President Suharto's economic achievements cannot hide the growing world concern over the reported massive denial of human rights in East Timor. Brutality is said to take place in the former Portuguese colony, and reports continue of food shortages resulting from Indonesian military operations. With 84 members of the United States Congress calling for a full inquiry as well as for discussions on self-determination for the people of East Timor, Mr. Reagan should feel no constraints in raising the issue with the Indonesian leader.
Unfortunately, President Suharto has not allowed journalists to travel freely in East Timor. He also is charged with delays in accepting aid from international relief organizations - a fact that tends to lend credibility to the most dire reports. He could resolve the issue by:
* Letting international relief agencies keep permanent representatives in East Timor;
* Permitting Timorese villagers to leave ''resettlement centers'' set up by the Indonesians and resume their traditional ways;
* Allowing those Timorese waiting to reunite with family members in Australia and Portugal to leave East Timor;
* Agreeing to an internationally negotiated settlement that would guarantee Indonesia's legitimate security concerns while providing the people there with the political rights to which they are entitled.
It would be a pity if the Indonesian leader failed to address this matter and thereby let it overshadow the better features of his rule - including the quick assistance given to thousands of Indochina boat people who have landed on Indonesian shores in recent years. In fairness, it can be remembered that his government did make a genuine effort to negotiate a settlement with the Portuguese over East Timor. It can also be understood how sensitive the Indonesian military is to subversive elements that could once again plunge the country into political chaos.
But there is never any excuse for atrocities or for general mistreatment of a people. President Suharto should want to make sure that these do not occur and do not mar the gains he has made in other areas.