Dear Friends in solidarity with Timor-Leste and other peoples who have suffered from Indonesian military barbarity with US and allied support
As we get closer to 12 September 2018, when the rescheduled trial of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery for conspiracy takes place in Canberra, it is good that the on-line news service Crikey posted the article below by Sophie Raynor which reminds us of the shameful way that Australian governments have treated the East Timorese, who so courageously supported us during WW2.
Below is just a reminder of that history:
* support for the invasion of East Timor by the Indonesian military (TNI) with a loss of almost a third of the population, gross human rights violations and 80% of the infrastructure destroyed until circumstances virtually forced the Howard Government to be a “reluctant saviour” when Australia played a major role in the INTERFET force that entered East Timor in 1999 after the 1999 UN supervised independence referendum
* attempts by Alexander Downer and John Howard to bully the newly independent government of Timor-Leste into a very unfair arrangement in the Timor Sea which attempted to deny the East Timorese access to some of its resources in the Sea and a maritime border that conformed to the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea UNCLOS). This basically meant that the wealthiest nation in the region was attempting to take resources that rightly belonged to the poorest nation in the region.
* the illegal spying on the Timor-Leste Government by ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service) to gain a commercial advantage by Australia during the negotiations
* when the Timor-Leste Government justifiably protested to the International Permanent Court of Arbitration about the spying and the unfair arrangement, George Brandis (then Australia’s attorney general) ordered ASIO (Australia Security and Intelligence Organisation) to raid lawyer, Bernard Collaery’s office to remove important documentation about the case and the home of Witness K (the Australian intelligence officer who reported the illegal bugging) to confiscate his passport. These actions were obviously undertaken to pervert the course of justice in the International Court – a shameful hypocrisy of a government that frequently preaches to others about the rule of law!
* then in 2018, when Timor-Leste had a great moral victory over the Australian Government at the International Permanent Court of Arbitration in relation to these matters, the Australian Government decided to charge Witness K and Bernard Collaery for conspiracy.
The only conspiracy of Witness K and Bernard Collaery was to stop Australia from unfairly cheating Timor-Leste and ensure that it could attain a fair internationally recognised maritime border as other nations do.
Also, since then the Australian Government has been silent about the estimated $5 billion worth of resources it has taken from Timor-Leste ‘s 1/2 of the Timor Sea. The article refers to this matter and stresses that while Australia is the highest aid donor to Timor-Leste with $98.1 million being allocated during 2018 -2019, this is only a very small amount compared with the estimated $5 billion worth of Timor’s resources that Australia has taken.
In the article, it is good to see that Sophie Raynor has mentioned statements by Juvinal Dias from the Timor-Leste activist group Movimentu Kontra Okupassaun Tasi (MKOTT) which very accurately describe the behaviour of the Australian Government in relation to its dealings with the East Timorese. Australian solidarity groups should applaud the actions of MKOTT. It recently organised a candle light vigil out side the Australian Embassy in Dili when Julie Bishop was there.
ACTION TO SUPPORT WITNESS K & BERNARD COLLAERY
Please sign the Avaaz and GetUp on-line petitions at the following websites and encourage others to do the same:
* LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, TALK BACK RADIO ETC:
Write letters to newspapers and/or speak about the issue on talk-back radio.
Move resolutions of support for Witness K and Bernard Collaery at your political party sub branch, union, church, community group etc. and ask those organisations to issue media releases and public statements about the issue.
[Many ALP sub branches have already moved resolutions to go to the 2018 ALP National Conference despite the fact that ALP MPs took no effective action to support Timor-Leste winning justice in the Timor Sea or giving support to Witness K and Bernard Collaery.]
* ATTENDING PROTEST ACTIONS
Please take action to ensure that the shameful action against Witness K and Bernard Collaery are dropped.
Thanks to Dave Arkins (Sec. AWPA SA) for sending me the story.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock
AETFA SA Inc
Phone: 61 8 83710480
0457 827 014
AETFA SA – 43 YEARS OF SOLIDARITY WITH TIMOR-LESTE FOR INDEPENDENCE & JUSTICE (AETFA SA was originally the Campaign for an Independent East Timor SA until Timor-Leste’s independence in 2002)
‘Hypocrite minister’: Timor-Leste activists blast Bishop for prosecution of Witness K
Sophie Raynor Freelance journalist Crikey 20 August 2018
The Timor-Leste activist group that condemned the Australian government over the prosecution of Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery has blasted the government for its hypocrisy following Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s long-delayed July visit to the country, during which Bishop optimistically promised a “new chapter” for the countries’ beleaguered relationship.
