Chapter 1

Interim Report on East Timor

Chapter 1


Establishment of Inquiry

1.1 On 30 November 1998, the Senate referred the following matter to the Committee for inquiry and report by 21 October 1999:

(a) economic, social and political conditions in East Timor including respect for human rights in the territory;

(b) Indonesia's military presence in East Timor and reports of ongoing conflict in the territory;

(c) the prospects for a just and lasting settlement of the East Timor conflict;

(d) Australia's humanitarian and development assistance in East Timor;

(e) the Timor Gap (Zone of Cooperation Treaty); and

(f) past and present Australian Government policy toward East Timor including the issue of East Timorese self-determination.

Conduct of the Inquiry

1.2 The Committee advertised the inquiry in the national press in December 1998 and called for the lodgement of written submissions. The Committee has received 98 written submissions, most of which have been made public documents. In view of the fact that the situation in East Timor has changed almost daily during 1999, some supplementary or updated submissions have also been received.

1.3 The Committee began hearings on East Timor on 19 July in Adelaide. It subsequently took evidence in Perth on 20 July, in Canberra on 13 August and 15, 20 and 24 September, in Melbourne on 27 August, in Darwin on 8 and 9 September and in Sydney on 10 September. It also received briefings in Darwin from the Commander Northern Command and from the Commander One Brigade, which is based in Darwin. It is, however, still not much more than half way through its schedule of hearings.

1.4 Nevertheless, as the situation in East Timor has unfolded in such a dynamic and dramatic way, the Committee feels compelled to make an interim report to the Senate on some matters that should not be held over to the end of the inquiry. The Committee believes that it has taken enough evidence on these matters to be in a position to put conclusions and recommendations to the Senate.

1.5 Having put this interim report to the Senate, the Committee will continue with its inquiry. However, the Committee does not rule out making another interim report to the Senate should circumstances again dictate such a course of action.

1.6 The Committee wishes to thank those people and organisations who have so far made submissions, given evidence at hearings or contributed in some other way to the inquiry.