Biafra, Communists in Indonesia, and East Timor: Shameful legacy of millions of deaths under Harold Wilson

Biafra, Communists in Indonesia, and East Timor: Shameful legacy of millions of deaths under Harold Wilson

Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The horrendous legacy of Harold Wilson is now being released concerning the massacres of communists in Indonesia (1965-1966). Henceforth, Harold Wilson, the leader of the Labour Party and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) between 1964-1970 and 1974-1976, was involved in the deaths of millions of people concerning the mass slaughter of communists in Indonesia, the Biafran War (Biafra sought independence from Nigeria), and the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia.

The convulsions of Wilson’s period in office continue today in Nigeria because the voice of Biafra remains. However, the fear of history repeating itself – when the people of Biafra were starved to death and butchered inside Christian holy places – remains in Nigeria. Similarly, the authoritarian path taken in Indonesia after the British supported the butchering of communists in the middle of the 1960s under Wilson would last several decades. Therefore, the mass bloodshed unleashed against the communists in the middle of the 1960s in Indonesia – with the complicity of the Wilson government – would remerge in the middle of the 1970s to butcher the Roman Catholic Timorese in East Timor during Wilson’s return to power.

EAST TIMOR (Timor-Leste) 

The trilogy of Wilson supporting the massacres of vast numbers of people concerns East Timor. In late 1975, the Indonesian armed forces entered East Timor with the full approval of the Wilson government. Other nations also supported Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor. This notably applies to Australia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. However, the focus is on the trilogy of the involvement of the UK under Wilson because of the gravity of millions of people being butchered concerning the policies of this leader (Biafra, East Timor, and Indonesia respectively).

The National Security Archive says, “When Britain’s Labour Government took office in March 1974, it sought to improve relations not just with the Suharto regime in Jakarta but also with the Ford Administration and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, which had expressed a desire to bolster Indonesia’s regional role and expressed worries about Portugal’s 1974 revolution and the subsequent decolonization of its overseas territories.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was told by the British Ambassador John A. Ford that massacres by Indonesia were known. However, Ford said, “If asked to comment on any stories of atrocities…I suggest we say that we have no information.”

In March 1976, according to the British Embassy in Jakarta, the UK’s Foreign Secretary (Callaghan) and the United States Secretary of State (Kissinger) were doing a great job of distracting people about the gravity of the crisis in East Timor. The Embassy said (their involvement), “has so far paid off handsomely. The lack of involvement has largely kept events in Timor out of the British and US headlines and away from becoming a major public issue. It was a pity that… the Australian Government could not follow suit.”

Hence, while a crime against humanity was being committed in East Timor by the armed forces of Indonesia, the UK was covertly supporting the mass slaughter of the Timorese people, who are overwhelmingly Catholic.

BIAFRA (Igbo people)

Wilson also supported mass barbarity against the people of Biafra, who are mainly Christian in Nigeria. The people of Biafra – like East Timor – wanted independence. However, like Indonesia, the UK government under Wilson would support Nigeria. This resulted in children to the elderly being denied food and starving to death. Therefore, unimaginable atrocities killed vast numbers of people – including one million Biafran children.

The Nigerian-Biafran War (Biafran War) of 1967-1970 is another horrendous stain on the British ruling elites and notably the Wilson government that supported it. Frederick Forsyth in The Guardian said, “British covert interference had become huge. Weapons and ammunition poured in quietly as Whitehall and the Harold Wilson government lied and denied it all. Much enlarged, with fresh weapons and secret advisory teams, the Nigerian army inched across Biafra as the defenders tried to fight back with a few bullets a day. Soviet Ilyushin bombers ranged overhead, dropping 1,000lb bombs on straw villages. But the transformation came in July.”

Nobody will ever know the final number of deaths. However, reports say that between 2 and 3 million people died in Biafra. Yet when this brutal reality was happening – and being supported by the UK – the Wilson government only cared about trade and oil.

The Commonwealth Minister in the Wilson government said, “The sole immediate British interest in Nigeria is that the Nigerian economy should be brought back to a condition in which our substantial trade and investment in the country can be further developed, and particularly so we can regain access to important oil installations.”

Starvation became a tool of the war for Nigeria to crush Biafra while the British supplied increasing military arms throughout the war. At no point did Wilson feel shame – nor did the British seek a new policy when it became known that children were dying of starvation. Instead, vested interests – economic and geopolitical – were the sole concern of the Wilson government.


Biafra and East Timor came after the slaughter of communists in Indonesia. Henceforth, recent documents showing the role of the British merely confirm the brutality of several Labour governments under Wilson. Ironically, the same Labour Party would lie about weapons of mass destruction to invade Iraq under Tony Blair.

Wilson was in power when the massacre of communists took place in Indonesia, when the British sent military arms to assist Nigeria to crush Biafra, and when Indonesia invaded East Timor.

Senator Robert Kennedy of the United States said, “We have spoken out against inhuman slaughters perpetrated by the Nazis and the Communists. But will we speak out also against the inhuman slaughter in Indonesia, where over 100,000 alleged Communists have been not perpetrators but victims?” 

The Guardian reports, “Roland Challis, a former BBC South Asia correspondent, has described how British diplomats planted misleading stories in British newspapers at the time. But there is also evidence that the British and US responsibility for the fall of Sukarno goes back to the event that triggered it – an alleged left-wing coup attempt in 1965. The British were keen to get rid of Sukarno because he was pursuing a policy of confrontation with Malaysia. The US was convinced that Sukarno would drift towards communism – a far bigger potential headache for US interests than Vietnam.”

British propaganda included “… we demand in the name of all patriotic people that this communist cancer be cut out of the body of the state.” 

In time, the death toll would be between 500,000 to over 1 million – while hundreds of thousands of communists – or people deemed communist – were put in prisons throughout Indonesia. The BBC reports, “Senior Indonesian officials have taken part in an unprecedented meeting to discuss the killing of 500,000 communists and their supporters during an insurgency 50 years ago.”


Other nations also supported the brutal massacre of millions of people that resulted in the conflicts of Biafra, Indonesia (1965-1966), and East Timor. However, each time the various Wilson governments of the Labour Party were involved. Henceforth, Wilson openly supported the butchering of communists in Indonesia, the starvation of approximately one million children in Biafra, and the invasion of East Timor by the armed forces of Indonesia.

It will never be known how many people died in all these conflicts. Yet, the numbers are staggeringly high – at least 2.6 million people perished to a possible 4 million people. Therefore, the Wilson governments literally had blood dripping from their fingers – from military support to propaganda to open manipulation when debating each crisis at the United Nations.


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