There have been enough tragedy for East Timor in one generation without having genocide and ethnic cleansing taking place in two consecutive generations. Some 200,000 or more East Timorese were killed since the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 as it was gaining independence from Portugal. Since the August 30 independence vote, it has been impossible to determine the death toll across East Timor although estimates have ranged from 600 to 7,000 dead.
United Nations officials have reported that an estimated one-quarter of the 850,000 East Timorese have fled their homes since the the pro-Jakarta anti-independence militias who were overwhelmingly defeated at the ballot box had engaged in an orgy of looting, burning and killing.
As a member of the United Nations Security Council member as well as ASEAN, Malaysia must be conscious of its international responsibility to provide leadership to end the atrocities and crimes against humanity in East Timor. The latest report of atrocities is an eye-witness account of "thousands of bodies" piled in a large cell in the police station of Dili, the capital of East Timor.
When the delegation from the U.N. Security Council arrived in Dili, it encountered smoking ruins in the heart of the gutted city. Few buildings were left untouched by rampages which have swept the provincial capital during the past week, leaving residents in a virtual state of siege.
The Malaysian Government should give full support to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan who said that martial law has failed to restore order in East Timor and urged Indonesia to accept foreign military help without further delay or face responsibility for crimes against humanity.
Annan said the violence went beyond any scenario envisioned by the United Nations, which organized the ballot on East Timor's future.
As a member of the UN Security Council, Malaysia should also accept certain responsibility for failing to envision the anarchy which descended in East Timor after nearly 80 percent of voters chose independence in the U.N.-run ballot.
This is why Malaysia should speak up to ask Indonesia to invite UN peacekeepers to end the genocide and implement the independence referendum in East Timor. Malaysia should spearhead an ASEAN drive to provide regional support for such an United Nations peace-keeping force, not only by contributing peace-keepers to it, but also persuading other ASEAN nations to also participate in the UN peace-keeping force.
Finally, the Malaysian government must clearly repudiate the stand taken by the UMNO Youth on East Timor, which seems to condone the second genocide and ethnic cleansing of East Timorese for the second consecutive generation.