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Issue #1721      March 2, 2016

“Sounds like fun”

Australian diplomats mocked reports of Indonesian rape and murder of Timorese

Dear Friends in support of justice and freedom in our region of the world.

Today (February 22) MSN News and the Sydney Morning Herald listed an article that revealed that Australian diplomats had ridiculed the rape and torture of East Timorese at the hands of the invading Indonesian military as something that “sounds like fun”.

The annotations made in 1976, less than a year after the occupation began, were found on a memo sent to the Australian embassy in Jakarta from colleagues at the embassy in The Hague. They were discovered by Monash Uni researchers Sara Niner and Kim McGrath.

Australian East Timor Friendship Association SA believes that rape can never be considered as “fun” and is, in fact, a brutal crime against humanity. This is especially so when it is being committed on a mass scale along with the crime of genocide. If such remarks had been made about the victims of the Nazis during World War 2 (gypsies, Jews, unionists and socialists), there would have been righteous outrage.

How come it was thought as acceptable by Australia officials to hold such attitudes towards the victims of Indonesian fascism?

AETFA SA has released the following statement about the story:

Sara Niner and Kim McGrath are to be applauded for revealing these notes made on official Australian documents by Australian officials regarding the crimes committed against humanity by the Indonesian military (TNI) in East Timor.

No matter what arguments are made to defend these attitudes held by a number of Australian diplomats and politicians during the time of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, most Australians who value human rights and the rule of international law have every right to be appalled by them. After all, they are very cynical, callous and arrogant attitudes for officials to hold towards a people who are facing genocide and human rights abuses. This was a very shameful period of our nation’s history.

During World War 2, the East Timorese were slaughtered by the Japanese Imperial Army because they gave great assistance to Australian commandos who fought there. The East Timor lost about 70,000 lives out of a total population of 500,000 during the war while Australia lost 40,000 out of 7 million.

For Australian officials to make fun of a people who showed us great friendship and sacrificed so much because of that support, it is nothing short of disgraceful that they were suffering genocide and sickening human rights abuses again.

It is well-known that the TNI used rape as a strategy in East Timor as it does in West Papua today.

Of course, there is a certain irony about this revelation. Many conservative Australians who want Australia to follow US policies without question because of the assistance given to us in World War 2 by the US, are amongst those who want us to forget the great sacrifices made by the East Timorese for Australia.

History shows that in 1965 it was the CIA that assisted the TNI to overthrow democracy in Indonesia and to install the brutal Suharto dictatorship. During its 33 years in power, the military dictatorship was responsible for massive loss of civilian lives and sickening abuses of human rights in Indonesia, West Papua, East Timor and Acheh.

On December 6, 1975, the eve of the TNI’s full-scale invasion of East Timor, former US president, Gerald Ford, and former US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, met with General Suharto and gave support to his planned invasion of East Timor. The fact is that the support by the US and its allies of the invasion and occupation of East Timor is something of great shame and indicates that those justifying the invasion and the cynical attitudes to the crimes that were committed show that they have little regard for international law, democracy, human rights and social justice.

The highlighting of the term “impotent” in the FRETILIN report to describe the ability of the TNI is understandable if one knows the background. I have had discussions with former East Timorese and West Papuan resistance fighters and they have told me that the TNI performed very poorly in the field but that it was very effective at torture, rape and mass executions of civilians.

It is also ironic that these facts have come to light at a time when Australian officials, in violation of international law, are justifying the stealing of oil and gas from Timor-Leste’s half of the Timor Sea. Because Timor-Leste has raised this issue at the International Court of Justice, the current Australian government has sought to pervert the course of justice by stealing papers from an Australian lawyer representing Timor-Leste and withdrawing the passport of a vital witness to the court case – dishonestly claiming the actions were taken because of national security.

Many courageous Australians and East Timorese fought side by side in the struggle against fascism during World War 2. Those who sacrificed so much in that struggle would feel betrayed if they knew that Australian governments were supporting terrorist organisations like the TNI or were appointing officials to represent us who show an irresponsible attitude to the principles of democracy, human rights and social justice.

Humanitarian Australians who take a responsible attitude to fair dealings between nations call upon the Australian government to:

  • cease its cynical and callous attitude towards the people of Timor-Leste who have suffered so much at the hands of the TNI and US and Australian complicity
  • work towards making Australia an independent and non-aligned nation that promotes democracy, peace, social justice and fairness between nations
  • only employs Australians in its diplomatic service who have a proven commitment to the principles referred to above.

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

Next article – A death too many – Time for a renewed national Stop Deaths in Custody campaign

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