Subject: AUSSEN: CAVR report


SENATE Hansard


I also take this time tonight to acknowledge a very important report entitled Chega! The report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste. I seek leave to table the report. I understand it has the support of the chamber.

Leave granted.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA—I thank honourable senators. It is the first time, as I understand it, that this report has been tabled in a parliament in Australia. It was presented to Timor-Leste’s President, Xanana Gusmao, on 31 October 2005. He presented it to the parliament of East Timor on 28 November 2005, and it was presented to the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, on 20 January this year. It is in fact the most comprehensive record yet of human rights violations, including deaths, displacements, torture, ill treatment and threats in Timor-Leste between 1975 and 1999. It includes testimony from seven national public hearings. Chega makes 205 recommendations—it is a pretty big report of about 2,500 pages—based on its findings in relation to justice, reconciliation, human rights and the relationship between Timor-Leste and other countries, including Indonesia.

Australia is also mentioned in this report. A number of the recommendations relate specifically to Australia, including that Australia contributed significantly to denying the people of Timor-Leste their right to self-determination before and during the Indonesian occupation. Some of the recommendations relating to us include requests for an apology and reparations to the people of Timor-Leste; future military cooperation with Indonesia; the setting up of a joint initiative to establish the truth about the deaths of six foreign journalists in Timor-Leste in 1975 in Balibo; and the return of documents and any other material relating to the events of 1999 and militia activity, which were allegedly removed to Australia for safekeeping after the arrival of the INTERFET in 1999. Another key recommendation in this report is the establishment of a war crimes tribunal, should other measures be deemed to have failed to deliver a sufficient measure of justice and Indonesia persists in the obstruction of justice.

As I understand it, a cross-party launch of this report took place in different cities around Australia, including Canberra, last light. All political parties were involved in that process. What we can hope for is that it will lead to renewed debate about and interest in Timor-Leste’s future, as well as perhaps acknowledging some of the human rights abuses in the past. I think there is a lot that Australia can do. I particularly want to acknowledge the people who were involved in the launch. Specifically in my home state we have the East Timor Friendship Association and Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Unit. A number of people were present at the launches who have been actively involved in the report. Indeed, in Adelaide we had Isabel Guterres, who is one of the commissioners involved in the report. Pat Walsh and Francisco de Silva were guests at that particular event as well, as was Dr Mark Byrne from Uniya. I commend them on their ongoing work and urge the Australian government to look closely at the recommendations that pertain to Australia’s role both in a good and bad way in Timor-Leste. I commend the report to the Senate and thank senators for allowing me to table it tonight.

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