Geoffrey Heard writes: Re. “Not Timor propaganda” (Monday). I have no argument with Professor Damien Kingsbury’s piece on Timor Leste and no argument with the notion that it was about time someone got a bit forensic with what is happening in Timor Leste (let’s call the country by its own name, shall we? Seems good manners).

I was there a few months after the Indonesians left at the behest of President Clinton (whatever else he did, that was GOOD) — not driven out by Australians as the Colonel Blimp of the day would have you believe — and I saw and heard from survivors what they had done and what they did as they left.

Dili was burnt to the ground, the stink of ashes was in your nostrils day and night, and the population was decimated, more than decimated.

The totality of the devastation was encapsulated, for me, in the fate of a tiny hamlet on the mud flats you could see by the side of the road outside Dili. The Indonesians or their surrogates, the Timorese militia (often forced to act at the end of a machete or gun), had even burnt that — they had marched out across the mud flats and burnt that handful of huts to the ground. Or tried to. There was so little fuel some of the scorched posts had survived. Those people had NOTHING, a few sheets of iron for a roof, bush materials framing and partial cladding, a mud floor just above the sea level at high tide. They lived hand to mouth fishing and making salt for sale through trapping sea water in shallow pools to evaporate in the sun.

The devastation was driven by Kopassus, the justly feared, murderous, Indonesian secret service — being trained by Australia then and still being trained by Australia now, and still doing nasty stuff in West New Guinea.

All that oil and gas money? You mean, what they got after Australia had chiselled them out of the major share and had also taken the processing plant — a source of ongoing jobs and income? And then what happened? They were persuaded to lodge it with the US Federal Reserve — and learned economists in Australia and elsewhere counselled them to keep it there against a rainy day in the future.

A rainy day in the future? Their country had been devastated, unknown thousands slaughtered, society and communities smashed, everything movable stolen, everything immovable burnt, a quarter of a million people driven out, infrastructure rendered non-existent — how much harder is it going to rain some day in the future?

And in the meantime, the US had their money, probably still has it — at negative interest — and is using it to bolster its own massive ponzi scheme debt.

And as for likening it to “former latin colonies” — does Freeman mean it is not like the murderous and grossly corrupt regimes in various former Anglophone colonies? Well, thank goodness it isn’t.

And even in Australia, corruption is not unknown — in fact, it is endemic, from Federal Politicians down, as Crikey is constantly reporting.

I agree, this government of national unity stuff is by no means a great development, but to pour shit and derision on Timor Leste’s suffering less than 15 years into its independence begun in total penury, riven by an awful history of oppression and slaughter, and surrounded by aggressive antagonists, is just not on.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey