Chapter 3 - Humanitarian assistance and security matters
Humanitarian and development
Initial aid activities
Mr Dawson, AusAID, told the Committee on 6 December 1999 that the violence associated with
the ballot had necessitated the withdrawal of all project staff from East Timor and the suspension of all
humanitarian development assistance activities.
In the aftermath of the post-ballot violence and
before a presence could be re-established on the ground in East Timor, AusAID had worked closely with
the World Food Program to deliver over 180,000 daily rations to isolated areas
within East Timor using
Australian Defence Force aircraft. In addition, warehouses were set up in Darwin to receive relief goods from
international agencies and Australian NGOs; commercial air and sea transport
were secured to move supplies quickly from Darwin to East Timor; and
trucks and other vehicles were obtained for transporting supplies within East Timor. Mr Dawson said that
‘these contributions of transport and logistical support had been widely
acknowledged by international relief agencies as having greatly enhanced the
effectiveness and the responsiveness of the international relief effort’.
Once Interfet arrived in East Timor, aid agencies initially focussed
on providing critical humanitarian needs for food, water, shelter and medical
As the major supply routes were secured and displaced East Timorese began to
return from West Timor,
international agencies and Australian NGOs began providing assistance to family
groups to re-establish themselves in East Timor and ensure adequate shelter and care for people during the
1999-2000 wet season.
After an intense period of immediate humanitarian assistance, the focus shifted
to planning for longer-term reconstruction and recovery.
Australian financial aid
In September and October 1999, the Australian
Government announced $14 million in emergency and humanitarian assistance
for East Timor through
international relief agencies, especially the World Food Program, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red
Cross and Australian NGOs. On 22 November 1999, Foreign Minister Downer announced that aid program funding for East Timor in 1999-2000 would be increased
by a further $60 million, of which $23 million would be given to the
consolidated international humanitarian appeal for East and West Timor.
This appeal, which then totalled over $300
million, was used to meet identified urgent humanitarian needs over the
following nine months and it provided a framework for donors to co-ordinate
their assistance. Australia’s contributions to the appeal focussed strongly on
‘assisting return and resettlement of displaced East Timorese from West Timor,
the restoration of basic health and education services, urgent work on water
supply and sanitation, and support for peace-building and initiatives involving
local East Timorese groups’.
assistance to the East Timor
crisis for 1999-2000 totalled approximately $37 million, which was the largest
Australian contribution ever made to an international humanitarian relief
effort. AusAID also provided assistance with reconstruction for longer-term
Foreign Minister Downer said on 18 December 1999 that Australia would contribute $A25 million to the Reconstruction and Development
Trust Fund and the United Nations Trust Fund for East
Timor during 1999-2000. He said Australia's total program of assistance to
East Timor for 1999-2000 would
be at least $A75 million.
As it turned out, Australian Government assistance for East
Timor in 1999-2000 totalled $81 million.
In the 2000-01 budget, the Government committed
$150 million over the following four years towards the reconstruction of East Timor, with $40 million allocated for
the current year.
All aid provided by Australia was under the humanitarian program in close consultation with the
United Nations co-ordinating authorities, which identified priorities and tried
to match donor resources against those priorities. Anything done by Australia for longer-term development was
done in accordance with the priorities that UNTAET set down through its
consultative mechanisms with the East Timorese representatives. Australia agreed to participate in World Bank Multilateral Trust Fund
programming by providing community development, agriculture, infrastructure and
social sector experts.
advice to UNTAET on a number of recovery and reconstruction matters, including
assessment of immediate needs in water supply and sanitation, the provision of
an expert adviser in that sector, and advice on telecommunications needs and
other areas. Australia also
assisted with building the capacity of local NGOs, redeploying some longer-term
project staff and picking up work which was commenced before the ballot.
Bishop Manning said that the Australian Catholic Church was giving support through
Caritas Australia. The Church
would help the East Timorese in the area of human rights if there were human
rights abuses, and by helping them on a humanitarian basis to help themselves
by, for example, helping them to grow their crops or develop water supplies.
Mr Dawson told the Committee that:
the World Bank took the lead in organising a joint assessment
mission comprising representatives of bilateral donors, UN organisations, the
Asian Development Bank and East Timorese technical experts. The IMF also
conducted a parallel assessment mission. This mission was a very important
exercise in longer term planning.
The mission identified immediate economic priorities, including
restarting the flow of goods and services, establishing payments and banking
systems and organising a budget. The mission also identified a range of key
development challenges, including restoring agriculture, re-establishing basic
health and education services, rebuilding essential infrastructure, creating a
new civil service and judicial system and training East Timorese in rebuilding
The total cost of these activities over three years is estimated
to be in the range of $US260 million to $US300 million.
The results of the mission were discussed at a
meeting of international donors from over 50 countries and international
agencies, jointly chaired by the United Nations and the World Bank and hosted
by the Government of Japan, in Tokyo on 17 December 1999. The Tokyo meeting exceeded expectations and gathered over $US522
million in pledges of grant funds for the following three years, of which
$US373 million was allocated for the reconstruction, development and civil
administration of East Timor, including $US31.5 million for UNTAET expenses. An
amount of $US215 million was allocated to two trust funds, one of $US140
million to be administered by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank
(ADB), the other to be administered by UNTAET in consultation with East
Timorese representatives. Another $US149 million was for humanitarian
assistance. The $US158 million remaining from the fund for development and
reconstruction was pledged for other bilateral and multilateral reconstruction
The ADB drew upon the $US140 million trust fund,
which it jointly administered with the World Bank for meeting infrastructure
needs in East Timor, while the
World Bank drew upon the fund for agriculture, health and educational
During a visit to Dili on 21 February 2000, Mr James Wolfensohn, President of
the World Bank, signed the Bank’s first project commitment for East Timor,
$US21.5 million over two and a half years for a Community Empowerment and Local
Governance Project (CEP).
Japan pledged $US100
million over the following three years, of which $US28 million was for
humanitarian assistance. Japan
also promised to provide financial support to East Timorese students studying
at Indonesian universities.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was expected to spend $US30
million by September 2000 on infrastructure repair and development,
agriculture, health and community assistance. JICA-funded projects began in
February 2000 with rehabilitation of the road network, water supply improvement
in fifteen towns, assistance to rice producers in Lautem and Manatuto, and
fishery training and development.
The European Commission pledged ‘at least’ 60
The United States Congress had voted $US25 million for aid for East Timor in the 1999 budget. At the United Nations and the
World Bank meeting on aid to East Timor in Tokyo on 17 December 1999, the United
States pledged $US72 million for humanitarian and
The United States Congress approved a further $25 million aid for the fiscal
year beginning 1 October 2000.
On 1 March 2000, the World Bank country director for East
Timor, Mr Klaus Rohland, said that, since September 1999,
per capita income in the territory had fallen from $US380 to around $US190 a
year. Although crops, such as wheat, rice and coffee, had been little affected
by the September violence, many animals had been killed, including cattle and
most chickens, the mainstay of the local subsistence economy. Therefore, a plan
to increase the number of cattle and chickens was a priority project for
rebuilding East Timor. Mr Rohland said that the most important task was to replace international aid
with productive economic activities.
In response to a plea from CNRT President, Mr Xanana Gusmão and
Vice-President, Dr José Ramos-Horta, which was made on 5 February 2000, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), on 23 March, approved a $US1
million grant over two years to develop a capacity building plan for
parliamentary business, justice administration and public sector management. On 29 March, the ADB and
UNTAET signed a $US 29.7 million grant agreement for roads, ports and
electricity repair and maintenance.
On 26 May 2000,
Hedi Annabi, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, said
$US14.1 million in a United Nations trust fund of $US28.6 million had been
disbursed but the World Bank, which had collected $US38.4 million of $US147
million pledged by donors in Tokyo in December 1999, had only spent $US2
million to date. However,
he said the bank had now finished planning the health, education and agricultural projects it would fund
and was expected to spend up to $US40 million in coming months.
One of the key functions of UNTAET was to
establish mechanisms for setting aid priorities. The Office of the
Secretary-General’s Special Representative had a position dedicated to perform
that function, in close consultation with East Timorese representatives through
the established consultative processes.
Prioritisation of programs financed by the World Bank Multilateral Trust Fund
of $US147 million is performed every six months by an East Timorese group in
close consultation with UNTAET and the World Bank. Trust Fund work plans are
discussed with donors to the Fund to avoid overlap with bilateral projects.
Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) working
groups were set up for particular sectors. A representative of AusAID regularly
attended the daily OCHA co-ordination meetings.
The Oecusse enclave
The district of Oecusse, also known as Ambeno,
forms an enclave on the north-west coast separated by some 80 kilometres of
Indonesian territory from the rest of East Timor.
It is where the Portuguese first established themselves on Timor.
The present border was the product of the centuries of struggle between the
Dutch and Portuguese. Mr Michael Grant explained:
To put the border in a brief historical context, the borders of
East and West Timor reflect centuries of political compromise between Holland
and Portugal, the two ex-colonial powers. The borders do not reflect distinct
cultural or linguistic boundaries. Perhaps these days they reflect a
psychological boundary, nor, apart from the enclave of Oekussi, do they reflect
indigenous Timorese ethnic boundaries. The boundary of the enclave Oekussi was
a natural indigenous, autonomous boundary of a kingdom that traditionally has
not wanted to be dominated by either Dili or Kupang in West Timor.
Mr Grant referred to the land swaps that had
taken place during the period of colonial rule. Maucatar on the southern
salient of the East/West border was part of Dutch West Timor up until 1916 when it was swapped for other parts of Timor, and there was an earlier land swap
in 1859. Maubara, where much of the political violence has occurred, was once a
At one stage during the border negotiations from 1859 to 1916 between the Dutch
and Portuguese, the Portuguese had wanted to exchange Oecusse for territory
contiguous to the rest of their Timorese territory. The local ruler had refused
Professor James Fox referred to the historical importance of the kingdom of Ambeno which, as a nominal vassal of Portugal, had been able to preserve a large measure of Timorese independence
from both the Dutch and Portuguese until the early part of the twentieth
The predominant language in Oecusse is Dawan
rather than Tetum, the official local language of East
Dawan is also the predominant language in the central part of West Timor.
During the post-referendum violence, some 50,000
of its 58,400 inhabitants were forced to flee or were driven away from their
homes. The local TNI-sponsored Saukunar militia, led by Laurentinho ‘Moko’
Soares, was accused of conducting a rampage of arson, kidnapping and murder. Interfet entered Ambeno on 22 October 1999 and, by 25 January 2000, more than 230 bodies had
been found across the district by United Nations authorities, including the
site at Passabe of possibly the largest single massacre in all of East Timor following the referendum.
The district’s isolated location invited the
question of its continued viability as part of an independent East Timor.
Dr Peter Bartu saw long-term difficulties in defending the enclave: ‘It was such a
historical and geographic anomaly that it would be a challenge for any Dili
based government to bring the enclave fully into East
Mr Hamish McDonald said:
In terms of its viability, I think that would largely depend on
the nature of the border that comes into being between East Timor and Indonesia.
If it was what you might call a hard border, patrolled and with restricted
crossing, then I think it would be very difficult for Oecussi to be supported
from East Timor ... If it returns to the porous border that it was in
Portuguese times, I think it could quite easily exist as an enclave.
Mr McDonald explained that viability would
rest on the assumption that there was fairly free movement of citizens on a
local level across the border and free movement along the roads across West Timor territory back into East Timor. He referred to the two land
routes: a central route, going south out of Oecusse to Kefamananu and then
joining the central highway in West Timor, and a more recently constructed
coast road, linking Oecusse with the East Timor border near Atapupu, and said,
if those roads were open and there was a co-operative spirit on both sides of
the border, there was no reason why Oecusse should not continue to be an East
Timorese territory. He concluded:
Politically, I think it would be foolish for the East Timorese
leadership to even talk about offering up Oecussi as a territorial concession
at this stage, given that there are voices on the Indonesian side and on the
pro-Indonesian side in East Timor still talking about a partition of the main
part of East Timor and keeping the western districts as some kind of Indonesian
buffer zone or even a separate territory.
Dr Gerry van Klinken was of the view that, if relations remained hostile, it would be
difficult for the enclave to remain part of an independent East Timor. He went on to point out that
treatment of the enclave’s population by the militia was identical to, if not
worse than, the way the East Timorese had been treated in the rest of East Timor. This indicated that the
pro-independence feeling in the enclave had been just as strongly in favour of
independence as it had been elsewhere. The international community therefore
owed it to the people of Oecusse to treat them in exactly the same way as they
treated the rest of East Timor.
