Why Timor Leste?

East Timor flag vector - country flags
The flag of Timor-Leste

A reminder as to why our friends and neighbour Timor Leste warrants our support.

I have just read Crossing the Line by Kim McGrath. The plight and tragedy of the Timorese is graphically portrayed as the story of the oil boundary unfolds.

The author focuses on the Timor Sea and our government’s negotiations with Indonesia to recognize and endorse its occupation. From an Australian perspective is was very much driven by oil.

During these times many people and organizations, including a range of MP’s were appalled as to what was happening and Australia’s collusion with the Indonesians. For over half a century Australian governments of both political persuasions, adopted the following strategy as stated by Peter Woolcott Australian Ambassador to TL, “I know I am recommending a pragmatic rather than a principled stand but this is what national interest and foreign policy is all about.”  In other words, we did not support the Timorese in their pursuit of independence.

It was with great reluctance that PM John Howard finally agreed to the open election. This followed the authorization of General Pete Cosgrave to lead the UN Peace Mission. This was done with great honour. In 2008 when the troops were still there, Tricia and I were staying in the Esplanda Hotel where some of these personnel were also stationed. In conversation, we became very much aware as to how these men and women worked with the Timorese. The made every effort to befriend the Timorese and work with them to restore peace in their country. This was not the way some other UN nationalities operated as they chose not to dialogue but simply carry out their duties. Great credit to our troops, some of whom returned home with post traumatic stress

A final reminder that it was the Timorese who stood beside our Australian soldiers during the Second World War in which 20,000 Timorese lost their lives

We still owe a huge debt to the Timorese. In some small way Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools is doing this by keeping alive the story for this generation.

Peter Cannon

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