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Issue #1620      November 27, 2013

Taking Issue

Spying and crimes against humanity

The important article, Spying revelations – Partners in Crime, by Anna Pha and Tom Pearson (Guardian 13-10-2013), explored many important ramifications of the revelations of US spying on its European allies and Australian spying on Indonesia.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Most of us would have to agree with Tony Abbott, whether we like his politics or not, and I certainly don’t, that most nations are involved in spying on both enemies and allies. For most progressive internationalists, the spying on other nations is often considered as unnecessary and unfriendly, especially when it is carried out by powerful nations against less powerful ones. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Indonesian government is going to give Australian leaders a very hard time over this issue for some time.

However, Indonesian leaders are displaying a great deal of hypocrisy on this matter. After all, an Indonesian spy has revealed that Indonesia has also been spying on Australia for some time too, even if it might lack some of the sophisticated technology that Australian spooks have.

The level of outrage and the expressions of hurt being expressed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and other Indonesian leaders, I believe, is just game-playing.

The fact is that they should be grateful to Australian governments. Even though Australian leaders have authorised surveillance on the Indonesian military (TNI) over several decades, they have covered up for the crimes that this killing machine has committed in West Papua, Timor-Leste and Aceh.

When the five Australian based-journalists, the Balibo 5, were murdered on October 16, 1975 in the East Timor town of Balibo, members of the Whitlam government knew what had happened almost as soon as it happened thanks to the Australian Defence Signals Directorate.

Australian leaders since that time have had access to similar information about the numerous massacres that occurred in East Timor during the years of illegal Indonesian occupation. Instead of speaking out to protect the human rights of the victims of the TNI brutality, they acted as apologists for the Indonesian dictatorship and said nothing.

Nor have there been any revelations about the role of SBY himself. He served several tours of duty in East Timor during Indonesia’s occupation of the country. Many human rights observers believe there is a cloud over his human rights record in his role there. In addition, SBY has always been a stalwart defender of the TNI against allegations of human rights violations, whether they occurred in Aceh, West Papua, East Timor or Indonesia.

Former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, went so far as to say that the Santa Cruz massacre carried out by the TNI in Dili on November 12, 1991 was an “aberration”. Three hundred and seventy-one Timorese were gunned down by Indonesian soldiers and this was followed up by further massacres to eliminate those who witnessed what happened.

Then, we had the situation with former Australian PM, Paul Keating, who was so besotted with the long time mass-murdering Indonesian dictator, General Mahomed Suharto, that he referred to him as his “spiritual godfather”! Why would anyone want SE Asia’s equivalent to Adolf Hitler to be his/her spiritual godfather?

Of course, the reality is that Indonesia is a client state of the US – as has Australia since World War II. The US successfully stopped West Papua getting its independence and the CIA helped Suharto to seize power in 1965 that led to a bloodbath that many claim led to the deaths of three million people.

This explains much of the craven and supine behaviour towards Indonesia by Australian leaders. In addition, we should never forget that our leaders also had their eyes on Timor’s oil and gas. Since Timor was coerced into an unfair oil and gas agreement in the Timor Sea by the Howard government, we have a situation where Australia, the richest nation in the region, is taking oil and gas out of the region belonging to Timor, the poorest nation in the region.

I have been watching with some interest, the interviews of Paul Keating being conducted by Kerry O’Brien. So far, the topics have mostly been about how he changed ALP thinking on the management of the economy and about his relations with other high fliers in the ALP and other political parties. So far, O’Brien has not asked him any searching questions about Indonesia, East Timor or West Papua, but I hope he does.

Our leaders who stood by and watched the genocide occurring in countries have a case to answer.

*Andrew (Andy) Alcock is Information Officer,
Australia East Timor Friendship Association SA Inc

Next article – Dangerous regulatory failure at Rio’s Ranger mine

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