Australian human rights activists are outraged that the Australian Government has bestowed Australia's highest civilian honour, the Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia, on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during a ceremony at Government House, Canberra. The award was made in recognition of Dr Yudhoyono's work in strengthening Australia-Indonesia relations, in promoting democracy and development in Indonesia. The official citation said he had been "steadfast and humane" in the face of terrorist attacks, while also working with Australia through regional groups such as APEC and the East Asia Summit.

For some time, many Australians have called on the Australian Government to give the same award to the people of Timor Leste for the sacrifices they made in assisting Australia during World War 2. A campaign organised by Sister Susan Connolly of the Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission had gathered 24,000 signatures from Australians who are grateful for East Timor's World War 2 support. Australians are also well aware of the shameful betrayal of the Timorese by successive Australian governments when they were illegally occupied by the Indonesian Army (TNI) between 1975 - 1999.

The presentation of an award to East Timor has also been supported by the South Australian Parliament after a motion supporting this initiative by by an independent member of SA's Legislative Council, David Winderlich.

Since these moves, the Australian Government has told campaigners that the award was only for individuals.

Those supporting East Timor receiving the award cited the case of Britain awarding the George Cross to the people of Malta for enduring massive German air raids against their island around the clock in an attempt to neutralise the British bases in Malta.The George Cross had been instituted by King George VI on 24 September 1940 as the civilian equivalent to the Victoria Cross. The award is intended mainly for civilians is awarded only for acts of the greatest heroism or the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger. This award was made by King George VI to the Governor of Malta on 15 April 1942:

"To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.", (signed) George R.I.

The East Timorese paid a heavy price because of their support for Australian soldiers during World War 2. After the Australians left Timor, Japanese soldiers entered village after village, lined up civilians and mowed them down with machine gun fire in reprisal. At least 40,000 civilians lost their lives from these actions. Some believe that another 30,000 East Timorese died because of air raids on their villages or because they were caught between opposing forces.

The population of Portuguese Timor at the time was approximately 500,000, making this loss of life a very heavy sacrifice. The Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission on its website syas this about the sacrifice of the East Timorese:

"It need not have been that way. The East Timorese could have handed the Australians over to the Japanese, as the West Timorese did within days. As true allies, the East Timorese people suffered grievously during 1942 and for the rest of the War. Any acknowledgement of their role in World War II must be worthy of the facts".

While it is true that President Yuhono has done much to democratise the Republic of Indonesia after 33 years of the Suharto dictatorship, he has done very little to deal with the war criminals in the ranks of the TNI who have committed gross crimes against humanity in West Papua, East Timor, Acheh and many parts of Indonesia itself. It is inappropriate to bestow such an honour on President Yudhoyono until he has taken steps to deal with those alleged to have committed these crimes and to withdraw the TNI from West Papua and to allow its people to determine their own political future.

It is acknowledged that Indonesians have faced many threats from terrorist attacks, but it must be said that these attacks were far less severe than the attacks suffered by the peoples of East Timor and Malta during World War 2 and more recently by the people East Timor at the hands of the Indonesian dictatorship.

It is obvious that the award was given to President Yudhoyono to soften him up before talks between Australia and Indonesia about the issue of boat people coming into

the SE Asian region.

Mr James Dunn AO, the former Australian Consul to Portuguese Timor and author of the books Timor: A People Betrayed and Timor: A People Betrayed and East Timor - a rough passage to independence had this to say about the award to the Indonesian President:

"As a member of the order, I have some concerns about this award. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyo does deserve some acknowledgement of his efforts to democratise Indonesia, but in relation to East Timor, he also participated in the occupation, in 1982 or 1983 commanding one of the battalions with a less than savoury reputation. To his credit, he is a Kostrad officer, and not from Kopassus and some time ago, events in ET obviously troubled him, causing him to speak out at an Indonesian university, where I too, was a speaker. His past in ET is not too bad, but he does have a mark against him. Also, as I understand it, as a lieutenant, he took part in the brutal invasion of Dili on 7 December 1975.

As a general comment, surely it would be better for our government to have a separate order to be bestowed on distinguished foreigners. The use of the Order of Australia is inevitablly largely a political act. It will be remembered that Ali Alatas, who gave strong support to Indonesia's occupation of East Timor when serious atrocities were taking place, was also awarded the AO. As far as I can recall his main act of friendship was to collaborate in that ignominious Timor Gap agreement".

Let us not forget the terrible suffering of the Timorese at the hands of Imperial Japan during WW2 and the TNI between 1975 - 19999 1975 - 19999 , during which time, successive Australian governments openly aided and abetted the aggressor. This makes it all the more compelling that the Australian Government should now award the people of East Timor with an honour that gives full recognition and acknowledgement to their suffering during World War 2 for supporting Australia against Imperial Japan


Andrew (Andy) Alcock

Information Officer


51 Leah St, Forestville SA 5035

Phone: 08 83710480 08 83710480

0457 827 014 0457 827 014

Email: andyalcock@internod


PO Box 240



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