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Issue #1611      September 18, 2013

“Apologise and withdraw comments”

The Australian and New Zealand College of Notaries

Open letter to Barry O’Farrell

Dear Premier,

Re: Peter Phelps’ offensive speech
in Parliament on 11 September 2013

As you are aware, there are more than 45,000 Chileans living in NSW. I am one of them. September 11 represents a day of mourning for Chileans around the world, but also for many Australians who believe in the respect for human rights and democratic institutions. September 11 marks the day on which the democratically elected government of President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a bloody coup d’etat led by convicted criminal, General Augusto Pinochet. He authorised the bombing of the government palace La Moneda and killed many of the civilians who were accompanying President Allende at the time. Dr Allende committed suicide.

O’Farrell, your Whip, Phelps, has chosen September 11, to defy history by openly twisting and misrepresenting the barbaric actions of General Pinochet in Chile, calling him a “hero” in State Parliament.

Your Whip, Mr Phelps, an officer who is invested with ensuring your party members abide by laws, has chosen this very occasion, September 11, to embarrass your government once more and to defy history by openly twisting and misrepresenting the barbaric actions of General Pinochet in Chile, calling him a “hero” in State Parliament. Mr Phelps’ speech has caused deep hurt in the hearts of the thousands of Chileans who suffered terrible atrocities during Pinochet’s regime, and reside in this community. Mr Phelps’ actions are unforgivable. By praising an assassin, he has caused many of my fellow Chileans to relive those terrible days.

Mr Phelps has sought to abuse his parliamentary immunity to excuse the unforgivable actions of Pinochet and his cohorts in Chile. This cannot be permitted. Please remember that the atrocities of Pinochet’s regime extended not only to Chile but to other countries (for example, the killing of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Orlando Leterlier, in Washington, on US soil, using a car bomb which also killed a US citizen and maimed another).

I am repulsed by Mr Phelps’ comment that “We have to accept that sometimes it is necessary to do bad things to prevent terrible things from happening”. I ask you Premier, whether you accept that the following “bad things”, which were a daily occurrence during Pinochet’s regime, must be done to any human being:

  • rape of men and women, often in front of their children;
  • burning the body of women;
  • electric shock, burning people’s bodies;
  • killing children, kidnapping children and on occasions raising them with other families, often related to those who had killed their parents;
  • slicing prisoners with machetes before being shot;
  • not returning the body of many Chileans assassinated by the dictatorship to their families for proper burial;
  • the development and use of chemical weapons on the civil population;
  • the documented murder of several thousand Chileans and some citizens of other countries;
  • the documented torture and disappearance of over 30,000 men, women and children for political reasons, including several hundred military officers who were, according to Pinochet, “too lenient” with prisoners or who attempted to alert the Chilean population to the coup d’etat prior to it occurring.

Premier O’Farrell; no one who respects the rule of law can condone the above crimes as being “necessary”.

I am disgusted by Mr Phelps calling Pinochet “a morally courageous man”. Does Mr Phelps not know that Pinochet was charged and prosecuted with the following, amongst other crimes?

  • Genocide, by Spanish courts,
  • Murder, by Chilean courts, personally implicated in more than 300 cases of assassination, including those by the Caravan of Death, a Chilean Army death squad appointed by Pinochet which flew by helicopters from south to north of Chile between 30 September and 22 October 1973 and which personally executed 97 civilians.

Premier, most of the Chileans killed by the Caravan of Death squad had voluntarily heeded the call of the military Junta and were in secured military custody, posing no threat and having no history of violence. The aim Premier was to terrorise the Chilean population into submission. Mr Phelps’ speech condones those barbaric and terrifying actions.

Premier, Pinochet was not courageous; he was a coward, hiding behind some pretend illness to avoid the above trials being brought to an end. Pinochet was also a cheap criminal; he and his family were found guilty of large scale plunder of the Chilean treasury, of embezzling government funds, of receiving millions of dollars in bribes, of passport forgery, of receiving commissions for the sale of arms including to the UK and of having secret bank accounts in the United States and island havens for over 27 million dollars.

Mr Phelps wrongly and intentionally calls President Allende a communist. President Allende, who was also a practicing doctor, was a socialist and a deep democrat, not a communist. A simple reading of history would clarify this fact. I ask you Premier, are the political views of a person sufficient ground to kill them?

According to Mr Phelps, we must not place “one’s own sensibilities before the requirements of survival”. Premier; there was no civil war in Chile in September 1973 and survival was not an issue. There was a massacre by the military, intended to cause fear and paralysing terror and Chileans lived under that terror for 17 years. By condoning Pinochet’s brutality and attempting to elevate him to the stature of a hero, Mr Phelps excuses those actions.

On behalf of the thousands of Chileans in NSW who carry the scars of those horrifying times on their bodies and their souls, some of which continue to receive medical and psychological treatment in NSW as a result of those horrifying days, I demand that Mr Phelps be immediately removed from his post. He is not worthy of representing the people of NSW. He must immediately apologise and withdraw his inappropriate comments. This is the minimum that must be done to show that your government, Premier, will not accept any attempt to glorify murder.

Yours faithfully,

Adriana Navarro,
Lawyer and notary

[Slightly abridged]

Next article – Yellow Ribbons in Solidarity

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