospitals and nearly 200 village health centers. In
      1975 it had 20 km hard surfaced roads, by 1994 there
      were 500 km. The number of Catholic Churches in
      predominantly Catholic East Timor quadrupled under
      Indonesian rule

      But Fretilin continued to resist Indonesian rule, and
      offshore oil discoveries made matters worse.

      A treaty was signed in 1989 by Australia and
      Indonesia. This Timor Gap Treaty came into force in
      1991 and is due for review in 2031. Australia
      desperately needs this oil, and massive revenues are
      said to flow to both governments. Independence for
      East Timor would likely give it a larger share of
      these revenues.

      The division of natural resources is also at the core
      of secessionist movements in Aceh, Irian Jaya, and in
      the neighboring Philippines.

      On Aceh in 1971 Mobil Oil discovered one of the
      world's richest onshore reserves of natural gas,
      estimated at 40 billion cubic metres. Aceh provides an
      estimated 11% of Indonesia's total exports, but less
      than 10% of this wealth is reinvested in the province.
      Mobil Oil, is reported to have caused massive
      environmental damage, and is said to be linked to the
      Indonesian military's land seizures, bombings, and

      On Irian Jaya military repression, and massive
      environmental damage has been linked to Freeport
      McMoRan, a Louisiana corporation.

      In April 1967 Freeport McMoRan became the first
      foreign company granted an operating permit following
      the 1965-66 U.S.-backed coup that installed General
      Suharto. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry
      Kissinger is credited with having introduced company
      officials to President Suharto. It is reported that
      Mr. Kissinger sits on Freeport's board, earning
      $500,000 a year, and Freeport also retains his law
      firm, Kissinger and Associates, for a reputed $200,000
      a year.

      In 1999 Freeport McMoRan received approval to almost
      double production, which will increase land seizures
      and environmental damage.

      With reserves valued at $40 billion, the Freeport
      project is the largest single gold deposit in the
      world and the third largest open-cut copper mine.

      In the neighboring Philippines, National Steel
      Company, writes Fred Hill author of Teasing the Tiger:
      A Third World Study of Muslim Mindanao, the
      Philippines' largest steel mill, is destroying Lake
      Lanao, the river's source. Located in the Muslim
      countryside, it is the major employer in the area. But
      except for 5 or 10 Muslims its 4000 employees are
      Christian Visayans, many of whom were brought there in
      the 1970s. The media publish reports about "Muslim"
      violence in Mindanao, but not the reasons for their

      And similarly in East Timor the violence has little if
      anything to do with Muslim-Christian enmity.
      Christians live in peace with Muslims in West Timor,
      and elsewhere in Indonesia. Greed, the greed of
      corporations, government officials, individuals is at
      at the core of problems. The religion card is used to
      divide, rule, and expolit the people and the land --
      just like colonial rulers did in earlier times.

      [Enver Masud visited Indonesia in the early 1950's
      when his father was the UNESCO Mission Chief, and
      several times in the mid-1990's as an engineering
      management consultant for The World Bank. He is
      founder of The Wisdom Fund.]

      Copyright 1999 The Wisdom Fund - All Rights
      Reserved. Provided that it is not edited, and author
      name, organization, and URL are included, this article
      may be printed in newspapers and magazines, and
      e-mailed to others.

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