Mr Abel Guterres told the Committee the enclave was not negotiable:
Oecussi was still part of the territory of East Timor ... Before
the Indonesian invasion they were under Portuguese rule. There was access.
Things will change. We hope to have a good, cooperative relationship with West
Timor, with Kupang, with the Nusa Tenggara Timor government. We hope to have
that good working relationship in the area with the whole of eastern Indonesia.
That will happen. There was endeavour in terms of communicating with local West
Timor leadership. It will be in their interest and in our interest to maintain
that cooperative role.
Professor Charles Sampford said that the residents of Oecusse should be asked if they wanted
to stay part of East Timor, and
that their wishes should be respected. He said it was better to work on
creating an international order in which border differences did not mean as
changing those boundaries would be a real problem. ‘Those who
try to correct the accidents of history create some of its greatest tragedies.’
I think it was best in this particular case to say to the Indonesians or
anybody else that that was part of East Timor until they want to leave and just
work with it.
The Committee notes that the basic international
instrument, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial
Countries and Peoples of December 1960, expressly asserts, ‘Any attempt
aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the
territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and
principles of the Charter of the United Nations.’ This would appear to give
strong support to those in Timor who desired to preserve the territorial boundaries as finally
established in 1916.
On 29 February 2000, during President Abdurrahman Wahid’s visit to Dili,
Indonesia and UNTAET reached in
principle agreement for free access by land from Ambeno to the rest of East Timor by way of a ‘special corridor’. Further talks on this were
held on 8 June when the Governor of Nusa Tenggara Timur (West Timor and
adjacent islands), Piet Tallo, visited Dili for round table talks with UNTAET
officials and East Timorese leaders, and on 5 and 6 July during
UNTAET-Indonesia talks on the border in Surabaya. It had not been
established by October 2000 because of the fragile security situation in West Timor.
Upon handing over to his Timorese successor at
the end of July 2000, the first UNTAET district administrator of Ambeno, Mr
Graham Day, said that it was essential for the future of the enclave that East
Timor establish a transport link between Oecusse and Dili by sea that was
entirely under its own control. ‘Be it humble, be it infrequent, it must fly
the Timorese flag, be controlled by Timorese authorities, and be subject to
Timorese laws’, he said. ‘No resident of Oecusse is going to have confidence in
a corridor open to the influence of the militia groups that continue to be
active in the region.’
UNTAET said that ‘The takeover of parts of West Timor by militia groups makes it
unlikely that a land corridor can be established anytime soon. Therefore, the
only economic possibility for transport between Oecussi and East Timor proper is by sea’, and announced
that a passenger ferry service was being established to supplement the limited
air service until a land corridor could be established. The East Timor
Transitional Cabinet decided to provide a subsidy of $US5,000 per month to
enable the Australia-based East Timor Shipping and Supply (ETSS) to operate the
service. Early in 2001, there was speculation that another company might take
over the ETSS passenger ferry service, which UNTAET called ‘a temporary
The Committee believes that the long-term future
of Oecusse should be based on the wishes of the residents of the enclave. In
the meantime, everything possible should be done to establish a secure land
link between Oecusse and the rest of East Timor, free from the ravages and harassment of the militia or others yet
to come to terms with an independent East Timor. Once security is restored in West Timor, and with co-operative Indonesian authorities, there is no reason
to believe why Oecusse cannot operate successfully as part of East Timor.
The 2000-01 Budget provided for the maintenance
of Australia’s civilian police presence in UNTAET, funded from the $104.3
million over four years allocated to aid to East Timor. The Budget initiative
provided for a continued civilian policing capacity of up to 80 deployed
Australian civilian police (AUSCIVPOL) to meet UNTAET’s requirement. A reserve
pool of some 240 trained members was established, drawn from recently retired
AFP and serving State and Territory police.
The role of civilian police with UNTAET is to
assist in every aspect of its peacekeeping and capacity-building role, from
maintaining law and order at a community level to investigations to ensuring
the security of prisons, airports, courts and harbours. They are also involved
in the development and training of an East Timorese police force.
