Last week Fairfax Media linked my 1999 pro-East Timor Parliament House graffiti, for which I paid $16,350 in criminal damages, to the Abbott government’s new anti-terror laws which, if made retrospective, could result in the loss of Australian citizenship for my children and me. (‘Citizenship could be stripped for wide range of offences under terror laws’, Sydney Morning Herald, June 25.)
To its great credit, The Echo published many letters and articles in support of the struggle for an independent East Timor against the tide of political opinion which was firmly on the side of Indonesia. In 1999 I joined 400 District Electoral Officer volunteers as part of UNAMET and was posted to Makadiki, Viqueque province. Outside the Catholic church Father Joseph translated our assurance that the UN would remain in East Timor whatever the outcome of the Popular Consultation.
I embraced a man who shouted: ‘Do we have to die again?’ as a token of good faith that the UN would keep its word, but on August 30 the police ordered us on board a helicopter because ‘there was going to be a bloodbath’. I am ashamed to say I obeyed.
After the UN left, the slaughter began, with flashing machettes cutting down villagers amid burning huts while the world stood by doing nothing. I drafted a petition from the Darwin RAAF base, calling on the UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and the prime ministers of New Zealand and Australia to urgently press for a UN peacekeeping force to be sent to Timor. This was signed by about 300 UN colleagues. There were no UN, ministerial or media responses.
Four colleagues and I reiterated the call for UN peacekeepers from the roof of Parliament House and I sprayed ‘Shame Australia Shame’ on the white marble wall in desperate hope that such an outrageous act would draw a positive response and at least express solidarity with the Timorese and show that they were not forgotten.
It is interesting to note that while Fairfax locked onto me as a possible victim of these fascist laws they could, instead, have focused on the 12 Australian Wheat Board executives who bribed the Saddam Hussein regime and were indicted by the 2005 Royal Commission which called for criminal charges to be laid against them. So far the Australian Federal Police have not acted!
Gareth W R Smith, Palestine Liberation Centre, Byron Bay