International Papers

Indonesia Still on the Fence

The Jakarta Post led Wednesday with a pledge by the Indonesian military to support the U.N. peacekeeping force in East Timor. Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sudrajat told opponents of the force that Indonesia should accept it to avoid international condemnation. But in an opinion piece, Makmur Keliat, a lecturer in international relations at the University of Indonesia, said the Indonesian government still seems to be playing for time and that its acceptance of the force does not mean it will recognize East Timorese independence.

In Australia, which is to lead the peacekeeping force, the Sydney Morning Herald said, by contrast, that Australia intends “to respect the will of the East Timorese people and their clearly stated choice of freedom.” It said in an editorial, “Indonesia stands shamed before the world for its armed forces’ encouragement of, and participation in, the killings and destruction in East Timor.” The paper led its front page on the U.N. Security Council authorizing its peacekeepers “to use all force necessary” to rein in the East Timor militias.

In Britain, the Times of London led Wednesday with a disclosure that 130 million pounds (some $210 million) in public money has been spent within the past year to help Indonesia buy British Hawk fighters. The Guardian front-paged the news that British Trade Secretary Stephen Byers overruled Treasury officials by allowing financial help to Indonesia only weeks before militias started massacring people in East Timor: A $1.1 million loan helped Indonesia buy British engineering products. The government is already under attack from the left wing of the Labor Party for breaching its own much-vaunted “ethical” foreign policy in its relations with Indonesia.

In Russia, where terrorist bombs have killed more than 200 people in the past week, Izvestiya said that strongman Gen. Aleksander Lebed, a former presidential candidate, is hoping to take power as acting prime minister if President Boris Yeltsin loses office. It said he appears to have the support of Boris Berezovsky, the financial and media tycoon, who recently visited Lebed in Krasnoyarsk, where he is regional governor. “Apparently, Berezovsky holds the opinion that Lebed is capable of coping with the chaos in the country,” the paper said, adding that “many American congressmen hoped that Lebed would be a future president of Russia.” Reporting on the tightening of security following the Moscow bombs, Rossiskaya Gazeta said Wednesday that 24,000 personnel had checked 26,560 apartments, 180 hotels, and 415 hostels and dormitories during the previous 24 hours.

The Times of London, in an editorial expressing “heartfelt sympathy” for the people of Moscow–and also for the Russian administration “lumbered with yet another crisis”–warned, nevertheless, against an abuse of power. It said there is no need for a further law on full emergency rule, “nor should Moscow police fall prey to the traditional temptation to arrest every dark-skinned man in the capital.” The editorial concluded: “A survey this week shows that fewer than 6 per cent of Muscovites want a draconian state of emergency. Russia’s leaders must heed their wishes and refrain from going too far.” In India, the Hindu said in an editorial Wednesday that U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen’s offer to help Russia fight terrorism is “a cheering indication of how close the two world powers have come since the end of the Cold War less than a decade ago.”

In Japan, Mainichi Shimbun said that North Korea’s agreement with the United States this week to suspend plans for further test-firing of long-range missiles “by no means constitutes a fundamental solution to the North Korean missile problem.” Noting that North Korea hadn’t agreed to refrain from missile-launching in the future, the paper said Wednesday in an editorial that Japan shouldn’t lift economic sanctions against the country until it has. Asahi Shimbun’s editorial was about parents killing their children to claim insurance money. There have been six such murders in the past 15 years, four by fathers and two by mothers, it said. “The lamentable moral degradation that leads some people to exchange human lives for money has its roots in our materialistic society, characterized by badly swollen egos,” the paper claimed. In London, the Financial Times ran an editorial sharply criticizing Japan for letting the yen strengthen “dangerously” against the U.S. dollar. It called on the Bank of Japan “to act decisively, now,” and asked, “Why on earth does the Bank not buy the dollars itself, allowing the domestic money supply to expand in the process?”

The South China Morning Post called on Hong Kong “to think hard and decide slowly” before starting a gambling casino in the territory. “The goal is to offer something quite different from the rather tawdry centres of Macau,” it said Wednesday in an editorial. “The model is Las Vegas. There, some of the world’s most pretentious and absurd architecture beckons visitors from around the world to see such sights as in-house acrobats or an art museum, a battle of full-size pirate ships, or to tour an ersatz Paris, Egypt or other improbable replication. Near such fantasies, of course, the casinos’ main line of business always beckons, ready to extract huge sums from the unwary.” The paper noted the findings of the United States National Gambling Impact Study Commission: that while gambling produced $34 billion in government revenues and created some 700,000 jobs, it also cost Americans $50 billion last year. “Three million people suffer from pathological gambling addiction, causing costly social problems, especially for the poor and the young,” it added.