On 15 February 2000, 28 State and Territory
police were sworn in as Special Members of the Australian Federal Police to
allow them to serve in East Timor. This was the first time that State or Territory police had served
with a United Nations mission since 1976, when they served with the United
Nations Force in Cyprus. Since
then, although several police from Victoria and Queensland
served as part of a United States-led multinational force in Haiti in 1995, the responsibility for
contributing to United Nations missions had fallen solely to the AFP. More than 250 Australian
police served in East Timor
between July 1999 and August 2000.
Mr Alan Mills was selected by the United Nations to head the civilian police
detachment (CIVPOL) which helped to conduct the 30 August 1999 ballot. Mr Mills headed a detachment of some 270 police, drawn from 15 countries,
that liaised with the Indonesian police, who were responsible for security for
At the hearing of 15 September 1999, former Australian
Federal Police agent, Mr Gary Wood, who was an accredited UN observer of the East
Timor ballot, was critical of the conditions under
which it was allowed to take place:
I think that, compared with formulas in the past, the formula of
how they went was not quite right. If you take the example of Mozambique, there
was a formula. People agree to go to different areas, the combatants go to
different areas, the military come in, they then feed them and clothe them. The
weapons are handed in, the military takes control and it is reasonably safe,
then the military starts to withdraw, the civilian police start to come in and
eventually there is some harmony on the ground. Then the electoral people come
in with the humanitarian people ... and towards the end there is an election ...
In 1994 I saw it work in Mozambique. East Timor was the opposite way around. It
was like, ‘Let’s have an election and everything will be okay’... All the
combatants were there. The anger, hostility and violence were still there. I thought
that made the position of our people on the ground very difficult.
Mr Wood referred to the very difficult
situation unarmed CIVPOL officers consequently found themselves in when,
following the ballot, they were required to protect people from the militias.
From the accounts of these good friends of mine, they said that
when they had had enough - and you have to realise that these people are highly
trained policeman who are used to being in a position of authority and having
some power on the ground - and they had shouted at the militia, the police
turned their firearms towards their stomachs and said, ‘If you keep yelling at
the militia, we will kill you.’ That was on Tuesday morning, the day after the
Mr Wood said that people who had worked with
the Australian CIVPOL as drivers and interpreters had been executed by the
militias, in particular in the areas of Maliana and Ermera.
Federal agent Sharon McCarthy, who
received the International Policewoman’s Association’s Medal of Valour for her
work in East Timor, took part
in the evacuation from the UN’s Liquiça compound when it came under fire from
pro-Indonesian militia. She later described the experience:
There was militia on either side of the road. I remember seeing
people in army uniforms with weapons. I remember weapons pointed at our
vehicles, and I remember gunshots going off all around us. I remember a very
large explosion in our vehicle—a strong smell of cordite ... When I later got
out of the vehicle I realised that a round had actually come up through where
my feet were in the vehicle and had gone through my backpack and up through the
ceiling of the vehicle. We had shrapnel, sort of, all over us. We were picking
it out of our skin for days. Not large chunks, but, you know, splinters of
metal and glass.
Public recognition of the vital role played by
civilian police in securing the popular ballot in East Timor and in subsequent
efforts to restore order to the territory was shown on 19 April 2000 when some
30 AFP members, who had served with UNAMET, Interfet and UNTAET, took part in
the parade held in Sydney on that day for Australian Defence Force and AFP
personnel who had served in East Timor.
Speaking in Sydney on 19 May 2000, Interfet
Commander Major General Peter Cosgrove saluted the peacekeeping efforts
of Australian Federal Police: ‘Let there be no doubt the Australian Defence
Force salutes the AFP for their great service in East
Presenting 16 members of the AFP with Police
Overseas Service Medals and Clasp in Canberra on 8 August 2000,
Justice and Customs Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone said:
AFP officers were amongst the first international contingents
into East Timor, having served there since July 1999 when they played a
significant role in the successful conduct of the self-determination ballot.
Let’s remember they were there first, they were there unarmed, they protected
the Timorese while the ballot was being undertaken and they protected the
ballot boxes to make sure that the will of the people was properly recorded.
