06 April 2012

What Australia doesn't want East Timor to know

PAT WALSH APRIL 04, 2012 - On 20 March, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon agreed to a Department of Foreign Affairs request to block public access to 34-year-old cables on the famine that ravaged East Timor early in the Indonesian occupation. Roxon reportedly believes that release of the material would prejudice Australia's international relations.

Given that Suharto and his regime have gone and that many other sensitive cables on the Timor question have been released over the last 12 years without damaging Australia's external relations, the decision is puzzling.

As someone who has spent many years working with both East Timorese and Indonesians to understand their shared history, I would argue that rather than cause for concern, the release of the cables would be generally welcomed in both countries as part of the free flow of ideas and information that both now enjoy.

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