By Melanie Sjoberg
MELBOURNE — The November 12 Dili massacre provided the Australian government with an opportunity to correct its policy, Fretilin UN representative Jose Ramos Horta told a public meeting here on January 19.
But the government had passed up the opportunity, he added. "Instead, they have persisted with the same approach. They concoct schemes to cover up their policies and the Australian people are told to accept the idea that reconciliation [of East Timor] with the Indonesian republic is necessary."
Horta characterised Australia's signing of the Timor Gap Treaty as "a vicious stab in the back" that had cost many East Timorese lives.
The Australian policy is based on false premises. "The situation in East Timor is a result of the nature of the regime, just as the problems in West Papua and the human rights situation in Indonesia are results of that same regime.
"It is an illusion that Australia can have stable and prosperous relations with Indonesia while the nature of this regime continues. It does not allow fair and open discussion within the country. It does not allow support for individual rights, freedom of the press nor self-determination for the people."
Far from being constructive, the Australian government policy is actively destructive, Horta said. Australian officials have been lobbying the United States and the European Community to support an impossible "reconciliation" between Indonesia and Timor.
Foreign minister Gareth Evans has informed Horta that Australia will oppose any agreement in the Human Rights Commission in February if it contains any reference to self-determination.
Horta said Xanana Gusmao, leader of Fretilin in East Timor, had called more than 12 months ago for roundtable negotiations without preconditions under the auspices of the United Nations. Even after the Dili massacre, Xanana reaffirmed that position despite the fact that hundreds of people were being killed in the countryside. The offer of negotiations without precondition has been repeated in a letter from the political leadership of Fretilin to the Portuguese president.
East Timor solidarity groups around Australia are discussing a national gathering in February to coordinate activities.
[Interview with Fretilin representative: page 19.]