On 14 October 2000, Senator
Vanstone announced that the
United Nations would award its Service Medal for East
Timor to the first detachment of Australian police
officers who served in East Timor during the 1999 popular consultation. This involved the United
Nations waiving the normal condition of award of a 90-day minimum period of
service. The fourth detachment of 70 Australian police became the first to be
presented with the medal in a ceremony in Dili on 14 October 2000. The first three
detachments of about 170 police sent to East Timor since June 1999 had all been ineligible for the medal because of
the 90-day condition. Senator Vanstone said she was pleased the UN had finally agreed to recognise the
first and most deserving police sent to oversee the August 30 independence
ballot. ‘It was an accident of history that these people didn’t serve the time
normally required to achieve the UN medal,’ she said. ‘The men and women who
went through the most dangerous time in Timor, who were there first, who were there unarmed before the army, are
the ones who most deserve the medal.’
The Committee believes that the police who
served in East Timor as part of
UNAMET had a more difficult and dangerous job than did the military as part of
Interfet. They were unarmed and served there during the height of militia
harassment and violence in the lead up to the 30 August poll and
afterwards in the systemic destruction of the territory. Indonesia, which demanded and got
responsibility for maintaining security in East Timor during the UNAMET period, abjectly failed in fulfilling that
responsibility. There are obviously lessons to be learnt from this experience
and the Australian Government should consider not acceding to such deployments
in the future where the United Nations does not have responsibility for the
security of its mission and where security arrangements are unlikely to be
United States role in East Timor
The United States had an important role to play in the processes that led to East Timor gaining its independence. Mr Alan Dupont emphasised
this point in evidence to the Committee:
I think it is absolutely critical for the US to remain engaged
politically and to be prepared to pressure the Indonesians, if necessary,
because at the end of the day the US is the world’s only superpower ... I think
American political support is crucial to seeing ultimately a viable East
Timorese state emerge from the ashes of the destruction of the last couple of
Professor Hugh Smith agreed that the diplomatic role of the United
States had been a key one, by providing diplomatic
back-up and economic clout, through the IMF and other agencies, to create the
right political and diplomatic atmosphere.
Mr Tom Uren drew attention to the change in American policy toward East Timor. From 1975 until the Dili
massacre, Indonesian actions in the territory had been accepted without
question. Following that massacre, the Congress and Administration became
concerned about human rights abuses and this changed to outright support for
independence after the August 1999 ballot.
Mr Uren regretted that Australia had not worked to gain American support for
East Timor’s independence earlier in 1999, a view also put by Mr Robert Lowry,
who said: ‘I think that one of the great failures on Australia’s part was not
to mobilise support from the United States at that earlier period back in April
Dr Harold Crouch referred to reports that senior American military and naval
officers had spoken to Indonesian Armed Forces Chief, General
Wiranto, during the crisis in
early September 1999, to gain Indonesia’s agreement to an international peacekeeping force in East Timor. Following President Bill Clinton’s condemnation of the Indonesian
military’s refusal to stop the violence in East Timor, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Command, Admiral Dennis Blair, travelled to Jakarta, where he told General Wiranto the
United States was cutting off
the remainder of its military relations with Indonesia. He then left the country, cancelling a speech he was to deliver at
the army staff college in Bandung. Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry
Shelton, spoke on three occasions with General Wiranto, finally on 10 September
saying the United States would block the International Monetary Fund from
delivering the funds that Indonesia needed to recover further from the Asian
economic crisis unless either the violence in East Timor was halted or an
international peacekeeping force was allowed into the territory. After visiting
East Timor to inspect the
situation there, General Wiranto telephoned General Shelton on 12 September to say he would recommend to President B.J. Habibie that he ask immediately for an
international peacekeeping force.
The United States provided vital support for Interfet, in particular in the form of
state of the art intelligence equipment and expert personnel sent directly to Canberra in late September 1999 for
installation at the Defence Signals Directorate headquarters at Russell Hill.
Admiral Dennis Blair,
Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), said on 4 April 2000, during a visit to Jakarta, that Indonesia’s armed forces needed to become more professional before military
co-operation could resume. Admiral Blair said there were two main areas the
Indonesian military needed to focus on. The first was that military personnel
responsible for the rape, murder and destruction in East
Timor in September 1999 should be brought to justice.
The resumption of military links was also conditional on a peaceful solution
being found to the refugee crisis in Indonesian West Timor, where United
Nations officials estimated there were still about 120,000 East Timorese
sheltering in camps, many of them being prevented from returning home by
anti-independence militias. ‘We need to see the disbanding and stopping of
support to the militias’, he said.
