Subject: Australian Soldier: Govt Failed To Prevent Timor Massacre

Read Transcript of SBS Dateline Program: Australia's East Timor secret

Dow Jones Newswires May 9, 2001

Australian Soldier: Govt Failed To Prevent Timor Massacre

SYDNEY (AP)--Canberra failed to prevent the massacre of dozens of civilians by pro-Jakarta militias following the 1999 independence vote in East Timor, an Australia paratrooper claimed in an interview published Wednesday.

Capt. Andrew Plunkett also told the Sydney Morning Herald the Australian government ordered troops to play down the number of victims slain at a police station in the East Timorese village of Maliana in September 1999.

Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, rejected the claims.

"I've never heard of such an allegation before and I don't think I have ever heard of any Australian government, including the present government, refusing to pass on information which might have otherwise helped save people lives," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The defense department said the allegations were based on "hearsay and opinion."

"There is no claim on our part that we minimized the number count. It just doesn't happen," a department spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity.

Survivors have said 47 people were hacked to death with machetes in Maliana as Indonesian police and troops watched on Sept. 8, 1999. Other independence activists were hunted down and killed.

Plunkett said the Australian government failed to pass on to United Nations officials in the area intelligence reports indicating Indonesian forces were planning the Maliana slayings.

Australia led an international troop force sent to East Timor to stamp out violence by pro-Jakarta militias backed by the army and police that erupted following the province's overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia.

Plunkett claimed Australian sources had accurately reported on Indonesian plans to kill independence supporters in Maliana, but their reports were "pushed up the chain of command, hosed down and politically wordsmithed by the Asia division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade."

Plunkett, a member of the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment, said his decision to publicize the allegations were motivated by a desire to see the United Nations set up a war crimes tribunal to punish those responsible for atrocities in East Timor.

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