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East Timor: member of Parliamentarians for East Timor comments on the killing of mourners at a commemorative service

PETER THOMPSON: The first response from Canberra to the deaths in Dili has come from the Queensland Labor MP, Garrie Gibson. Mr Gibson is a member of Parliamentarians for East Timor, and he was part of a delegation of MPs who visited the island earlier this year. John Shovelan asked Mr Gibson whether he believes the regime of President Suharto is capable of carrying out the killings.

GARRIE GIBSON: In the last 16 years there's been over 200,000 East Timorese killed, in one way or another, through the actions of the Indonesian military. And the evidence of the last two days of actions demonstrate that that is still occurring to a large measure and the East Timorese are the very victims of that.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Well, what sort of leader does that make President Suharto, if he's allowing that to go on?

GARRIE GIBSON: I don't believe that Suharto has a true understanding of the extent of the military action that's occurring in East Timor. If he has, and if he in fact fully supports it, then it makes him no different, as far as I am concerned, to any fascist dictator that we would condemn in other parts of the world. Australia participated in a military action to prevent the actions of Saddam Hussein, which are very similar, what he did in Kuwait to what Suharto's forces are now doing in East Timor.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Well, how should Prime Minister Hawke and Foreign Minister Gareth Evans respond to this latest event?

GARRIE GIBSON: All the evidence shows that the Australian Government vigorously takes up human rights abuses when they are drawn to its attention in East Timor, and in other parts of Indonesia. I don't think you can get more of a human rights abuse than murder by Indonesian military authorities, so I hope that the Foreign Minister will be consistent in his concern that he has expressed and take up these issues most strenuously with the Indonesian military government.

JOHN SHOVELAN: It wasn't so long ago that you were actually in East Timor. How did you find the Indonesians were treating the East Timorese?

GARRIE GIBSON: Well, East Timor very much reeked of occupation and suppression. The East Timorese people do not exercise, or have the same rights of freedom of expression, freedom of movement, as other citizens of Indonesia, or other parts of the world. The Indonesian military have been continuously accused and there's fairly strong evidence to back up those accusations of abuses of human rights, of violence, torture and disappearance of East Timorese, and I think the actions of the last couple of days indicate that that's still occurring to a large extent. And it's totally unacceptable, and it should be totally unacceptable to the Australian Government.

JOHN SHOVELAN: So we should risk good relations with the Indonesians about this?

GARRIE GIBSON: Well, I think in any relationship between two nations, when a country engages in such brutal military force against a small, powerless other group, that if we cannot express our strong condemnation of that and say to a neighbouring country that that type of action is totally unacceptable, then I think we've got to question the very validity of our foreign policy.

PETER THOMPSON: Queensland Labor MP, Garrie Gibson. And we've just heard from Washington that the United States has called on the Indonesian Government to conduct a full investigation into the shootings in East Timor. The State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, says that the United States regrets the violence and has already spoken to Indonesian authorities about the reported killings.