Dalrymple in documentary “Death of a Nation”

As mentioned in the New English Review piece posted immediately below, Dalrymple visited East Timor during the brutal Indonesian occupation to participate in the making of a documentary about the atrocities committed there. Steve found the documentary here on YouTube yesterday and immediately recognized the anonymous doctor commenting in silhouette at the 37:10 mark.

Dalrymple’s ensuing 1994 piece describing the occupation in the Spectator, published under the pseudonym Edward Theberton, is available here (h/t Yakimi.) This powerful, intense article is well worth a read, as it gives a sense of what it is like to visit a totalitarian dictatorship:

Ten photographers, one with a video camera, took my picture before I reached the terminal building. Some foreign politicians were soon to arrive on an investigative mission, and the authorities wanted no troublemakers to interfere with their valiant (though in the event unavailing) efforts to mislead them about the monstrous injustice of Indonesian rule in East Timor…

No sooner had I walked out into the streets of Dili than a goon on a motorcycle followed me like a kerb-crawler in search of a prostitute. I stared into his dark glasses and turned to walk in the opposite direction. Disregarding the one-way system (there is very little traffic in Dili), he turned to follow me, making no effort to disguise the fact. I smiled at him, but his face remained blank; after a quarter of an hour, he left me, to return to my side at frequent intervals…

As in all totalitarian states, communication in East Timor is indirect, through gnomic hints, single statements blurted out as if by sudden irresistible impulse, and by brief but intense encounters. ‘It is not good here;’ My family was killed;’ My sister was raped by many soldiers;’ You must tell the world what we still suffer.’

The documentary states that two Australian teams of journalists were murdered there in 1975 for reporting on the invasion. Sometimes I think it is amazing that Dalrymple is still alive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *