Subject: Moutere activist thanked for East Timor work
Moutere activist thanked for East Timor work
By ANNA PEARSON - The Nelson Mail
Last updated 13:00 28/05/2010
A Nelson man is among six activists recognised by the Timor-Leste Government for their support of Timor-Leste people during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.
Lower Moutere beekeeper Colin Iles has just returned from Dili, the capital of East Timor, where he received a medal and a Parlamento Nacional (National Parliament) scarf thanking him for actively supporting East Timor's right to self-determination.
An Indonesian, two Australians and individuals from the United States and Finland were also recognised.
Following Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor, Mr Iles spent decades lobbying the New Zealand Government as the national co-ordinator of the Campaign for an Independent East Timor (CIET).
Mr Iles said CIET opposed the New Zealand Government's stance on the "bloody" Indonesian occupation.
"They all betrayed the East Timorese."
Successive governments were more concerned with New Zealand's trade relationship with Indonesia than the lives of Timor-Leste people, Mr Iles said.
"New Zealand refused to support any motion condemning the invasions of East Timor at the United Nations."
In 1977, then Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Talboys publicly said the reason for the Government's hands-off policy was because New Zealand valued its trade with Indonesia.
"There was a terrible injustice taking place," Mr Iles said.
"The population of East Timor was 450,000 in 1975 when they were invaded and 60,000 people were killed in first two months."
Mr Iles said close to 200,000 Timor-Leste people were killed by the end of Indonesian occupation in 1999.
Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand was also in Dili last week.
"He outlined a lot of the wonderful things that New Zealand has been doing for Timor-Leste since 1999, but what he didn't do and should have done was apologise for New Zealand's immoral position on East Timor during the whole 24 years of Indonesian occupation," Mr Iles said.
Mr Iles said the recognition was an honour but the effort and time he put into lobbying on behalf of CIET was "irrelevant".
"I just did what needed to be done.
"They got their freedom in the end and that's what's really important ... now they can decide what they are going to do with it."
East Timor declared independence as a nation in 2002.