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The Forum > Article Comments > Whitlam's East Timor elephant in the room > Comments

Whitlam's East Timor elephant in the room : Comments

By Peter Job, published 5/12/2014

Yet to the bestowing of unconstrained sainthood there remains a huge elephant in the room, one mentioned by but a few and emphasised by even fewer.

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Indonesia is actually the Javanese empire. Javanese have moved out of the island into other parts of what was formerly the Dutch East Indies. Irian Jaya or West Papua has been occupied by Indonesian armed forces which have suppressed movement for independence in west Papua. tells about Australian complicity in the Indonesian occupation of West Papua.

The article contains:

"But perhaps the most cynical reason behind Australia's ongoing opposition to West Papuan independence involves the most toxic issue in Australian domestic politics, asylum seekers. The independence of West Papua would have the potential to create an exodus of hundreds of thousands of Javanese leaving the country. At the same time the impact of the loss of income from West Papuan resources, which makes up a large portion of the Indonesian government's revenue, would wreak havoc on the Indonesian economy. These events could combine to create a refugee torrent on Australia's doorstep that would make the current situation seem like a trickle. Once again, many Australian politicians and policymakers see the ongoing Indonesian occupation of West Papua, and all that it entails, as a small price to pay to avoid such a situation."

Both Labor and Coalition governments have followed a similar policy toward Indonesia that Whitlam followed regarding East Timor. Howard partially made up for that policy by sending Australian troops to help the new state of East Timor. Abbott apparently for the reason cited above supports Indonesian imperialism.
Posted by david f, Friday, 5 December 2014 11:02:47 AM
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The colonial ‘Great Game’ is still alive and well evidenced by this article and a host of similar ‘self-interest’ decisions by political sycophants, including self-professed Christians. John Howard on talkback radio (Alan Jones I believe) responded “Did we want to upset the 200 million Indonesians on our doorstep?” in answer to the question was it fair for Australia to effectively ignore the invasion of East Timor by the Indonesians. He was only following Whitlam’s example.

Later then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, of ‘Being Battered’ fame in relation to domestic violence, pompously enunciated that Australia could not sit idly by about the plight of the East Timorese. [Possibly after it was learnt that there were vast supplies of oil encapsulated under the Timor Sea] which Australia decided that it should really, in the majority, belong not to Indonesia [or East Timor] as it would be easier to dupe the Timorese than the Indonesians.

In 1946 President Kennedy turned a blind eye to the ‘representative vote’ of approx. 1200 selected [and strongly advised to vote correctly for takeover with dire consequences if they refused] west Papuans’ acting for all of their people, that they wanted to be effectively colonised by Indonesia. This shambles of democracy was ‘validated’ by the United Nations the charade agreeing that the locals were not sufficiently intellectual to understand the concept of voting!

Australia, USA and the rest of the known world have largely conveniently ‘forgotten’ about this imbroglio travesty of democratic justice as willing participants in the ongoing ‘Great Game’ which is still alive and well even if Russia and other colonial powers have tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to sanitise their hands and effectively emulate Pontius Pilate.

Of course, always in ‘the national interest’ which is sacrosanct over all other idiotic ideas that they should treat other oppressed as if they were being oppressed themselves! Money is not the root of all evil. It is the Love of Money that is the root of all evil [or perhaps it is Love of Power and The National Interest to which Jesus Christ really was referring to?
Posted by Citizens Initiated Action, Friday, 5 December 2014 1:42:45 PM
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So, in other words, Suharto invaded East Timor because of continuous urging by Whitlam to prevent establishment of communist state due to high possibility of Fretilin (a Marxist party) taking power there.

Indonesia should have done Cold War-style proxy strategy, by invading and getting rid of the commies from the cities, and then establish and support a friendly government of loyal locals to fight it out with any remaining resistence. Outright annexation was overall an unneccessary over-commitment to the half-island.
Posted by Proud to be Indonesian, Saturday, 6 December 2014 3:10:57 AM
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"Outright annexation was overall an unnecessary over-commitment to the half-island."

Wonderful thing, hindsight!

