If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 May, 2011, 12:00am


If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die
by Geoffrey Robinson
Princeton, HK$230

The book may have the subtitle: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor, but it also shows why it happened in the first place, after Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975. Geoffrey Robinson, who was in East Timor with the United Nations in 1999 - when the majority vote for independence unleashed more violence - has produced a detailed study that underscores the falsehoods behind some of the explanations for the bloodletting. One, by a senior Indonesian military officer, was that it could be explained by the Indonesian propensity for 'running amok'. Robinson emphasises that far from ethnic, religious or socioeconomic tensions among the East Timorese, or between them and Indonesians, it was political tension that led to the deaths of 1,500 people and the displacement of half of the population. The conflict was 'the consequence of the Indonesian invasion and occupation, not its cause'. Western governments such as the US and Australia were complicit because they refused to intervene before and initially after the vote, Robinson argues, but they did help prevent a second genocide.