Speaking to Crikey from Dili this week, Juvinal Dias from the activist group Movimentu Kontra Okupasaun Tasi Timor (MKOTT) equated Australia’s “undemocratic” prosecution of Collaery and Witness K to the rule of Indonesian dictator Suharto, drawing an uncomfortable connection to the brutal 24-year-long occupation of Timor-Leste by Indonesia.
Australia’s tacit support of that occupation allowed it to gain an undue share of oil and gas in the Timor Sea after the generous Timor Sea Gap agreement with Indonesia came into effect in 1991. Australia received 50% of the resource wealth from an area now found to be almost 100% within Timor-Leste’s boundary.
“Indonesia came to kill people, Australia occupied the sea and stole the wealth,” Dias told Crikey of the twin threats to Timor-Leste during its struggle for independence.
“For MKOTT, what we see from what Julie Bishop is doing is a continuation of Australia shutting its mouth on the invasion of Timor in 1975. Australia supported the invasion. [It] is a continuation of genocide in Timor, occupation of Timor-Leste, domination of Timor-Leste, stealing from Timor-Leste.”
When former ASIS intelligence agent Witness K revealed that Australia had bugged Timor-Leste’s cabinet during oil and gas treaty negotiations in 2004, Timor-Leste tore up an early treaty between the countries and launched espionage proceedings against Australia at the Hague.
The case was later dropped as an act of good faith and a new treaty delineating a permanent maritime boundary was signed in March this year. But the prosecution of the case’s key witness and his lawyer, revealed by Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie under parliamentary privilege in June, casts a new light over the countries’ relationship.
“The criminalisation of activists is part of a colonial or regime behaviour, not from a democratic country,” Dias said. “We know that Australia is a nation that always talks about democracy, a pioneer of democracy, a pioneer for freedom of expression, human rights, good governance, peace and other things. A country like Australia, which is economically and politically strong, should be an example to a small country like Timor-Leste.”
From the hilltop village of Tutuala in Timor-Leste’s eastern-most district, Lautem, dreadlocked Dias has a decade of activism behind him and a nine-year-long stint as a researcher at respected Timorese development analysis institute, Lao Hamutuk. Now working at the Timor Transparency Network, which publishes figures for Timor Sea wealth.
Dias told Crikey that Australia owes Timor-Leste money.
Australia is Timor-Leste’s largest foreign aid donor, but the $91.8 million allocated in aid over 2018-19 pales in comparison to the estimated $5 billion received by Australia from oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea, mostly from areas now recognised as Timor-Leste’s under the new treaty. “Australia can’t give small money and take big money,” Dias said.
Australia still draws an estimated US$4 million per month from oil and gas fields found under the new boundary treaty to lie in Timor-Leste’s waters, and will until the treaty is ratified, which is expected to be by the end of this year. While under its terms neither party has the right to seek compensation from the other, Dias says options remain open.
“Even though the treaty doesn’t ask for compensation, it also doesn’t ban Australia from voluntarily giving back the money it took from Timor-Leste,” he said.
But the specifics of the ongoing oil negotiations are of less interest to MKOTT than reclaiming Timor-Leste’s rights and correcting the perceived wrong of the Witness K prosecution.
Dias said that Collaery and Witness K simply wanted to strengthen Australia’s democracy by revealing the Australian government’s wrongdoing in bugging Timor-Leste, calling Bishop a “hypocrite” for promoting democracy abroad while her own country prosecutes its truth-tellers. “What Julie Bishop said in other countries about democracy doesn’t reflect in Timor-Leste,” he said. “This is why I say she is a hypocrite minister.”
The Australian government must avoid limiting freedom of expression by allowing the prosecution of the pair, Dias said, lest it start its own dictatorial regime. “We from MKOTT see that it is a setback for Australian democracy,” he said. “For Timor-Leste, this criminalisation is a practise of human rights violation. We see that they are criminalised now, we have the obligation to show solidarity.”
MKOTT activists, who have fought for Timor-Leste’s sovereignty since 2004, held a candlelight vigil outside Bishop’s hotel when she visited Dili in July, and Dias said the group will protest again in Dili on September 12, the rescheduled date of the case’s first directions hearing.
“Timor’s fight now is a continuation of the past fight,” he said. “In the past, the fight was to gain independence. Now people of Timor are feeling about the domination of the Australian government. They know it’s not just and fair from them. That’s why until now they keep demanding.”