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  Issue No 95 Official Organ of LaborNet 11 May 2001  




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Timor: Time for the Truth

HT Lee was in Dili when the militas ran rampage. Now he wants the truth to come out.


HT Lee


Captain Plunkett's revelation in the SBS Dateline program on Wednesday 9 May further confirms the involvement of the Indonesian military (TNI) in the 1999 violence. The program also confirms the Australian intelligence agencies were aware of the extend of the TNI's involvement as far back as 1998.

The intelligence reports were passed on to the Government but it failed to act on it. Foreign Minister Downer instead chose to believe the assurances given by his Jakarta counter part Ali Alatas that the 'rogue elements' would be pulled into line and the TNI and Indonesian police (BRIMOB) would be able to provide the security for the UN mission conducting the popular consultation.

Had the Australian Government from the very beginning took a tougher stand with Jakarta and not swallowed the rogue element myth, the violence that took place in East Timor in 1999 could have been avoided.

Anyone who was in East Timor in 1999 prior to the 30 August ballot would dispute the rogue element line. There were ample evidence pointing to the involvement of the TNI in organising and orchestrating the militia violence. I arrived in Dili the day before the ballot and it did not take me long to come to the conclusion the TNI was running the show--even blind Fredy could see it.

Not only did the Government not acted on the intelligence reports, it failed to pass the reports on to the UN mission and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) who served as members of the UN Civpol all over East Timor, thereby putting them in unnecessary danger.

Captain Plunkett claimed Australian military intelligence had evidence of the TNI/militia links and more importantly their plans to begin the systematic destruction of East Timor and the execution of independence supporters should the ballot goes against Jakarta. This would mean those independence supporters sheltering in the Polri Headquarters in Maliana would be in grave danger. However, this information was not passed on to the UN mission in Maliana.

The UN mission in Maliana was evacuated on 3 September to Dili. The Civpol officers and UN staff initially refused to leave when they were ordered by Dili to do so. They all signed a petition stating they will not leave without the local UN staff and their families.

When Dili agreed to their demand they took all the local staff and their families who wanted to go with them. Had they been given the information those sheltering in the Polri HQ were in grave danger, Civpol officers would have taken other measures to stay behind and prevent the massacre--after the UN left Maliana, the militias were allowed to enter the Polri HQ and massacre at least 47 pro-independence supporters.

The UN mission in Maliana was opened on 26 June 1999 and it was apparent from the beginning it was going to encounter serious problems. According to Civpol officers: 'There were collusive arrangements between the TNI, police and the militia in relation to militia activities.'

There were many incidences in Maliana--all well documented by Civpol, with daily despatches going back to Dili on the helicopters.

While the Australian intelligence agencies were gathering their information mainly through ears dropping in Shoal Bay, Civpol officers were on the ground gathering the intelligence information not only in Maliana but also all over East Timor. These reports were despatched to Dili daily. They all have the same message--the TNI was responsible and behind the militia violence.

However, the reports were sanitised and watered down by the people who received them in Dili. According to a Civpol officer: 'It appears to us the full and frank assessments we forwarded with recommendations to Dili were not being received in the spirit which they were intended.'

The altering of the reports were witnessed by two Austrian Civpol officers in Dili. When they asked why the reports were rewritten, they were told by a very senior AFP officer who was perceived to be very close to the Howard Government, the reports were written by officers whose first language were not English--those reports were in fact written by AFP Civpol officers!

Towards the end of the mission, besides despatching their reports to Dili, Civpol officers were also making their reports to Dili on the open satellite phones--knowing fully well the Australian intelligence would be listening to their conversations.

The reports gathered by Civpol on the ground and despatched to Dili, had they not been vetted and altered, would have given added weight to the intelligence reports gathered by the Australian intelligence agencies showing the extend of the TNI's involvement with the militias. By sanitising Civpol's reports, the true picture of the extend of the TNI's involvement in adding and abiding the militias was covered up.

According to former AFP officer Wayne Sievers who was also in East Timor, the tragedy of East Timor's 1999 independence vote has it's origins in the 'special relationship with Indonesia' pushed by the 'Jakarta lobby' of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

'The Howard government knew senior echelons of the Indonesian military and government were organising, training, funding and directing the murderous militias, even before we were send in in June to East Timor. However, Howard chooses to ignore the Australian intelligence reports so as not to offend Jakarta until it was too late.'

