The Guardian 11 May, 2005

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Letters to the Editor

Anzac Day &
Australia's debt to East Timor


Along with other Australians, I want to praise the Australian ex-servicemen who have spoken out about the shabby treatment of the East Timorese by our present government in the lead up to Anzac Day.

Recently, there were reports of East Timorese starving to death because of food shortages and dying from diseases due to the dire problems caused by the 24 years of the brutal and destructive Indonesian military occupation.

Our foreign minister told us that it was inappropriate to raise this in the lead-up to Anzac Day. He is wrong. Most diggers would have remembered those in other lands who took great risks to ensure that they survived.

Paddy Keaneally, a prominent Australian digger who served in East Timor, has been saying for many years that the East Timorese suffered dreadfully for the support they gave to him and his comrades during World War II.

Many Australians don't realise how costly that support was. Over 70,000 East Timorese died in World War II out of a population of about a half a million.

Approximately, 40,000 civilians were shot in direct reprisal for supporting our soldiers. Japanese forces entered villages following the departure of the Australian forces.

They lined people up and then mowed them down with machine gun fire. In addition, another 30,000 people died when caught in crossfire or when their villages were strafed or bombed by the Japanese military to eliminate Australian soldiers.

When these facts are realised, it makes the betrayal seem even more disgusting.

Now is an appropriate time to remember the sacrifice made by our courageous neighbours because of the desperate economic plight they are in.

Another reason is that when former Australian PM Keating launched "Australia Remembers" in 1995 to observe the 50th anniversary of the end of WW2, he made sure Timor was not remembered because of his friendship with former Indonesian president, Suharto, who he claimed was like a father to him.

There is a little irony here as Suharto, the brutal mass murderer of East Timor, West Papua and Acheh fought on the side of Japanese fascism against the resistance in his own country during World War II.

Since Anzac Day, there have been talks between the Australian and East Timorese governments about the sharing the royalties. Australia has been shamed into giving East Timor a few more billion dollars, but nowhere near the fair share it should receive. Further, Australia wants to defer a decision about the sea boundary for 100 years. Presumably, there will be no oil or gas left after that time and there will be nothing to negotiate about.

Too many East Timorese have died because of the illegal occupation of their country and Australian betrayals. Let's show these courageous people that we remember what they did for us in World War II and show them some compassion, social justice and fair play so that they can rebuild their lives and their nation.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock
Australia East Timor Friendship Association (South Australia) Inc


Caring for kids!

The British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has to be praised for his attempts to make school meals wholesome and nutritious. His high profile has served him well in promoting what he was trying to do to encourage good eating habits of the kids who are constantly being accused of eating junk food.

Evidently the experience was not smooth and it took Jamie quite some time to persuade the kids to eat decent food and later even enjoy it. It was thought that school meals revolution would roll on and spread, much to the delight of parents, teachers and pediatricians.

But what do you know it turned out that there are long-term contracts with private companies which prevent schools from getting rid of junk food! New schools are locked into 25-year contracts through what they call in Britain private finance initiatives (PFI). There are about 450 of those schools, with some schools built by private sector without kitchens. So much for producing freshly cooked food and caring about kids.

NSW premier Bob Carr was recently waxing lyrical about private sector building and maintaining public schools. When I was watching the news I wondered why public sector cannot do this and where the profits for the private sector come in to be interested in schools. Can it be that it will be same as in Britain school children paying up for less than satisfactory conditions and lousy food?

Sue Brown
Ryde, NSW

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