Subject: NZPA: NZ should compensate East Timor, MP says

NZ should compensate East Timor, MP says

20.01.06 1.00pm

New Zealand should lead the way by offering reparation to East Timor, Green MP Keith Locke said today after details of a damning United Nations report into what happened under Indonesian occupation were published.

The Australian newspaper quoted the report, which is yet to be presented to the United Nations, saying Indonesia killed up to 180,000 East Timorese through massacres, torture and starvation during its 24-year occupation.

It said 90 per cent of the 180,000 deaths -- almost a third of the pre-invasion population -- were caused by starvation and disease, and that starvation was used as a weapon.

Indonesia should pay reparation, the report said. It also called for Australia, Britain and the United States to offer reparation for providing backing for its military during the years of occupation -- 1975-1999.

Mr Locke told National Radio today that New Zealand had played a lesser role and had "much lower level" of military links than Australia.

He added: "Politically, New Zealand didn't go quite as far as Australia -- Australia accepted the occupation," he said.

However Mr Locke said New Zealand's position was to accept that East Timor could not become independent. He said the position had been, against the background of the Cold War, that it had to support former Indonesian President Suharto's regime to avoid a small, radical state.

Mr Locke said New Zealand's reparation could be small but meaningful.

"I think we could provide a bit of an example to those other three countries to do what the report recommends," he said.

"Offering reparations would be a recognition that politically we went down the wrong track and we're very sorry for it and this is our message to the East Timorese people that we've learnt the lesson from that and put it behind us."

The report was prepared by East Timor's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation for the UN.

The 2500-page report is based on interviews with 8000 Timorese, refugees in Indonesia's West Timor, Indonesian military papers and foreign intelligence sources.

Indonesian State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra said on Thursday that East Timor and Indonesia had already agreed to work together for reconciliation and solving problems.

"Therefore, there is no need to look at the past because it won't help ... Better to look at the future," he said when asked about the report.

The report said Indonesian soldiers and police were responsible for about 70 per cent of the 18,600 unlawful killings or disappearances between the invasion in 1975 and a vote for independence in 1999.

The Australian newspaper did not say who caused the other 30 per cent, but pro-independence guerrillas fought Indonesian forces throughout the occupation of the former Portuguese colony.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 after Portugal abruptly quit the harsh, mountainous area just north of Australia.

When Timorese voted to break away in 1999 it triggered a wave of violence by militias backed by Indonesian army elements.

The UN estimates about 1000 East Timorese were killed in the violence, in which most of the towns were also destroyed.

New Zealand sent hundreds of peacekeepers to East Timor after it broke away from Indonesia and has also given aid.


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