Thursday, April 8, 2010

East Timor's Gusmao Lashes Australia for Duplicity

DARWIN: In a fiercely anti-Western speech, East Timor's Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, has accused Australia of sacrificing the lives of 60,000 Timorese in World War II and secretly plotting for Indonesia to take over what was then Portuguese Timor in 1963. Gusmao said that ''adding insult to injury'' Australia signed an agreement with Indonesia to share wealth from the Timor Sea while ''around 200,000 Timorese died trying to protect their rights during 24 years of war''.

Gusmao, a former freedom fighter, said the Japanese occupation of East Timor from 1941 to 1945 covered the entire country and caused great suffering to the Timorese, including the deaths of about 60,000 people. ''According to reliable opinions, this suffering could have been prevented if the Australian forces had not come to [East Timor] in order to wage war here, so as to prevent the Japanese from invading Australia,'' he told an international donor's conference in Dili on Wednesday.

Gusmao said that according to historians and researchers, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand secretly agreed to East Timor's integration into Indonesia in 1963 ''as the best solution for world peace. We got to see the result of this agreement in 1975,'' Gusmao said, referring to Indonesia's bloody invasion of East Timor.

He made the comments before an imminent announcement on the multibillion-dollar Greater Sunrise gas project in the Timor Sea. A consortium lead by Woodside has repeatedly rejected East Timor's demand that gas from the project be piped to a processing plant in East Timor, saying its only options are a floating plant above the field or piping the gas to an existing plant in Australia. Revenues from the project are to be split evenly with Australia. Gusmao also criticised the US over its decision to impose an embargo on Dili's port because it is not regarded as secure enough to protect ships from terrorist attack. ''What do they want from us? … Do they want us to declare open war on terrorism, so as to become even more vulnerable to this world phenomenon?''

Analysts said Gusmao remarks indicated he was moving East Timor away from the influence of the United Nations and Western nations, including Australia. Gusmao referred to a ''certain disconnection between us and our partners''. Despite billions of dollars in aid to East Timor ''we feel sad for the results … in building our state'', which remained fragile and the poorest in the region, he said. In an apparent reference to UN and foreign aid agency workers, Gusmao said there are people who want East Timor to continue to be ranked as an unstable country ''as they surely prefer working in [East Timor] than in Afghanistan or in Iraq''.

''Other people are infiltrating [non-government-organisations] who in the name of democracy and human rights only seek to misguide our people and to generate mistrust among the Timorese.''

Gusmao denounced the former Fretilin government's policy of saving billions of dollars from oil and gas reserves, which was recommended by the World Bank and other international agencies. He said $5.39 billion in savings held in the US needs to be spent in East Timor to promote fast sustainable growth and to build basic infrastructure.
''The people do not need cash in American banks to help pay American deficits.'' By Lindsay Murdoch for The Sydney Morning Herald

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