Speech at Canberra launch of "A Dirty Little War"
HT Lee, Australian press photographer in East Timor September 1999
On behalf of the press photographers, welcome to this joint photo exhibit and book launch.
I would also like to welcome members of the 1St Contingent of the Australian Federal Police, including our guest speaker Wayne Sievers who served with CivPol in East Timor long before Interfet was even dreamt off.
The AFP officers were there unarmed, on the ground, all over East Timor for three months leading up to the 30 August ballot. They worked tirelessly and on numerous occasions put their lives at risk to protect the East Timorese.
They sent back daily reports to Dili but their reports and recommendations fell on deaf ears.
Had the authorities took notice of what they had to say instead of playing the role of the three wise monkeys, the mayhem of August and September 1999 might have been avoided or at the very least lessened.
The 1St Contingent of the AFP was finally given recognition for the crucial role they played in East Timor—almost two years after the events took place—they were recently awarded a Group Citation for Bravery by the Governor General, Sir William Dean.
I would like to thank Jason Patkinson and the Canberra Services Club for hosting this function today.
I would also like to thank our sponsors for making this event possible.
This is the second leg of the exhibition and present here are the two Canberra based photographers Belinda Pretten and John Feder.
And of course we have John Martinkus here himself.
We would like to apologise for taking almost two years for this exhibition to come about but you must understand that when it comes to organising an exhibition, photographers are by nature a bit disorganised.
This exhibition came about because John approached us to contribute photos to his book and we thought maybe it was time for us to have a joint exhibition in conjunction with his book launch.
The aim of this exhibition is to present a pictorial record of the final chapter of the East Timorese struggle for independence and the photos cover the same period as covered in John’s book.
It is therefore befitting that the exhibition will be transported to Dili for permanent display—after all, this is part of their history—we just happened to be there to witness the events and capture the images.
You will notice the first image of the exhibition is that of FALINTAL Commander David Alex taken in January 1997 by John and the last image is that of his widow being embraced by East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao taken by Andrew Meares.
In between these images there are traumatic and horrific images but we make no apology for that because these are the images of ‘a dirty little war’ where an unarmed civilian population was harassed and intimidated, plundered and pillaged, raped and killed by the Indonesian army—the TNI and their proxy the militias.
The images portrayed in this exhibition are not only a reflection of what we saw but also how we felt as we captured those images ‘through the eye of the lens.’
We therefore would like to dedicate this exhibition to the memory of the thousands of East Timorese killed in the mayhem of 1997–1999.
We would also like to dedicate the exhibition
to the 10 journalists killed covering the East Timor conflict from 1975–1999.
They were shot, not in a crossfire as some would like us to believe, but executed at point blank range by the TNI and the Indonedian police, BRIMOB. And they were not your rogue elements but serving TNI soldiers and police under the direct command of their superior officers and battalion commanders.
To this day neither their executioners nor the colonels and generals who issued the orders to pull the trigger have been brought to trial.
While Milosevic is now under detention and awaiting his war crimes trial at the Hague, those responsible and implicated for organising the mayhem and killings of 1999 in East Timor that is your colonels and generals including the then Dili Police Chief, Colonel Timbul Silaen, who was later promoted to Brigadier General, TNI commander Colonel Tono Suratnam who was also promoted to Brigadier General, Major General Adam Damiri, who is now in charge in Aceh and Major General Zacky Anwar Makarim, and those mentioned in John’s book are still free and at large in Kupang, Bali and Jakarta.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has welcomed Milosevic’s detention but when it comes to our dealings with Jakarta, the Jakarta lobby of the Department of Foreign Affairs, DFAT is still calling the shots and pulling the strings.
It is therefore time for the Australian Government of whatever political persuasions to cut those strings and take a tougher stand with Jakarta by calling for and making sure the International War Crimes Tribunal for East Timor is established.
It is only than that the ghosts of Balibo, Maliana, Suai, Liquica, Lospalos, Viqueque, Atsabe, Alas, Same, Dili and all the killing fields of East Timor, can finally be laid to rest.
0419 411 240
January 1997 - January 2000
through the eye of the lens
Australian press photographers
in conjunction with the launch of A Dirty Little War
by John Martinkus with foreward by Xanana Gusmão
Sydney: 12 noon Friday 6 July 2001
Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney
Photo exhibition ends Wednesday 11 July
Canberra: 6.30pm Friday 13 July
Canberra Services Club, Canberra Ave, Manuka
Photo exhibition ends Wednesday 18 July
Melbourne: 6.30pm Friday 20 July
Trades Hall, 54 Victoria Street, Carlton
Photo exhibition ends Wednesday 25 July
The photos will then be transported to Dili for permanent exhibition
About the exhibition...
The aim of the exhibition is to present a pictorial record of East Timor’s transition from a small under reported guerrila war to a nation on the verge of independence.
The photographers have been selected because each captured images that typified the particular period they covered. Many of the photographers covered East Timor for years but the five shots from each have been broken up into specific periods on the basis that often they were the only photographers present or they came away with the best shots.
We would like this to be a permanent record of the violent events that led to the intervention of the international community and the exhibition is devoted to those four journalists —one Indonesian, two Timorese and one Dutch, who died covering this violent period in East Timor’s history.
Any money raised through the exhibition will be donated to the East Timorese Journalists Association in Dili.
John Martinkus: Falintil guerrilas in the mountains, Jan 97.
Ross Bird: Independence demonstrations following the fall of Soeharto, Jun–Jul 98.
John Feder: The militia makes its presence felt in Dili before the arrival of the UN, Apr–May 99.
Dean Sewell: Violence in the countryside before the UN arrive, May 99.
Jason South: Militia violence escalates on the streets of Dili before the UN ballot, Aug 99.
Steve Tickner: The Indonesian military depopulate Dili after the announcement, Sep 1999.
HT Lee: The last of the foreign presence is encircled in the UN compound, Sep 1999.
Belinda Pratten: Driven out of East Timor the UN and refugees arrive in Darwin, Sep 1999.
David Dare Parker: Australian Peacekeepers secure the near empty capital as the Indonesians depart leaving evidence of the killings, Sep 99.
Andrew Meares: East Timorese leaders and refugees return to a country destroyed by the departing Indonesians and now administered by the United Nations. Oct–Dec 99.
Hosted by—Sydney: Amnesty International NSW Parliamentary Group; Canberra: Canberra Services Club; Melbourne: Victorian Trades Hall Council
Sponsored by - getonboard.com.au; AFP; Labor Council NSW; CFMEU; IEU;
John Martinkus: 0419 621 139
HT Lee: 0419 411 240 email@example.com
Margherita Tracanelli: 0407 911 429
7 ABC: TNI used media strategy to disguise militia links
Interview transcript added July 11
" ... it was ... in some ways a very slick PR operation. ... By simply focusing on saying that it was the militia who were destroying Dili, or the militia who were responsible for the majority of the destruction, which was simply not the case, it was very methodical carried out by TNI soldiers [Indonesian military] and you could see that. The militia simply wouldn’t have had the infrastructure trucks, planes, ships to carry out such a large-scale deportation of you know, a third of the population basically." John Martinkus, Australian journalist and author of “A Dirty Little War - an eyewitness account of East Timor’s descent into hell"
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