Subject: AAP: Whitlam seeks to set record straight on Timor


June 26, 2002, Wednesday

Whitlam seeks to set record straight on Timor

SYDNEY, June 26

Former prime minister Gough Whitlam today launched a book which he described as "patronising" of his dealings with East Timor as it sank into Indonesian control.

Author and journalist Bill Nicol has updated his 25-year-old book which was highly critical of the Whitlam government's lack of involvement in trying to secure the struggling nation's independence.

But Mr Nicol has withdrawn earlier assertions that Mr Whitlam had committed a "political offence" by virtually telling Indonesia that it could do whatever it liked with Timor.

Mr Whitlam made only brief statements about the book, Timor - A Nation Reborn, at today's launch at Sydney University but he laid out an extensive account of his dealings with Timor, covering the deaths of the Balibo Five and diplomatic dealings.

When asked if he considered Mr Nicol's revised book to be an apology for heavy criticism of his government, Mr Whitlam replied: "No I don't, he's been somewhat patronising of what he said about me but at least Nicol was there, longer than anybody else in 75."

Mr Whitlam said he had been a victim of a vendetta by Fairfax journalists who condemned his involvement in East Timor.

"What I regret is that the Portuguese didn't stay and do their duty and do what was suggested five or 10 years (earlier) - preparing for an act of self determination," he said today.

"The invasion occurred on the 7th of December, that is over three weeks after I ceased to be the prime minister and do you suggest that the Fraser government should then have sent troops in; do you suggest we should have gone to war when the Americans obviously wouldn't have assisted us?"

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