Candor on Timor

The Reagan administration contends that when it comes to human rights issues, quiet diplomacy works best. Secretary of State George Shultz's visit to Indonesia this week provides an opportunity for just such diplomacy.

Given its past support for Indonesia and its provision of arms to the Suharto regime, the United States clearly had a responsibility to raise the question of Indonesia's suppression of human rights on the island territory of East Timor, as Mr. Shultz apparently did in a meeting with Indonesian officials. East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975.

Once a Portuguese colony, East Timor has its own language and identity. The former acting bishop estimates that more than 100,000 East Timorese perished as a result of the Indonesian invasion and the starvation, executions, and disruptions that followed it.

The US helps to finance work on the island by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Secretary of State Shultz should press the Indonesians to allow full and unrestricted access to the ICRC so that it can determine food needs and visit all of the prisons on the island. If the situation on the island is as normal as the Indonesians sometimes claim it is, why not allow normal access to it by relief agencies? And, whoever may have been to blame for the breakdown of the last cease-fire on East Timor, why not seek another one?

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.