International Papers

East Timor Hots Up

The Age of Melbourne led its front page Monday with an “exclusive” report that Indonesian military officials are systematically covering up their East Timor atrocities by liquidating pro-Jakarta militiamen involved in the crimes. Quoting Australian defense and diplomatic sources, the paper said Australia has received “detailed signals intelligence” about the Indonesian military’s plans to cover its tracks before a proposed U.N. human rights investigation. “The intelligence is believed to detail conversations between senior Indonesian Army (TNI) figures in Bali, West Timor and possibly Jakarta about silencing senior and middle-ranking militiamen who may be persuaded to assist the UN with inquiries,” the paper said. The intelligence shows that “they will go to great lengths–any length–to cover their tracks ahead of such inquiries,” a source told the Age. “The information is on the lines that if any militia guys show signs of splitting from the TNI program … or show signs of talking to UN investigators, then the militia members will be taken out, liquidated. There are suggestions that deaths have already occurred there [in West Timor].”

The Sydney Morning Herald led Monday with a report of “a huge build-up of troops” along the West Timor border, establishing a front line against militia incursions. It said the troops included most of Australia’s 4,500 soldiers in East Timor. “A pattern has emerged of militia launching small raids into East Timor to confront the Interfet forces,” the paper said. In Singapore, the Sunday Straits Times reported from West Timor that pro-Jakarta militias are being trained by Indonesian army defectors to kill Australian soldiers. Capt. Domingos Pereira, a company commander of the notorious Aitarak militia, told the paper that they hoped to step up cross-border attacks on Australians in a month or two. “We don’t have a chance in a conventional war,” Pereira said at one of four border training camps visited by the paper’s reporters. “But we can make it very painful for them in a guerilla war. The Australians must die for what they have done to my men and their families.”

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported from Jakarta that the Indonesian media are conducting a campaign of hatred and misinformation against the Australian peacekeeping force in East Timor. Two pro-Jakarta militiamen killed by Australian soldiers in the territory last Thursday were described in Indonesia’s leading daily, Kompas, as “two Timorese residents.” The evening newspaper Terbit ran a photograph of charred bodies in a burnt-out truck in Dili with a caption saying they had been set alight by Australian troops, whereas the foreign media all reported that they were victims of militia terror.

In an editorial in its Tuesday edition, the Jakarta Post called on the ruling Golkar Party to dump President B.J. Habibie as its candidate in the imminent presidential election. Habibie not only bears the “stigma” of the discredited regime of former President Suharto, but he has also performed very badly during his time in office, the paper said. “During that time, from May last year up to the present, Indonesia has seen its fortunes and its international reputation sink lower and lower into the depths of ignominy.”

The Straits Times ran an editorial Monday condemning the Republicans in the U.S. Senate for opposing ratification of the global nuclear test ban treaty. The Republicans “know they risk nuclear proliferation if they scuttle it” but will do so because they “want to deny President Bill Clinton his top foreign policy goal,” the paper said. “If he fails, he cannot be faulted for trying. History will note that it was a recalcitrant Republican Senate that killed the treaty because of political infighting.”

In Japan, Asahi Shimbun reported that there were 32,863 suicides in Japan in 1998–the highest number on record. This year could turn out almost as bad, with 10,056 suicides reported during the first four months. The problem is especially severe among men in their 50s, of whom 6,103 killed themselves in 1998, an increase of 45.7 per cent over 1997. “The slumping economy, which forced many companies to cut jobs, was singled out as a prime reason for the shocking phenomenon,” the paper said.

The China Daily reported Monday that China has ordered complete safety inspections of all its nuclear plants following Japan’s recent uranium plant accident. The China National Nuclear Corp. said the Japanese disaster was due entirely to “poor management and human error” and had nothing to do with nuclear technology. Of the three plant workers involved in the accident, two were rookies and the third had very little operational experience, it said. “Such practices are totally forbidden in China. All nuclear power operators in China are required to have licenses and be well-trained.”

The German newspapers led Monday with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s latest electoral humiliation in Berlin. The International Herald Tribune noted that this was the sixth election defeat this year for his Social Democrat Party. “The state losses have come at such frequent intervals this autumn that each is known as a ‘Black Sunday,’ ” the paper said.

In Israel, the Jerusalem Post ran an editorial Monday about the surge of the extreme right in the recent Austrian general election. It warned that the rise of Jörg Haider, leader of the Freedom Party, is no less alarming because he may not be a neo-Nazi. “As a clever xenophobe, Haider has taken care to make just enough extreme statements to justify his ‘credentials’ with outright racists and neo-Nazis, while mainly sticking to more acceptable forms of extremism,” the paper said. Noting that he blames whole classes of people for his country’s ills, it commented: “Singling out groups because of nationality is no less racist than doing so because of skin color or religion. Though it is often treated as a milder form of racism, there is no firewall of principle separating one form of racism from another. … Haider is now the most successful xenophobe politician in Europe. If his hate politics are not universally ostracized, his power could well grow, with ramifications that go far beyond Austria itself.”

In Rome, La Repubblica reported Sunday that Pope John Paul II has decided to shelve plans for the beatification of Pope Pius XII next year because of the new allegations that Pius XII didn’t do enough to help the Jews of Europe during World War II. The paper said the pope “did not want to bring to its conclusion” a beatification “which divided instead of unifying” different religions and cultures.

In Paris, Le Monde led Sunday with a British court’s decision to allow the extradition of Gen. Augusto Pinochet to Spain to stand trial. Welcoming the decision in an editorial, the paper said it “creates a precedent: No dictator or tyrant may cite national sovereignty to claim impunity from justice.”

The Daily Telegraph fronted the news that the Heinz Co. is considering halting production of its “salad cream,” which it created for the British market in 1914 and promoted with the slogan, “There’s a tang to living when there’s a tang to what you eat.” Sales have fallen dramatically as consumers have turned instead to vinaigrettes, salsas, and mayonnaise. Labor Member of Parliament Dennis Turner, the chairman of the House of Commons catering committee, said the loss would be a disaster. “It’s one of the great British foods like roast beef and pork crackling,” he explained.