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Downer on Kopassus.

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Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs


Downer maintains the fiction that he’ll sift out Kopassus units that attacked Australian soldiers in East Timor

Foreign Minister Downer dug himself into a deeper hole in Parliament today by asserting he would be able to separate out bad Kopassus units from good Kopassus units in terms of those with whom the Howard Government will now re-establish links.

Specifically, Mr Downer was asked to confirm for the House that none of those Kopassus units were responsible for training the militia that attacked Australian troops in East Timor in October 1999. That attack resulted in two Australian soldiers being seriously wounded.

Mr Downer’s own Department has produced a publication that not only details those attacks but also shows that Kopassus had a close association with militia organisations which “used to conduct activities on Kopassus’ behalf” (see East Timor in Transition 1998-2000, pg 58 & 147).

In his answer in Parliament today Mr Downer refused to confirm whether Kopassus was involved in the October 1999 attacks on Australian troops.

He also refused to outline how in practical terms he proposed to screen out Kopassus units who had been engaged in:

É Actions against Australian troops;

É Human rights abuses in East Timor and West Timor, as well as human rights abuses against Christians in Ambon and Maluku; and

É Cooperation with terrorist organisations like Laskar Jihad.

Mr Downer continues to maintain the fiction that he will somehow have access to the personnel files of the 5,500 members of Kopassus in order to separate out those who are responsible for any of the activities listed above.

Labor continues to maintain that for the last ten months since the Bali bombings, the Howard Government should have been dedicating large-scale resources to the development of counter-terrorism capabilities within the Indonesian National Police. These ten months have effectively been wasted.

Ends. 14 August 2003

Further information: Kevin Rudd, MP 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan 0417 605 823