East Timor: A Lesson in Why the Poorest Threaten the Powerful

Published on Global Research.ca, by John Pilger, April 5, 2012.

Milan Kundera’s truism, “the struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”, described East Timor. The day before I set out to film clandestinely there in 1993, I went to Stanfords map shop in London’s Covent Garden. “Timor?” said a hesitant sales assistant. We stood staring at shelves marked South East Asia. “Forgive me, where exactly is it?”  

After a search he came up with an old aeronautical map with blank areas stamped, “Relief Data Incomplete.” He had never been asked for East Timor, which is just north of Australia. Such was the silence that enveloped the Portuguese colony following its invasion and occupation by Indonesia in 1975. Yet, not even Pol Pot succeeded in killing, proportionally, as many Cambodians as the Indonesian dictator Suharto killed or starved in East Timor … //

… For many Timorese, their children malnourished and stunted, the democracy is notional. Years of bloody occupation, backed by Australia, Britain and the US, were followed by a relentless campaign of bullying by the Australian government to manoeuvre the tiny new nation out of its proper share of the seabed’s oil and gas revenue. Having refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the Law of the Sea, Australia unilaterally changed the maritime boundary.

In 2006, a deal was finally signed, largely on Australia’s terms. Soon afterwards, Prime Minister Mari Alkitiri, a nationalist who had stood up to Canberra and opposed foreign interference and indebtedness to the World Bank, was effectively deposed in what he called an “attempted coup” by “outsiders”. Australia has “peace-keeping” troops based in East Timor and had trained his opponents. According to a leaked Australian Defence Department document, Australia’s “first objective” in East Timor is for its military to “seek access” so that it can exercise “influence over East Timor’s decision-making”. Of the two current presidential candidates is Taur Matan Rauk, a general and Canberra’s man who helped see off the troublesome Alkitiri.

One independent little country astride lucrative natural resources and strategic sea lanes is of serious concern to the United States and its “deputy sheriff” in Canberra. (President George W. Bush actually promoted Australia to full sheriff). That largely explains why the Suharto regime required such devotion from its western sponsors. Washington’s enduring obsession in Asia is China, which today offers developing countries investment, skills and infrastructure in return for resources.

Visiting Australia last November, President Barack Obama issued another of his veiled threats to China and announced the establishment of a US Marines’ base in Darwin, just across the water from East Timor. He understands that small, impoverished countries can often present the greatest threat to predatory power, because if they cannot be intimidated and controlled, who can? (full text).

(For more information on John Pilger, visit his website at johnpilger.com. John Pilger is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by John Pilger).

Link: KOSOVO’S “MAFIA STATE“: From Madeleine to Hillary: The US Secretary of State’s “Love Affair” with the KLA, on Global Research.ca, by Michel Chossudovsky, April 6, 2012.
More articles by Michel Chossudovsky.

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