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Issue #1926      August 3, 2020

East Timor: Hawke unrepentant

This article originally appeared in The Workers’ Weekly Guardian August, 1985.

Prime Minister Hawke’s remarks on Indonesian TV have extended Australian recognition to Indonesia’s violent annexation of East Timor. Portugal, still recognised by the United Nations as the administering power of East Timor, has withdrawn its ambassador to Canberra. Despite this, Hawke seems unrepentant that, in the name of his government, he has sold out the East Timorese people who have suffered and died under ten years of Indonesian military rule.

Hawke told an Indonesian interviewer in July that Australia recognised the sovereign authority of Indonesia over East Timor. He went on to describe the East Timorese as “citizens of Indonesia.”

This goes beyond even the position of the former Fraser Liberal government. Fraser had previously not lifted a finger as the Indonesians massacred and starved the Timorese and shot Australian journalists reporting the facts but had not gone quite as far as Hawke in recognising Indonesian sovereignty.

Hawke said his statement just acknowledged the fact of Indonesia’s exercising its control over East Timor. The statement shows the Prime Minister is prepared to entirely forget the Eat Timorese people and to rewrite ALP policy which expresses the ALP’s “continuing concern” that East Timor “was incorporated without East Timorese people having an adequate opportunity to express their wishes through an internationally supervised act of self-determination.”

It is scarcely three months since the government’s Communications Minister Duffy took steps to prevent further radio contact between Australian supporters and Fretilin independence fighters inside Timor. This was in response to an Indonesian Embassy call.

Since 1975, nine UN resolutions have supported East Timor’s independence. Indonesia has rejected calls for an internationally supervised act of self-determination, a demand which the Portuguese Government has repeatedly called on Indonesia to observe.

Dr de Andrade, the Portuguese Ambassador, was recalled for consultations over Hawke’s remarks. He said the offending statements could jeopardise the results of initiatives for a peaceful settlement. A former Portuguese Foreign Minister, Victor sa Machado, said Australia’s further support of Jakarta’s policies was lamentable.

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