Officials at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta actually raised the idea of East Timor being a satellite or client state, but Harry Tjan Silalahi said it had no support.

Jakarta made it clear to Apodeti, the only party that originally supported integration with Indonesia, that there would be no special status or regional autonomy, which was rejected after 1976 until 1998, to the dismay of Ali Alatas, who said that Suharto overruled him.

Contrast this with how China, which had been unequivocal in claiming Macau as part of its national territory, forbade Portugal from leaving, even though Lisbon conceded de facto sovereignty to Beijing as far back as 1967. After the Revolution, it was redefined as a 'Chinese territory under temporary Portuguese administration'.

Before India kicked the Portuguese out of Goa (whose freedom movement wanted union with India) it helped support people in the Portuguese-ruled enclaves of Dadra and Nagar Haveli in kicking the Portuguese out, and didn't incorporate them into its territory until 1961.

Whitlam was less concerned with the 'Red Menace' than with the idea of an independent East Timor - in early 1975, he told parliament he did not see Fretilin as communist. In fact, Indonesian radio broadcasts sought to brand both pro-independence parties as communist, Fretilin as pro-Chinese, and UDT as pro-Soviet. Tjan and his colleague, Liem Bian-kie aka Jusuf Wanandi were looking forward to the possibility of a right-leaning Coalition government coming to power in Canberra precisely so that they could exploit anti-communist sentiment.

Tan Sri Zaiton, Secretary of Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asked Alan Renouf, his opposite number in Canberra, if a Liberal government might be 'more positive' (ie: 'more pro-Indonesian') than a Labor one, and was told that 'Mr Fraser might go further than Mr Whitlam in supporting Indonesia's wishes to integrate East Timor'.

East Timor could have been to Indonesia what Northern Cyprus is to Turkey and Azad Kashmir is to Pakistan, but no, it had to be full integration.
Posted by Malae Oan, Saturday, 6 December 2014 4:41:20 AM
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One of the few things that Gough Whitlam got right, was to say outright what should be self evident truth, that East Timor is too small and fractious to be an independent entity. There are 20,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and East Timor represents one half of one of them. However much is distasteful to me personally to have Christians ruled over by Muslims, The invasion of East Timor by Indonesian forces was absolutely the right thing to do.

By helping secessionist rebels in East Timor, Australia earned the hostility of our nearest neighbour. East Timor has become Australia's Haiti with Australia short changing the CSIRO by contributing $300 million dollars to ET economy every year. Not surprisingly, ET has become almost ungovernable, with a revolt by North East Timorese against the South east Timorese which began with a mutiny by the ET Army. It could have been a scene right out of Monty Python's "The Life of Brian." ET will remain a dysfunctional state forever because it is a half island republic too small to be economically viable.

New Guinea is another region of the world that can not be a viable country because it's people do not have the intelligence or maturity to rule themselves. PNG should have remained a well run Australian colony ruled for the benefit of all of it's primitive people. "Independence" means that it is now is well on it's way to becoming yet another failed black state with unacceptably high rates of serious criminal behaviour, political corruption, and the good old Aussie taxpayer footing the bill. However undesirable it is to allow Islam to spread, Australia should encourage Indonesia to invade PNG because even Islam is preferable to total anarchy. This would also save Australia $500 million dollars a year, a sum transferred from Australian plumbers and electricians into the pockets of corrupt PNG politicians.
Posted by LEGO, Saturday, 6 December 2014 5:18:08 AM
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Yes, I thought it incredibly shameful, the way these people, for who we still have an unrepayable blood debt, were criminally deserted; by Whitlam and co, in their hour of greatest need! Whitlam and his brilliant mind ushered in a number of historical reforms, much in the manner of a closet (control freak) communist?

But really whimped it when it came to our near neighbor and war time ally?

Perhaps if he'd walked among them as a foot soldier, rather than flying over them, dropping his payload and then getting the hell out of there; he may have adopted a different course?

Although I disliked him and most of his policies/economic management! I dips me lid to honest John Howard, who showed what genuine resolve (thus far and no further) could actually achieve!
Posted by Rhrosty, Saturday, 6 December 2014 12:25:40 PM
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