THE EAST TIMOR PROBLEM

 

Sir, - I read David Shanks's article on Jose Ramos Horta, "Ireland promises to help fund UN talks on East Timor problem" (June 7th) with great interest, but I was amused to find that instead of asking him "soft" agreeable questions Mr Shanks did not use this golden opportunity to grill Mr Horta on questions long asked by other East Timorese about him. Questions he consistently ducks.

Mr Horta should have been asked about thousands of unarmed East Timorese villagers randomly massacred and brutalised by the Fretilins in 1975, a fact happily corroborated by living eyewitnesses and survivors in East Timor, and confirmed even by Amnesty International. Being at the helm of the Fretilin, Mr Horta is surely the perfect man to account for these atrocities. Mr Horta should have been asked to clarify about the many "re education camps" formed by the "Central Committee" of the "Democratic Republic of East Timor" (these their own terminologies). Mr Horta was a key member of this "Central Committee". He should also have been asked who he really represents, because too many statements have been made by numerous East Timorese figures and organisations rebuffing Horta's credentials.

Moreover, it would be interesting to ask him why for all, Mr Horta's talk about "democracy" and "human rights" today, there was nothing remotely democratic about Fretilin rule in 1975: there was no parliament, no elected politicians, no constitution, no judiciary bodies, no elections, no referendum, but systematic terror and ruthless imposition of political dogma. It would be interesting also to ask Mr Horta why the Fretilin was the only party who boycotted the Portuguese efforts to hold a referendum prior to the civil war.

Had these questions been asked to Mr Horta, perhaps the readers would get a better sketch of Ramos Horta and why with all his telegenic charm he is in fact a marginalised figure among East Timorese. Mr Horta might perhaps answer that today he is no longer a Fretilin, but this is too much of an easy cop out: while he can change his hat, he cannot change his past.

That Jose Ramos Horta should now pretend as if he has no recollection of history is to be expected. But it would be scandalous if The Irish Times should be so easily deceived and used by Mr Horta to fool the Irish people. The Irish Times should take care not to blindly regurgitate Horta's self aggrandising propaganda at the peril of Irish journalism, and more sadly, at the expense of the memory of innumerable East Timorese who have suffered immensely under the Fretilin. Yours, etc.

Minister Counsellor

Head of Information

Department,

The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia,

Grosvenor Square,

London.