The following article appeared
in Japanese in the October issue of Indonesia Alternative Information,
the monthly publication of Network for Indonesian Democracy, Japan.
It was accompanied by a translation of the East Timorese NGO’s statement on the SDF dispatch.
SDF Dispatch to the Peacekeeping
Operation in East Timor
“Aid with a face”?
By Namba Mitsuru
The Japanese Government is now finalizing its position on a deployment of Self-Defense Force troops to the UN peacekeeping operation in East Timor. This is against the backdrop of a PKO cutback and reorganization being planned as East Timor prepares for formal independence next year. An engineering battalion on the order of 600 troops is to be sent to do road repair and transport of materials.
Two years ago the Japanese government had considered sending the SDF to the peacekeeping operation in East Timor after the popular referendum, but gave up the idea because it was felt that such a mission might violate the five principles that define conditions under which SDF participation in peacekeeping is allowed under Japan’s PKO law. But in June of this year, in a meeting with a United Nations under-secretary-general, Defense Agency Director Nakatani announced Japan’s intention to send troops to East Timor. In July two SDF personnel were sent to East Timor to observe the security situation, ostensibly to “secure the safety of Japanese nationals.” Then in early September, at a meeting with President Megawati, the defense chief sought Indonesia’s “understanding” of an SDF deployment in East Timor. Later in the month a group from Japan’s ruling coalition parties visited East Timor to study the “concrete needs of the territory.”
Although it contends that, in the present circumstances, the SDF can be sent to East Timor without revising the PKO-related legislation, the ruling parties want to revise the law during the current National Diet session, not only to change the “five principles” but also to remove the present ban on SDF participation in the core operations of UN peacekeeping forces (PKF). The Government has thus decided to go ahead and send the SDF to East Timor before the debate on the five principles even takes place.
But why do SDF troops have to be sent to East Timor in the first place?
Ever since the PKO legislation was enacted in response to Japan’s supposedly inadequate contribution to the Persian Gulf War, the Government has been arguing that Japan’s “international contribution” and “humanitarian assistance” has to be “aid with a face” Now that the post-independence PKO set-up for East Timor is being discussed, Tokyo professes itself eager to make its contribution there too in the form of “aid with a face.” But as to why this “humanitarian contribution” has to be carried out by Self-Defense Force troops, the Government has nothing to say.
In sending the SDF to East Timor, what, and to whom, is the Japanese Government contributing? In other words, to whom is the “face” of its “aid with a face” being turned?
With the terms “international contribution” and “humanitarian assistance” being invoked so blithely these days, it is necessary to think deeply about what the real answer to this question is. In order to do that, we must look squarely at the nature of Japan’s relationship with East Timor, and with Indonesia.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and imposed military rule until 1999. The Japanese Government supported Indonesia’s position on East Timor, voting against, or abstaining on, every UN General Assembly resolution condemning Indonesia from 1975 on. Japan had enormous interests in the Suharto regime, and with the United States reluctant to impose sanctions on Jakarta, Japan was able to go on openly supporting Indonesia’s military takeover of East Timor right up to the end. In fact, even in September 1999, just when Indonesian troops and militia were slaughtering, burning and wrecking havoc in East Timor, Japan stated that it would keep up its official development aid, ODA being the very symbol of its support for, and interests in, Indonesia.
But barely had the decision for East Timor’s independence been taken, and moves begun to shift to rule of the territory by the United Nation transitional authority (UNTAET),--barely, that is, had “the international community” given its seal of approval to the territory--when the Japanese Government started considering making an “international contribution” to East Timor by sending off the Self-Defense Force to a peacekeeping operation and even lifting the ban on Japanese troops participating in peacekeeping forces. (It decided against this—translator) Now that it has gone through the process of getting Indonesia’s “understanding”, though, it is all set to send the troops to the peacekeeping operation in East Timor.
From this process, it becomes clear to whom the Japanese government has shown its face in its dealings with East Timor up to now, and to whom it is presently showing its face as it prepares to dispatch the Self-Defense Force. When Indonesia ruled the territory, it turned its face to Indonesia. Tokyo’s line of sight with respect to East Timor, passing through the prism of its “interests,” was directed to itself. Now when East Timor’s independence is certain, the Japanese Government--taking every care not to ruffle Indonesia--turns its face to the “international community” and sets out to dispatch the Self-Defense Force to East Timor. Once again its line of vision is merely turned on itself, this time passing through the prism of its “position in the international community.”
East Timor thus becomes the target zone in which the Self-Defense Force aims to advance its own priorities.
But toward whom should we be turning out
face? The people who were made to suffer by the
Japanese Army in World War II, the people who
suffered from the Indonesian invasion, the people who still live under
the threat of violence by the pro-Jakarta militia,
and the people who are working to build their
land into a new country. To protect its own interests, Japan supported
Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor and turned a blind eye to the slaughter
carried out by the Indonesian military. The crimes we have committed against
the people of East Timor (including the crime of indifference) are not
such as can be erased by aid given after independence. But if, even so,
we want to help East Timor in some way, we have to start by listening to
the East Timorese. The statement of the twelve
East Timorese NGOs on the issue of the SDF dispatch is one such voice.
Translated by Jean Inglis
This message was received from:
Shirotaka ISHIDA QWK02125@nifty.ne.jp
& Jean Inglis email@example.com
BD: Japanese Self-Defense Force - A collection of recent statements and news on plans to send Japan's SDF to join PKF in ETimor