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source: Sydney Morning Herald 20 November, 1998

COVER-UP CLAIM - Let East Timor's Dead Have Justice

by John Pilger

After years of denials, Australia should now recognise the need for a public inquiry to get to the truth about the horror of the Santa Cruz massacres, writes JOHN PILGER.

THE latest Herald disclosure of the Australian Government's collaboration with the Indonesian dictatorship on East Timor ought not to be allowed merely to pass into the newspaper files. This is a scandal that goes to the heart of the body politic in Australia.

Following the revelation of a cover-up by senior Australian officials of the murder of two television teams in 1975, yesterday's leaking of official documents about the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991 should leave no doubt that a full and open public inquiry is now an imperative.

At the very least, the former prime minister, Paul Keating, and foreign affairs minister, Gareth Evans, should be required by subpoena to attend and to give evidence under oath.

They should be accompanied by a full line-up of senior officials, including Richard Woolcott, ambassador to Jakarta in 1975, who was forewarned about the invasion of East Timor and advised his government not to dispute the regime's lies.

It should also include Allan Taylor, another former ambassador who, in 1976, conducted an "inquiry" into the deaths of the journalists that is now discredited, and Philip Flood, who was ambassador at the time of the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991 and who, as the latest documents reveal, received information about a second massacre which took place the same day.

Australia's long appeasement of the dictatorship in Jakarta is clearly unravelling; and the public has the right to know the whole truth.

The murder of more than 200 wounded was first revealed in my documentary Death of a Nation: the Timor Conspiracy, broadcast in Australia and around the world in 1994.

My colleagues and I interviewed primary witnesses, who described horrific events following the initial shooting in the cemetery.

The wounded were dragged from among the headstones and thrown into the backs of trucks. Several were deliberately run over. Some were taken to the military hospital in Dili and given lethal injections. Others were dumped with the dead in the mortuary where, as one witness told me, "two Indonesian soldiers systematically crushed the heads of the living with large rocks".

Bishop Carlos Belo knew about the second massacre, having interviewed witnesses. He told us at the time: "The military authorities wanted to give the Timorese people these extreme lessons. We think there is no justice. Why won't the world listen?"

The world did not listen because Jakarta and Canberra moved quickly to cover it up.

Following the showing of my film, the Indonesians conducted two highly restricted press visits to Dili.

Bishop Belo was told that if he spoke to foreign reporters about the massacre, he and his parishioners would suffer the consequences. His house was put under guard while journalists were directed to interview Marcus Wanandi, an Indonesian priest installed in Dili by the regime to "assist" Bishop Belo.

Wanandi and his powerful family are close to Soeharto; one brother ran a multi-million-dollar business with Soeharto's daughter; the other runs a "strategic institute" in Jakarta that helped plan the invasion of East Timor in 1975.

Wanandi had not been near the cemetery, but said that his "evidence", on which he refused to elaborate, was there had been no second massacre.

It was Wanandi to whom Gareth Evans was referring when he said, following my film: "There are a number of witnesses who have said nothing like what [Pilger] has claimed to have happened."

In fact, we now know, from the documents published on Wednesday in the Herald, that the Department of Foreign Affairs was informed about a second massacre on May 10, 1994, before Gareth Evans made his public denial.

At the same time, the then prime minister, Paul Keating, told reporters that my film's evidence "lacked credibility". He even cast doubt on the original massacre, saying that it was a "murky period" during which "it isn't clear what happened".

The smearing of my film by Keating and Evans was repeated in Indonesian propaganda documents distributed in countries where it was shown. The same documents were used by Australian officials.

Fortunately, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights soon afterwards accepted the evidence of my witnesses as "entirely credible".

One witness who was flown to Geneva to appear in person before the commission was congratulated for his truthfulness and courage.

But we should not be surprised. It was Gareth Evans who described the original massacre as an "aberration" and an "incident" and who, when asked about the hundreds missing, said they had "probably gone bush".

It was Evans who, when protesters planted crosses outside the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra, one for each of the murdered, ordered them removed because, said his spokesman, "the dignity of Indonesia's embassy had been impaired by the crosses".

It was Evans who, in 1989, toasted his Indonesian counterpart, Ali Alatas, with champagne as they flew over the Timor oil fields, having agreed to carve up the oil resources of a nation which the Australian Government in 1975 had described as "not economically viable" to be independent. (Alatas described the evidence of a second massacre as "fictitious".)

And it was Evans who declared the illegal annexation of a small neighbour, whose people had come to Australia's aid during World War II, as "irreversible".

As for Paul Keating and his "opening to Asia", not long after the Santa Cruz massacre he arrived in Washington to harangue the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee for voting unanimously to ban arms sales to Indonesia unless its human rights record improved.

Keating objected to this and called on the Congress and the President to take a "more balanced" view. The regime in Jakarta was ecstatic.

It is time the dead and the living in East Timor were given justice, and a nation its freedom; and it is time Australia salvaged its self respect.