This view is shared by the intelligence community who are angry their reports and accurate assessments and predictions were ignored by the Howard Government--giving the impression they were not doing their job when in actual fact they were.

When I put this scenario to a serving intelligence officer recently: 'Canberra was given all the information but because of political expediency and the Jakarta lobby, Canberra failed to put pressure on Jakarta until it was too late.'

His reply was, 'I can't comment on that but you are on the right track there.'

The influence of the Jakarta lobby is not confined to Foreign Minister Downer and the Howard Government. It had its origin with the Labor Government when Garath Evans was the Foreign Minister.

Commenting on the Dateline program, Justice John Dowd, the President of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurist said:

'Clearly the defence forces during the period immediately after the referendum, acquired a lot of information about where the bodies were buried and some of the atrocities that occurred.'

According to Justice Dowd, the Australian Government is very pro Jakarta and will not do anything to offend them.

'However, we are entitle to know what happened to the people of East Timor and the East Timorese are also entitled to know what happened. It won't come out unless there is an international tribunal that exposes this information for the war crimes that had occurred.'

Commenting on the withholding of vital intelligence information and the altering of Civpol's reports Justice Dowd said:

'We need to know what information was provided. We clearly withheld information in 1975.

'We need to know that all information was given. I was there on the day of the referendum. I knew what was going to happen because I could see what the militias were doing. I make sure I got most of my people out on 31 August, the day after the ballot.

'I am not satisfied the UN was appropriately briefed by what we knew and our defence people clearly knew what was going on.'

There are many unanswered questions in this shameful episode--questions such as the following needed to be answered:

� Why were vital information gathered by the Australian intelligence agencies not acted on and why were the information withheld from the UN and Civpol?

� Why were Civpol's reports sanitised and watered down and who gave the orders to do so?

� The UN in Dili knew Civpol officers in Maliana were prepared to stay behind and put their lives on the line in order to protect the local UN staff and their families. Why then were the Civpol officers not given the intelligence information the independence supporters seeking shelter in the Polri HQ were in grave danger?

Because of political and diplomatic expediency, the Howard Government continued to play the rogue element charade with Jakarta until it was too late.

As a result of that, hundreds if not thousands of East Timorese were killed in the violence that took place before and immediately following the 30 August ballot. More than 200,000 East Timorese were herded and forced under gunpoint onto ships and trucks to West Timor and other islands in the archipelago--at least 100,000 are still in refugee camps in West Timor, living under squalid conditions.

We owe it to the East Timorese for the truth to come out.

We also owe it to the unarmed AFP officers who all severed with distinction there. They were not given proper briefing before they were send in and when they were there vital intelligence information were not passed on to them.

They went through a very traumatic experience there and many of them are still trying to come to terms with their experience in East Timor.

We cannot and should not wait for 30 years for the truth to come out. The Howard Government must act now and release all information in regards to East Timor. The Labor Opposition must also agree to do so.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 95 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Geek Guys
Two of the union movement�s pioneers in new technology, Peter Ross and Mark McGrath, chew the fat about wired unionism and virtual politics.
*  Compo: Costa�s Angels
Behind the spotlight of the workers comp campaign four women trade union officials have been burning the midnight oil to protect injured workers.
*  Legal: View from the Bench
Compensation Court judge and former Attorney-General, Frank Walker, argues the Della Bosca workers comp reforms are a threat to judicial independence.
*  International: Timor: Time for the Truth
HT Lee was in Dili when the militas ran rampage. Now he wants the truth to come out.
*  History: True Believers
Frank Bongiorno looks at the origins of the Australian Labor Party, which celebrated its centenary of Caucus this week.
*  Corporate: Trust Me, I�m a Multi-National!
BHP unions have united across the factions to urge �No� vote on the planned Billiton merger.
*  Unions: AWAs � A Doomed Future?
ACTU Assistant Secretary Richard Marles plays clairvoyant and predicts a dismal future for AWAs.
*  Satire: Bush Defends One China Policy - Then Another China Policy, Then Another ....
President Bush today announced a major change to the United States� policy of �strategic ambiguity� towards the status of Taiwan and its One China policy.
*  Review: Surviving Survivor
Workers Online's Reality TV correspondent Mark Morey rakes over the coals of the Survivor II result.

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