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Letters

By James Gustave SpethBetty C. Taylor, and Nugroho Wisnumurti / August 29, 1996



The Myth of a Global Conspiracy

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I would like to correct a mistaken impression left by the letter "The US, UN, and a 'New World Order,' " Aug. 15.

The author cites the 1994 Human Development Report, which he says is published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In fact, the Human Development Report is produced annually for the UNDP by a team of independent consultants. Its purpose is to promote global debate on development issues by airing a wide range of opinions from leading economists and theoreticians.

As I state in the "Foreword" to the 1994 report, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the UNDP, its executive board, or other member governments. UNDP policies and programs are determined by the executive board, which includes the US among its 36 members.

As the attribution in the 1994 Human Development Report makes clear, the remarks cited by the author concerning the need for a world government come from Jan Tinbergen, winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize for Economics. Mr. Tinbergen's view is one of many expressed in the report in the interest of stimulating far-reaching dialogue that can lead to lasting solutions to world problems of poverty and deprivation.

James Gustave Speth

New York

Administrator

United Nations Development Programme

I wonder at the author's logic. How can sharing the burden of pollution control, environmental protection, maintaining fishing grounds, sharing sea lanes, airways control, or fighting disease take away our independence as a nation? There is no way any nation can handle these problems alone.

Certainly we are savvy enough not to give away the ability to govern ourselves. The question is are we savvy enough to know when cooperating with others is in our own interest?

Betty C. Taylor

Akron, Ohio

Indonesia's role in East Timor

The opinion-page article "East Timor Awaits Independence," Aug. 19, paints an inaccurate picture of a province that, like Angola and Mozambique, had the misfortune of being colonized by Portugal, a country without success in hundreds of years of its colonizing history.

The article incorrectly states that our president came to power in a coup. All historical accounts agree that an attempted Communist coup propelled President Suharto to office and that the resulting violence, referred to in the article, was a spontaneous reaction by a citizenry committed to preserving its legitimate government, its freedom, and its young nation.

The essay criticizes Indonesia's efforts to control dissent in the interests of ensuring stability. The 1965 coup attempt and the unfortunate aftermath are still fresh in the minds of too many Indonesians to act otherwise.

East Timor's integration into Indonesia was not done through invasion and annexation as the article states. In fact, Indonesia agreed to the request of representatives from four of five political parties there to enter East Timor to protect a majority being victimized by a minority that was well-armed by the Portuguese colonial authorities before they irresponsibly abandoned the island. This action was as much a humanitarian gesture as a necessity, driven by the burdens generated by the tens of thousands of refugees flooding into Indonesian West Timor.

Contrary to the article, the United Nations has not voted 10 times against Indonesia on the East Timor issue and the secretary-general has never called for a referendum. In fact, he is committed to the ongoing tripartite dialogue between Indonesia and Portugal, which is being held under his auspices.

There is no question that life in East Timor is not perfect, but the record shows that more has been done to improve the quality of life in the past 20 years than was done in over 400 years of Portuguese colonialism. It is unfortunate that critics like the article's author were not around to support the East Timorese prior to decolonization. He might have generated greater concern for Portugal's forgotten colony, and the challenge Indonesia faced in meeting the development needs of East Timor might not have been so great.

Nugroho Wisnumurti

New York

Permanent Representative to the UN

Republic of Indonesia