Ramos-Horta: I never asked Kissinger to apologize for Indonesian invasion

Dec 12, 2023 | Features, International Relations

Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta said Friday that he bore no anger towards Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state who died this week and had helped greenlight Indonesia’s December 1975 invasion of the former Portuguese colony.

But Virgílio da Silva Guterres, human rights ombudsman of the country formerly known as East Timor, was less conciliatory, saying it was unfortunate that the elder American statesman had died without retribution for his ruthless policies. More than 200,000 people were killed in the 24 years that Indonesia illegally occupied East Timor until 1999.

Kissinger, who died on Wednesday at age 100, served as America’s top diplomat and the national security adviser under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and was widely viewed as an influential and hard-nosed practitioner of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War, who had no room for human rights.

In the tiny ex-colony formerly known as East Timor and now an independent nation, he remains a controversial figure for signaling that Washington would not stand in the way of a massive military invasion by next-door neighbor Indonesia, which was led at the time by the dictator Suharto, a firm ally of the U.S.

“From the narrow perspective of Timor-Leste, I cannot have obviously the best recollection of Mr. Kissinger,” Ramos-Horta told BenarNews via an email on Friday.

“He was the Cold War diplomatic architect of the U.S., who not only supported the Suharto dictatorship, but every other dictatorship across the planet, including in Latin America, the most notorious case was in Chile. Having said that, I harbor no anger or anything of that sort.”

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(photo David Hume Kennerly/ White House Photographs/Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library)