Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade (DFAT)

deliberately betrayed East Timor by preventing timely insertion of a United Nations peacekeeping force which would have protected the people from Indonesian military reaction to the 1999 independence referendum.

Confirmed by this retrospective report in May, 2001

Military officer reveals Australian responsibility for Timor massacre
A serving Australian military intelligence officer has revealed that the Howard government suppressed intelligence reports that could have averted the massacre of at least 60 people at a police station in the East Timorese town of Maliana in early September 1999.

[During the massacre by Indonesian forces]. . .troops were ordered to understate the death toll. As a result, the official body count registered for Maliana was about 12, whereas an intelligence officer saw evidence of more than 60 bodies and Australian soldiers were aware that many more bodies were probably dumped at sea or in rivers.

Go to full report by Mike Head (WSWS)

From the very beginning, the message to Australian troops in East Timor was clear. The first words of the first page of their East Timor Handbook spelt it out. "Our defence relationship with Indonesia is our most important in the region and a key element in Australia`s approach to regional defence engagement." And it was a message further reinforced during their mission.

CAPTAIN ANDREW PLUNKETT: Halfway through the operation here in Maliana, around October-November, things had changed strategically. There was a new Government, a new Wahid Government and the position the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was "We don`t want our long-term relationship with Indonesia affected by a war crimes tribunal." Dateline report 16 May 2001

The slaughter of East Timor citizens was organised by the Indonesian Government and financed using international aid money. --Dateline report, 16 Feb 2000

Sex slave culture of Indonesian military--SMH report, 2 May 2003

Further confirmation, May 2004: Lance Collins, Australia's senior intelligence officer in the Interfet force, claimed his career had suffered since July 1998 when he warned that a "pro-Jakarta lobby" was distorting information being given to government and that an army officer may have been spying for a foreign government. See Bulletin article. Collins said he was threatened with being driven to suicide, the same fate which befell senior DIO officer Merv Jenkins in Washington, also over East Timor intelligence issues.

See also Peter Cronau's ABC Background Briefing (30 May 2004) in which independent military lawyer Michael Toohey's report is quoted:

I find as a fact that a pro-Jakarta lobby exists in DIO [the Defence Intelligence Organisation] which distorts intelligence estimates to the extent those estimates are heavily driven by government policy which overlooks (or attributes the blame to other factions) atrocities and terrorist activities committed by TNI [the Indonesian military]. In other words, DIO reports what the government wants to hear.

and which quotes Djakarta ambassador Richard Woolcott's secret 1975 telegram to his DFAT boss in Canberra:

"Policies should be based on disengaging ourselves as far as possible from the Timor situation. We should leave events to take their course; and if and when Indonesia does intervene, act in a way which would be designed to minimise the public impact in Australia and show privately understanding to Indonesia of their problems. … I know I am recommending a pragmatic rather than a principled stand, but that is what national interest and foreign policy is all about."


The Department admitted in an August, 1999, report to a Senate committee that "There is evidence available to the Australian Government that TNI [the Indonesian military] has been actively involved in encouraging and supporting pro-integrationist militias in East Timor, including through the supply of arms."

And yet, according to a leaked document, the head of DFAT, Dr Ashton Calvert argued strongly against a peacekeeping force during talks in Washington in February with a senior American State Department official, Stanley Roth. See the Sept 6 report by independent journalist Brian Toohey, and his follow-up exposť on 21 Feb, 2000.

.The Australian Government claimed credit for prompting B J Habibie to authorise the holding of the fateful consultation plebiscite. It is now obvious that, in pursuit of Indonesian trade and strategic interests, the Australian Government also connived to remove any chance of an armed UN peacekeeping presence at the time when it was needed and when it would probably have prevented the subsequent slaughter. This was reported by Paul Daley in The Sunday Age, 1st August 1999:

Dr Ashton Calvert

After lengthy, top-level consideration, including senior Federal Government figures, Australian defence chiefs and leading diplomats rejected the US offer.

They told the Americans that any discussion of possible UN peacekeeping involving the Marine Corps was ``premature'' and could be "damaging'' to bilateral relations between Australia and Indonesia. [emphasis added]

It is believed this message was also conveyed by the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dr Ashton Calvert, during a recent meeting in the United States with the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Mr Stanley Roth.

Sources said Dr Calvert and Mr Roth disagreed on the circumstances under which an international force should be sent to East Timor.

Mr Roth said it was desirable for peacekeeping - whether or not it involved US Marines - to take place sooner rather than later while Dr Calvert took a more conservative approach. Sources told The Sunday Age that despite public perceptions to the contrary, the US appears willing to play a central, if not leading, role in peace monitoring or ``peace making'' - the separation of warring parties - in East Timor.

As human rights in the troubled Indonesian province have become an increasing preoccupation among prominent congressmen and senators, America has expressed increased pessimism about the aftermath of the forthcoming vote.

``The US has listened to arguments that it is premature for the UN to consider troops (for East Timor) before the vote. But there is a view amongst the influential (in the US) that after the vote ... (could) be leaving it too late,'' a diplomatic source explained.

