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Historical papers on Timorese independence release


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

6 September 2002

Historical papers on Timorese independence struggle released

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff today released Foreign Affairs and Defence papers detailing official advice received and generated relating to the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor.

The papers deal with the period late 1975 to early 1976, being immediately prior to, and then following, the invasion.

They include briefings to the outgoing Rowling and incoming Muldoon governments. Others are exchanges between Foreign Affairs and Defence officials in Wellington, and their counterparts at the New Zealand Embassy in Indonesia and in the United Nations.

“The Indonesian invasion and occupation caused considerable loss of life and suffering. The papers show insufficient attention was paid to human rights abuses and the right of the Timorese people to self-determination.

“This combined with the Cold War atmosphere of the time, meant a failure by the New Zealand government to take a stance which should have been taken.

“These papers in conjunction with those released earlier by the United States and Australia, show that the Western world did little to uphold the rights of the East Timorese.

“Australia, the United States and New Zealand to varying degrees explicitly indicated to Indonesia acceptance of its intention to invade. Their comments after the invasion similarly failed to condemn that action.

“Our countries therefore must share some responsibility for the suffering subsequently endured by the people of East Timor.

“There are lessons to be learnt for both governments and their officials from the Timor experience. Governments need to be stronger in speaking out against human rights abuses. The international community needs to work better and quicker, through bodies like the United Nations, to prevent conflict and to safeguard human rights.

“New Zealand cannot alter what happened in 1975. It has at least provided some compensation for its silence then by the substantial assistance provided since 1999 in our peacekeeping efforts and in development assistance and diplomatic support. For its part, East Timor has been gracious in indicating that it is more interested in looking to the future than the past.

“East Timor’s Foreign Minister, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta will be visiting New Zealand on Monday and President Xanana Gusmao will make a formal visit to New Zealand on 19/20 September,” Mr Goff said.

ENDS

nb – Only hard copies of the papers are available. Copies have been distributed to all outlets in the Press Gallery. Other media organisations will have the papers mailed to them on request.

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