How Bad Is Bad In East Timor?

The author of the front-page article ''Indonesia's Brass Polishes Itself,'' Sept. 18, misrepresents the situation in East Timor by accepting the arguments of his sources - Indonesian government officials and unnamed ''Western diplomats.''

Since the Indonesian military invaded East Timor in 1975, there has been one clear policy from on high: genocide. To date, more than 200,000 Timorese have been killed. Though I have no doubt Indonesian generals are eager that the world think otherwise, the bloodshed in East Timor is not ''caused by low-ranking soldiers.''

To imply that the failure to open fire on crowds demonstrates ''unusual restraint'' is shoddy journalism.

Ben Terrall San Francisco

As one who has visited East Timor, I was dismayed by the words of an unnamed Western diplomat who characterized the behavior of Indonesian security forces toward recent protests in East Timor as ''unusual restraint.''

While it appears that there were few if any deaths during these events, information I have received leaves little doubt that 100 young people or more were brutally beaten and tortured. To say, as this unnamed diplomat did, that the Indonesian Army appeared to have gone ''by the book'' in ending the latest strife in East Timor is unconscionable.

The Rt. Rev. Paul Moore Jr. New York

Former Episcopal Bishop of New York

Writer's note: The article looked at how Indonesian security forces have changed their handling of East Timor in recent years. Some human rights advocates acknowledge that the situation has improved from the time when people were shot in the back while running and when confessions were extracted by a boot in the teeth. Police brutality in its current form in East Timor - although still brutal - now more generally follows ''by the book'' procedures practiced in the rest of Indonesia; it also deserves a fair comparison with police brutality in many poor nations, and even some rich nations.

Laws inspire private cleanup of property

Regarding the article ''A City Creates Jobs on Abandoned Lots,'' Sept. 20: The author's point that ''stringent federal cleanup laws have discouraged firms from reclaiming vast acreage of abandoned urban land'' ignores the fact that sprawl began long before environmental laws were on the books. Manufacturing's retreat from urban areas has less to do with environmental laws and more to do with changes in market forces that have made older facilities obsolete, and a federally subsidized interstate highway system that makes it easy to leave behind central cities.

In fact, the very liability provisions of existing laws that are under attack in Congress have prevented many more sites from becoming abandoned ''brownfields.'' The provisions, which hold polluters responsible for past contamination, have inspired privately funded cleanups of thousands of properties that do not get EPA (or news media) attention. New, truly innocent owners of properties should not be held liable. However, if past polluters are given a break as proposed by some in Congress, these older sites will never get cleaned and will continue to pose a threat to the community and workers.

Rather than chasing ''smokestacks,'' as economic development practitioners are apt to do, they should be using economic incentives to attract only the cleanest business so future brownfields are avoided.

Carol Andress Washington

Pollution Prevention Specialist

Environmental Defense Fund

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