Australia's decision to snub the US military's offer shows that, despite significant international pressure, Australia remains fiercely intent on protecting its bilateral relationship with Indonesia while conducting its own contingency planning for East Timor peacekeeping.

In a follow-up by the Sydney Morning Herald on 10 August. Peter Cole-Adams wrote:

A leaked copy of a DFAT record of the February Roth-Calvert discussion reveals there was "one area of difference" over security in the territory.

"Roth's approach, which he admitted was a personal view given that he had not yet discussed it with Secretary [of State, Dr Madeleine] Albright, or other agencies, was that a full-scale peacekeeping operation would be an unavoidable aspect of the transition," the document states.

"Without it, East Timor was likely to collapse. Roth saw no prospect for reconciliation between East Timorese groups which could avert the need for significant external intervention ...

"Roth suggested that Australia's position of keeping peace keeping at arms length was essentially defeatist, and that it was necessary to go forth and persuade Congress and UN member states that it simply had to be done."

The DFAT document says that Dr Calvert had argued the need for the international community to induce the East Timorese and Indonesian leaders to work towards an orderly and peaceful transition to independence or autonomy and to avert the need for peacekeeping.

* * *

More details of the story are presented by Mike Head in two articles on the World Socialist website, dated 7 August and 12 August.

On 16 September, after Indonesian troops, police and militias had razed East Timor and brutalised its pro-independence population, and the UN had just approved an Australian-led pacification force, the following report appeared in The Canberra Times:


DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] 'a bunch of drongos' on Indonesia
by Aban Contractor  

Australia's Indonesia experts were accused yesterday of being a bunch of drongos before the Senate committee investigating the East Timor crisis.  

Led by former army chief John Sanderson*, Paxiquest, a team of peacekeeping specialists, issued a damning indictment of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff.  

Paxiquest consultant Mark Plunkett said the department had rejected any notion of Indonesia pursuing a scorched-earth policy, brushing aside leaked documents as "hysterical and fake" and indulging in wishful thinking about the outcome of the independence poll.

"It is a fair inference, that there has been an almighty cock-up, a gigantic bungle of some sort or another, because it put at risk not just the lives of Australians on the United Nations mission, but all international people," he said.  

"But worse still, the lives of the people who the international community and our Government encouraged to go to the polls and vote. And the U.N. said it would not leave."

Mr Plunket said he was surprised by the depth of arrogance among DFAT officials.

"When I see the elegant tomfoolery of some of our representatives then I know, just from their lack of people skills, they are not trained," he said.

"There are stars like (Australian ambassador to Indonesia John McCarthy), but there are a lot of drongos."  

In a scathing submission, Paxiquest said the failure of Australia's public-sector information-gathering and analysis bodies on the planned genocide was reprehensible in the extreme and deserving of censure.

"The Australian government agencies failed to search out and listen to disconfirming information that would have alerted the Australian Government and the world community to the genocide," the submission said.  

"In the weeks preceding, there was publicly available evidence -- including documents and authoritative public statements -- predicting the genocide, but this was discounted by them as false and hysterical."  

A Fitzgerald-style inquiry into those government agencies was needed to determine the extent of institutional corruption, the submission said. 

* John Sanderson was later appointed Governor of Western Australia

The Canberra Times, Thursday September 16 1999.

* * * *


On 31 January, 2000, the following imbecilic apologia appeared in a report published by the Sydney Morning Herald:

Mr Downer also revealed that Australia and the US had heard reports of "a scorched earth" plan for after the ballot but the Government made a judgment that it was not the most likely outcome.

Mr Downer said: "Let us say you have a spectrum of 0 to 10, 10 just a complete massacre of the population. What happened was about eight ... our expectations were around five. That's an on-balance judgment and it was therefore a little worse that we had expected."

But he believes that despite this, there was no failure by the Government or its agencies because there were contingency plans for all possible outcomes - including the violence that eventually erupted.

"We were prepared for everything [and] we proved that. We were even prepared for a worse situation than actually occurred; what, for example, we would have done if they started killing people in the United Nations compound, we had contingency plans for that sort of thing."

As a result, Mr Downer concluded: "There wasn't a failure on anybody's part."

(Go to full story)


DFAT new cover-up alleged

On 24 Feb 2000, the following reader's letter appeared in The Canberra Times

Damn hangnail! Fix broken arm!

SAYING the Defence Department needs a shake-up but Foreign Affairs is OK is like trimming a hangnail when you've got a broken arm. Foreign Affairs got us into the East Timor mess by ignoring Defence Department intelligence reports all last year. Our excellent army went in and saved the day; too late to save thousands of East Timorese though (thanks to the Foreign Affairs mandarins). Now Foreign Affairs wants to hold back radio intercepts which show hundreds of East Timorese were tied together with heavy chains and dropped into the sea. Another cover-up! Damn the hangnail! Fix the broken arm! We need a full enquiry into the Foreign Affairs Department.

North Plympton, South Australia

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