Subject: AU: Whitlam condemned for approval of 1975 invasion

Also: Kopassus claims cloud war games


Whitlam condemned for approval of 1975 invasion

Sian Powell


FORMER prime minister Gough Whitlam has been condemned for his tacit approval of Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975, his refusal to acknowledge famine on the half-island and his alleged lobbying against its Catholic church leader.

A 2500-page report by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation criticises Australia for failing to "use its international influence to try and block the invasion" and criticises Mr Whitlam personally for his appeasement policies.

The report notes Mr Whitlam preferred Indonesia to annexe East Timor following Portugal's disengagement from its former colony. It also details his meetings with Indonesia's then dictator-president Suharto, in which he made his thoughts clear.

Mr Whitlam believed East Timor "too small to be independent", the report says, a belief he conveyed to Suharto in meetings in Indonesia and Australia in 1974 and 1975, just before the invasion.

"The government of Gough Whitlam made it clear to president Suharto that it shared the Indonesian government's preference that Timor-Leste be incorporated into Indonesia," the report says, adding that Australia turned a blind eye to Indonesia's potential use of force and how it would affect East Timor's population of more than 620,000 people.

An Indonesian general quoted in the report said the Australian position helped "crystallise" Indonesia's thinking on East Timor. The report relied on a number of sources, including interviews with Harry Tjan, a key adviser on East Timor to president Suharto.

Mr Whitlam continued to campaign on Indonesia's behalf after he left office, the report says. "Following a visit to Timor-Leste in 1982, on which he reported directly to president Suharto, he was instrumental in having Dom Martinho da Costa Lopes removed as the head of the Catholic Church in East Timor and later that year he appeared before the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation and petitioned to have the question of Timor-Leste removed from the UN agenda," the report says.

Monsignor Lopes had written to Australia in late 1981, warning of another impending famine. In March 1982, Mr Whitlam visited East Timor, and met with Monsignor Lopes, but publicly disputed his claims.

Australia maintained its pro-Indonesia position through successive governments.



Kopassus claims cloud war games

Sian Powell, Jakarta correspondent


INDONESIA'S Kopassus special forces have been directly implicated in thousands of human rights violations in East Timor in a new report documenting instances of murder, rape and torture, just weeks before Australia resumes joint training exercises with the notorious unit.

Australian special forces soldiers will begin counter-terrorism and hijack recovery exercises with Kopassus troops in Perth next month, six years after Canberra severed military ties when Kopassus was accused of killing political activists in the dying days of the Suharto regime.

Kopassus-trained militia also fired on and wounded Australian soldiers in the lead-up to East Timor's independence in 1999 and members of the unit are also suspected in the past of training terrorist groups such as Laskar Jihad.

The independent Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, which took nearly 8000 statements from East Timorese witnesses, received 8710 reports of human rights violations by Kopassus and its predecessor Kopassandha, in all districts and during all periods of Indonesia's occupation from 1975 to 1999.

Kopassus has long been blamed for orchestrating the violence in East Timor during Indonesia's 24-year occupation.

In 1999, many militias were said to be run by Kopassus forces.

Allegations of atrocities are sprinkled throughout the commission's damning 2500-page report. "In addition to assignments with Kopassandha/Kopassus units (Nanggala and Chandraca) Kopassandha/Kopassus personnel also served in territorial units and combat battalions, including in intelligence roles," the report says.

"Though extremely high, the number of violations attributed to Kopassandha/Kopassus does not therefore cover anything like all the reported violations committed by its personnel."

East Timor President and former resistance hero Xanana Gusmao wrote about Kopassus in a letter to the UN in 1982, which is quoted in the report. "In every village there was and still is a prison and every day five to 10 people are tortured, burned with cigarettes, systematically electrocuted with high voltage electricity, or become victims of the Nanggala (Kopassus) killer knives," he wrote. "They pull out fingernails and squeeze testicles with pliers." Mr Gusmao also wrote of women taken to serve the pleasures of both ordinary soldiers and Kopassus.

Defence Minister Robert Hill announced last month that Australian special forces and Kopassus special forces would take part in the two-week Exercise Dawn Kookaburra.

Senator Hill maintains the exercises are vital to fostering co-operation with Indonesia in readiness for a terrorist incident involving Australians. But the Labor Opposition has urged Australia to vet Kopassus soldiers to ensure none has committed human rights abuses or actions against Australian soldiers.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia had not been provided with a copy of the report - due to be handed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York today - and could not comment.

Back to January menu
December 2005 menu    
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu