Subject: Soldier who became champion of East Timorese

Irish Times

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Soldier who became champion of East Timorese

PADDY KENNEALLY : PADDY KENNEALLY, a native of Youghal, Co Cork, who fought as a second World War Australian commando in East Timor and later became an outspoken champion of the Timorese, has died aged 93.

Josť Ramos-Horta, president of now independent East Timor, or Timor-Leste, said: "It is my honour and privilege to pay tribute to one of the greatest human beings I have known."

Kenneally was a stern critic of successive Canberra governments for their treatment of the Timorese, 60,000 of whom died helping Australia fight the Japanese. Kenneally said Australia repaid this sacrifice by conspiring with Indonesia's illegal occupation of East Timor in 1975.

On the eve of Anzac Day 2005, during bitter negotiations over oil reserves between Australia and East Timor, Kenneally and five other veterans pleaded in a national TV ad for fair play from the right-wing John Howard government. The following day Australia offered Timor a 50 per cent share of the disputed Greater Sunrise oilfield.

A Sydney Morning Herald obituary said: "Kenneally probably did more than any other person to remind Australia of its debt to the Timorese especially after the [ Gough] Whitlam [ Labor] government gave Indonesia the green light to invade in 1975." Kenneally publicly lambasted Whitlam over Australia's behaviour.

Kenneally, whose family emigrated from Youghal in 1927, quit his job as a Sydney docker the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbour to enlist. He was soon in East Timor in a small elite guerrilla unit, which fought a successful year-long mountain campaign against the Japanese.

He played a prominent role in several defining actions but said that his unit would not have lasted a week had the Timorese and Portuguese colonials not protected it. He also served in New Guinea.

In 1952 he married Nora Kelly, a Youghal woman he met in London. In 1996 he returned to the town and vividly recalled the coming of the Black and Tans during his youth. His father John Patrick Kenneally and his mother Mary Ellen Morrissey were intensely nationalist.

The commando veterans, of whom Kenneally was the last surviving, raised more than A$40,000 for Timorese aid and also built a memorial to the fallen wartime Timorese, which took the practical form of a rest room and bathing pool outside Dili, the capital.

During Indonesia's 24-year occupation Kenneally returned several times to visit old comrades. He was an ardent trade unionist.

"What an amazing man God gave us in Paddy; a man of courage, serenity, compassion, loyalty and joy. I sit here in a free and independent Timor-Leste and think how blessed we are to have had such great friends like Paddy Kenneally," said Ramos-Horta. Former Ireland East Timor Campaign co-ordinator Tom Hyland said from Dili that Kenneally was "a noble warrior" who "proved that an individual can make a difference".

He is survived by his wife Nora, their children Gerald, Helen, Michael and SeŠn and seven grandchildren.


John Patrick Kenneally: born February 7th, 1916; died March 1st, 2009 

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