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Context of 'May 19, 2002: East Timor Wins Independence'

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During the 24-year Indonesian occupation of East Timor (see December 7, 1976), the UN passes a number of resolutions condemning the invasion and occupation. However, it is unable to enforce them without the support of the US, British, Australian and Portuguese governments, which repeatedly abstain from voting on the resolutions, while some of them continue to sell arms to Indonesia. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the US ambassador to the UN during the administration of Gerald Ford, will later admit in his memoirs: “The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook [with regard to East Timor]. The task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.” (John Pilger 1994; Scott 1998; Terrall 5/20/2002; Zunes 9/16/2002)

US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meet with Indonesian president Suharto in Jakarta and give him tacit approval to invade and annex East Timor. Suharto complains that the integration of East Timor into Indonesia is being resisted by Communist sympathizers. According to declassified US Government documents, Suharto tells Ford and Kissinger, “We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.” Ford responds, “We will understand and will not press you on the issue.” Kissinger then advises Suharto not to take action until he and the president have returned to Washington. “It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.” Kissinger explains. “We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens, happens after we return.” (Republic of Indonesia 12/6/1975 pdf file; John Pilger 1994; Holloway 12/7/2001; BBC 12/7/2001) The following day, Indonesia invades East Timor (see December 7, 1976).

The Indonesian legislature ratifies the East Timorese referendum vote (see August 1999), allowing East Timor to officially become an independent nation. (John Pilger 1994; BBC 10/20/1999)

East Timor officially becomes an independent state. (BBC 5/19/2002; BBC 11/26/2005)


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