Although Australia was instrumental in
galvanising international support for the United Nations sponsored Interfet
intervention in East Timor as a result of the post-ballot violence, it was the
United States, using leverage that only it could bring into play, that finally
persuaded Indonesia to support Interfet, thus allowing Interfet to operate in
East Timor. The Committee believes that the United
States has a continuing role to play in ensuring the
future security of East Timor
and the successful return of the remaining East Timorese held against their
will by East Timorese militias in refugee camps in West
Timor. With elements of the TNI still frustrating Indonesian
Government efforts to resolve security and other problems in West Timor, United
States involvement may be crucial in neutralising ‘rogue elements’.
It was put to the Committee that the reduction
of service to Indonesia by
Radio Australia following the
closure of the transmission station at Cox Peninsula near Darwin in June 1997 had had the
unfortunate effect of reducing the flow of information into Indonesia and East
Timor. Mr Bruce Haigh said: ‘we withdrew the Radio
Australia service, so how can they possibly know what is going on? We should
have increased it, not decreased it. It is in our interests to have as much
information flowing into the region as we can manage because, from their own
sources, from their own newspapers, from their own radios, they will not get
From 11 September 1999, Radio Australia was able to broadcast directly
across Indonesia for the first
time since 1997 because of a six-month contract the ABC negotiated for the
lease of two transmitters in Taiwan and Singapore. This
significantly increased broadcasting capacity, which had been limited to the
transmission facilities at Shepparton, and enabled Radio Australia to be heard, on a not very good
signal, in East Timor for about
three hours or less per day.
Attempts by UNAMET to obtain transmission time on the Radio Australia
transmitters were unsuccessful, and UNAMET finally turned to the Portuguese
national broadcaster RTPI for access to their facilities.
Former Radio Australia correspondent Ms Sue Downie told the Committee its importance for the East Timorese and
Indonesian populations was to provide them with access to information about
what was happening in their own territory, in Indonesia and the rest of the world.
Sister Susan Connelly said the
re-installation of Radio Australia broadcasts in the region would allow its listeners an alternative
view and could be welcomed by the new Indonesian Government. Other witnesses also supported
the case for an increase in Radio Australia services to East Timor and Indonesia. Mr James Dunn said:
At this time, I think it is more important than ever that Radio
Australia be opened. It is not only for the Timorese; it is also to give
another side to the Indonesians who listen into radio quite a lot ... It should
give our point of view and demonstrate over the airwaves, as Radio Australia
was always good at, that Australians really care and are not just picking on
Lieutenant General John Sanderson noted
that explaining to the Indonesian people what Australia’s actions, intentions and desires were would be equally important
as explaining them to the East Timorese.
Mr John Scott-Murphy agreed that it was important for Radio Australia to provide educational and general broadcasting services with an
independent view to East Timor
and for current services to be expanded. Caritas Australia had made a submission at the time of the proposed closing down of
the service to that effect. He regarded Radio Australia as a crucial element of the provision of information to the local
people, and for communication with people in general throughout South East Asia. He said: ‘It really should
be seen now as a terrible mistake to have reduced the service’.
On 8 August 2000, the Australian Government announced that Radio Australia would
receive up to $9 million over three years to extend its short-wave radio
broadcasts. The Australian Government also would consider supporting commercial
television broadcasts to the region. Minister for Communications, Information
Technology and the Arts, Mr Richard Alston, and Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Mr Alexander Downer, said the initiatives were a recognition of the importance
of a credible, reliable and independent broadcaster in the region: ‘Recent
events have highlighted the value of Australia’s international broadcasting
activities in conveying accurate news and information to the region, as well as
providing an Australian perspective’. ABC Chairman Donald McDonald said the ABC could now consider buying time at the Cox transmitter,
which had been sold to the British charity broadcaster Christian Vision.
In its Interim Report of September 1999, the
Committee made three recommendations aimed at increasing Radio Australia transmissions to Indonesia. The Committee is pleased that
the Australian Government has now enabled Radio Australia to improve its service to Indonesia, in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations, even though it
took the Government more than 10 months to come to that decision. In so
doing, the Government has, at last, recognised the need to counter false and
unfair criticisms of Australia,
which have been broadcast by Indonesian broadcasters, and to put an Australian
viewpoint direct to the Indonesian people.
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