AETFA SA comments on Julie Bishop’s statement on Timor-Leste’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague on 22.1.2014

On 22 January 2014, Al Jazeera posted a story, Australia blasts Snowden over ‘treachery’. In the article, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop accused Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who leaked information about Australia spying on Timor-Leste during the Timor Sea oil and gas negotiations, of “unprecedented treachery”.
 The full statement can be read at the following website: 

AETFA’s comment is as follows:

Julie Bishop’s over-the-top statement shows just how hypocritical and hysterical she and the members of the government she is part of really are.  If there is any betrayal in this matter, it is overwhelmingly on the part of successive Australian governments who have displayed incredible levels of treachery towards the people of East Timor.

A brief history of the relations between the 2 countries show just where the treachery lies.
During World War 2, Australian invaded then Portuguese East Timor, which made it a target for the Japanese military. Despite this, most Timorese, at great risk to themselves, assisted the Australian commandos who were there.  About 70,000 East Timorese out of a population of 500,000 died during WW2. It is estimated that, as a result of the support given to Australian soldiers by the East Timorese, forty thousand were murdered by the Imperial Japanese Army firing squads because of this courageous support.
One would have thought that this sacrifice would have meant that Australian governments would have shown great appreciation to the people of East Timor. Tragically, this was not the case.

During 1974 and 1975 during the lead up to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, both major parties in Australia colluded with Indonesia despite the fact that the Indonesian military murdered 5 Australian-based media workers and scores of Timorese. No thought was given to the human rights and the freedom of the East Timorese people, who had not only suffered under Japanese brutality, but also had to endure 450 years of Portuguese colonialism – the last 50 years of which was under a very harsh fascist dictatorship. Nor was there any hint of gratitude for the sacrifice made by the Timorese people for Australia in the WW2 struggle against fascism.

During the 24 years of Indonesian military (TNI) illegal occupation, Australian governments aided and abetted the Indonesian dictatorship by arming and training the TN and acting as an apologist internationally for the excesses of the Indonesian leadership. Throughout this time, East Timor lost about a third of its population, many massacres occurred and gross and sickening violations  of human rights (rape, torture, intimidation etc). Instead of speaking out, Australian governments tried to hush up what was happening and colluded with the immoral aspirations of both the Indonesian dictatorship and US policy dictates in the region.

During this time, Australia negotiated with the Indonesian dictatorship to share the resources of the Timor Sea. Of course, Indonesia had no legal right to these resources as it was the aggressor nation. Australia was able to get a better deal because there was little international support for Indonesia’s invasion and occupation. Further, It should be noted that it is against international law for a country to seek to take the resources of another nation that has been illegally occupied.
With the Asian economic meltdown in 1998, the Indonesian economy, toppled like a pack of cards because of the huge levels of corruption. The mass-murdering Suharto was forced out and there was a window of opportunity for the East Timorese people to get their freedom.

The UN organised an independence referendum and the only security put in place for this to occur was to allow unarmed UN police personnel into the country while the mass-murdering TNI was still there. This was mostly thanks to the then Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer. Not only was the TNI was still there, it was organising and arming huge numbers of militias who were harassing and murdering people suspected of wanting independence. Most observers could see there would be huge problems – except the Howard Government. Howard and Downer advised the Timorese to vote to stay with Indonesia!!!

 Why would they. When the Timorese rejected the advice of John Howard and overwhelmingly voted for independence, the TNI and its militias went beserk. It is believed that they murdered up to 2,000 more Timorese and destroyed 80% of the country’s infrastructure.

It was then decided that the UN should send in a peace-keeping force and that Australia would play a highly significant role in this action. Australian politicians became “reluctant saviours”, but the Australian soldiers did an excellent job in forcing out the TNI and dealing with its militias.

Then, when Australia and an independent East Timor decided to sit down and discuss the dividing of the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea, the Howard Government withdrew from the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, which meant that all the resources north of the median line between then 2 countries would belong to the newly independent Timor-Leste and all those to the south would belong to Australia. The reason for the withdrawal from the Convention, by Australia was, according to many observers, due to the fact  that more of the resources were in T-L’s half of the Timor Sea.
It was during these negotiations that Australia decided to spy on Timor-Leste to get more of its oil and gas revenues. Timor-Leste is the poorest country in the region and one of the poorest in the world. It needs all the funds it can get  to rebuild the country and give humanitarian support to its people who have suffered 24 years of a Nazi style occupation. But Australia, the richest country in the region decided to cheat Timor-Leste, the poorest!

A person who played a very key role in Australia’s actions was Alexander Downer. Since his retirement from the Australian Parliament, he has been working for Bespoke, a lobbying group that represents the interests of one of the oil companies that has a big interest in the oil and gas in the Timor Sea. This is the main reason why an Australian intelligence officer decided to resign and become a whistle blower. As one of the Australian lawyers representing Timor-Leste stated, this is equivalent to insider trading.

AETFA SA, like most fair-minded  Australians, are appalled and ashamed at the way Australian governments have treated the people of Timor-Leste and are grateful to Edward Snowden for having the courage to expose this treachery.

Then, when Timor-Leste rightly decided that they had a very bad deal and appealed it in the International Court of Justice, Australia’s Attorney General, George Brandis, ordered the Australian Security and Intelligence Agency (ASIO) to raid the offices of one of Timor’s lawyers and confiscate relevant documents and to arrest a key witness, a former Australian intelligence officer, and confiscate his passport. This can only be described as an attempt to pervert the course of justice!

Despite Julie Bishop’s outburst about treachery on this issue, there are large numbers of Australians who are grateful to Edward Snowden for exposing the dirty tricks carried out by Australian leaders against the people of Timor-Leste. They are ashamed at the long history of shabby behaviour towards Timor-Leste and they wish it success  in its appeal at the International Court of Justice.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock
Information Officer
Australia East Timor Friendship Association (SA) Inc
Phone: 61 8 83710480
              0457 827 014
Email: andyalcock@internode.on