Australia ignores the plight of the East Timorese,

Howard has been adept at exploiting the popularity of Australian troops’ peacekeeping in East Timor. He has dished out honours, made a triumphant trip to East Timor and generally wrapped himself in the flag. It is a remarkable feat, for behind it is yet another betrayal of the East Timorese by a western government, and one that seeks to deny urgently needed resources to a nation still stricken from the long years of Indonesia’s genocidal occupation.

In 1975, the then Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam agreed with the dictator Suharto, in effect, to look the other way while the Indonesians annexed the Portuguese colony. Three months prior to the invasion, the Australian ambassador to Jakarta, Richard Woolcott, sent this cable to Canberra: ‘It would seem to me that [the] Department [of Minerals and Energy] might well have an interest in closing the present gap in the agreed sea border, and this could be much more readily negotiated with Indonesia than with Portugal, or with independent Portuguese Timor. I know I am recommending a pragmatic rather than a principled stand, but that is what national interest and foreign policy is all about.’ In other words: if we back Suharto, we’ll get East Timor’s oil and gas fields, the seventh largest on earth.

Official documents from 1975, released by Howard in September, leave little doubt about the duplicity of a policy that promoted self-determination for East Timor in Australia

— source | john pilger | 11 Dec 2000

Nullius in verba


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