NSW parliament narrowly voted down a September 17 motion to discipline Liberal MLC Peter Phelps over comments he made in parliament defending General Augusto Pinochet’s violent military coup against Chile’s president Salvador Allende in 1973.
Members of the Chilean community have vowed to continue the campaign to hold Phelps to account for his outrageous comments.
On September 11, 40 years to the day of the coup, Phelps praised Pinochet as “a reluctant hero, a morally courageous man” and said he supported a military coup that deposed a democratically elected government.
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“Yes, Pinochet killed people. If anyone knows of any other way to overthrow a government than by military force, then let me hear about it,” he said in a speech to Legislative Council.
His speech, along with subsequent comments via Twitter and email telling Chileans living in Sydney, many of whom first came to the country as refugees fleeing the Pinochet dictatorship, to “get over it” and “you lost, we won”, has generated a great deal of hurt and anger within the community.
Phelps received many emails criticising his continued defence of Pinochet and other US-backed coups in Latin America. In response to one, he said: “I don’t give a damn what Communists like you think. May Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot and all your other ideological comrades rot in Hell.”
Elizabeth Rivera, from The Other September 11th Committee, which organised activities to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the coup said that some were considering taking legal action against Phelps.
“By publishing the speech, he has surrendered any protection that he might have been able to hide behind. We are looking closely at how to hold him to account for the damage he has caused and for the hurt he has inflicted on the survivors of the Pinochet regime and their loved ones living in NSW.”
Sarah Rojas, whose father was arrested, tortured and disappeared during the Pinochet regime, said: “I feel unsafe since Dr Phelps made that speech exalting violence. I have lost trust in Australian institutions. My father was never charged with, nor convicted of any offences. He didn’t deserve to be tortured, imprisoned and killed.
“Dr Phelps cannot continue to hold a position of responsibility in parliament and represent the Australian community when he is sponsoring state terrorism.”
NSW Greens MLC John Kaye, who moved the motion in parliament to discipline Phelps said: “Peter Phelps likes to shock, but this time he has done real harm in the Chilean community. This is not the game that he seems to think it is. The premier needs to deliver a strong dose of reality to his Upper House Whip.”