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NZ Should Apologise For Past Action On Timor

3 February, 2006

The East Timor Commission for Reception Truth and Reconciliation calls for reparations- New Zealand must apologise for its sins and pay up.

The 2,500 page document of the Commission for Reception Truth and Reconciliation has just been released at the United Nations and the full contents are now widely available on the internet. The report, which New Zealand helped to fund, documents 24 years of crimes against humanity in horrifying detail.

Tens of thousands of East Timorese were killed or died of starvation, rape was endemic and infrastructure was systematically destroyed. The report carefully sets out who is to blame and calls for reparations.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee has written to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to urge him to take on board the explicit recommendations relevant to us. All countries which provided military assistance to Indonesia while it occupied East Timor, should apologise for failing to adequately uphold internationally agreed rights and freedoms. The report recommends that the UN Security Council help the Timorese Government to obtain reparations. New Zealand is also asked to join with Australia and Britain in a joint initiative to establish the truth about the 1975 deaths of 6 foreign journalists in East Timor including New Zealander Gary Cunningham.

Declassified documents from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs were given to the Truth Commission and are cited there. These documents confirm that New Zealand officials knew very accurately about the Indonesian plans to invade and did nothing to blow the whistle. Subsequently New Zealand was an extremely valuable friend to Indonesia - supporting it at the United Nations, and playing down human rights abuses even when New Zealand citizens were killed in East Timor. New Zealand also trained the Indonesian military and Indonesian officers came here to learn how to fly Skyhawk attack jets and how to improve their counter-insurgency skills.

Australia and the United States both gave Indonesia the green light for the initial invasion and so their role is justifiably in the spotlight. However, New Zealand was also a partner in the crime and we owe a debt to one of the most poverty stricken nations in the world.

New Zealand should make a full and genuine apology to the people of East Timor and set an example to other guilty nations by offering reparations and insisting that the UN coordinate an immediate reparations programme. We must also offer a very belated apology to the family of Gary Cunningham and get to the truth about this pivotal episode.


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