Book About East Timor Jabs Indonesia’s Conscience





JAKARTA, Indonesia, Aug. 14 — For more than two decades, the brutal military occupation of East Timor, a distant, impoverished territory, brought Indonesia little but disdain and dishonor on the world stage.

The ending, a bloody rampage by Indonesian-backed militias after a vote for independence in 1999, further curdled the nation’s reputation and left a bitter mood at home, where the loss of East Timor was treated as a subject best left untouched.

The seemingly closed chapter was reopened this month with a new book by Ali Alatas, the former longtime foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations. It is the first account by an Indonesian insider who tried to steer some of the events — which at critical moments involved the United States, the United Nations and, at all times, the heavy hand of the Indonesian Army.

Mr. Alatas, always amicable, always accessible, was respected in New York as a quintessential diplomat handed the tricky task of representing his country during the rule of a secretive and authoritarian leader, President Suharto.

In “The Pebble in the Shoe: The Diplomatic Struggle for East Timor,” Mr. Alatas traces events from the Indonesian invasion in 1975 to the army’s exit in September 1999, and the transfer of control to a United Nations peacekeeping force.



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