Parliament censors memories of Timor
By Sean Moysey
CANBERRA — A photo exhibition in Parliament House on East Timor's World War II experience was censored just hours before it was to open on March 24. A second exhibition, which included the banned material, had to be organised.
Curator Andrew McNaughton told guests at the launch of the second exhibition that a representative from the Exhibitions Department met him under the pretence of helping to hang the photos. "It transpired", McNaughton later told ABC radio, "that she was there to vet every single thing that went up".
The second exhibition, launched at Pilgrim House on March 24 and attended by 60 solidarity activists, contains 135 pictures and 20 pages of text dealing with human rights and East Timorese resistance from 1975 to the present, plus 17 oral histories involving Timorese survivors of WWII and Australian and Japanese veterans who fought in Timor. McNaughton explained that every reference to the current situation had been cut out of the Parliament House exhibition to prevent the entire exhibition from being rejected, but officials had prevented it from going ahead anyway.
"I was not allowed to put up the title of the exhibition", said McNaughton. The exhibition was entitled Your Friends Will Not Forget You: East Timor in World War Two, referring to a leaflet dropped by the Australian army upon leaving Timor in 1944. The idea that Australia should do more for the people of East Timor today was deemed too "emotive and political", he said. This censorship "is aimed at not letting the truth get out to the Australian parliament and public", he said.
The East Timor Liaison Group and Parliamentarians for East Timor had already planned a second exhibition on contemporary East Timor after officials refused to allow post-1975 photos into the exhibition hall.
Officials also refused to allow a notice explaining that material about human rights and the Dili massacre could not be shown at the federal parliament to be displayed. "Even the fact that the exhibition had been censored, was censored", said McNaughton.