Graeme Dobell reports that the official history of Australian policy on East Timor from 1999 to 2000, has been launched in Canberra by the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.
The study, written by Australian diplomats, says the Indonesian military supported the violence of the East Timor militia with weapons, money, transport and strategic direction. It says Indonesian special forces set up a second chain-of-command to deal with the militia. The history, though, repeats previous Australian Government claims that it’s not possible to determine the extent to which Indonesian military actions on the ground in East Timor were sanctioned or ordered from Jakarta. A senior Foreign Affairs official says the book shows that Australia must be worldly wise and see that assurances from Indonesia’s military are not always reliable.
The East Timor issue has been of immense public interest in Australia as well as of compelling national importance. For this reason, I wanted to provide the Australian public with insights into the complex historical, political and diplomatic context in which events played out and provide, to the greatest degree possible, access to the deliberations and actions of their Government. In compiling the volume, the Department drew on public sources and diplomatic reports, creating a record of particular authority.
The volume provides a comprehensive account of the events that put East Timor on the path to nationhood. It begins with the momentous events in Indonesia in May 1998. It covers the processes leading to the August 1999 ballot and its tragic aftermath, and the international response to the crisis. It concludes with an outline of progress made by the UN administration one year after the ballot. While the focus is on Australia’s role, the volume also documents the broader international effort.
The publication reflects the commitment of both my Department and myself to providing the greatest possible access to material of unusual public interest.
16 Aust: Tony Kevin: Timor has Downer in full spin Article
added July 18
"But Australia’s role through 1999 is profoundly disturbing. To what extent did we wrong-foot Wiranto’s group into launching stupid and murderous actions that would ravage East Timor and shame Indonesia? Did we understand beforehand that the price of East Timorese independence could be widespread bloodshed or did we really believe that we could wing it, with minimal collateral death? Did we deceive ourselves or did we recognise that our real policy was that the end justified the means: that this window of opportunity had to be grasped, whatever the risks we took with East Timorese lives?" Tony Kevin, visiting fellow, school of Pacific and Asian studies, Australian National University
7 ABC: TNI used media strategy to disguise militia links
Interview transcript updated July 14
" ... 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"
9 SBS: Australias East Timor secret TV documentary added
"In an extraordinary investigation, reporter Mark Davis returns to East Timor to disclose disturbing new revelations about Australia’s secret intelligence information prior to the country’s independence referendum. ... A senior officer has now revealed for the first time that Canberra knew the Indonesian Army had plans to destroy East Timor and murder independence supporters, and failed to alert those most at risk." SBS Dateline (Australia)
BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news
BD: Military and political aid to Indonesia - A collection of recent reports, articles and news