Bishop predicts outcry when Timor report circulates

Thousands of East Timorese children were shipped to Indonesia during Jakarta's occupation and the fate of many is unknown, says a report that echoes Australia's experience with the indigenous "stolen generation".

In some cases children were abducted by Indonesian soldiers and smuggled out in boxes, the report by an independent commission of inquiry has found.

"We were put in crates, one per crate, like chickens," one woman told the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, known by the Portuguese acronym CAVR.

Melbourne Catholic auxiliary bishop Hilton Deakin, a veteran campaigner for East Timorese rights, predicted a popular outcry in East Timor and overseas when the report is circulated. "The little children were the most defenceless of them all," Bishop Deakin told The Sunday Age.

The massive report poses a dilemma for Canberra, which received a copy last week and has already disputed its findings about Australia's role in events leading to independence in 1999. It has also sparked tensions between East Timor and its former rulers.

While not publicly released, sections of the report exposing atrocities during the occupation from 1975-99 have leaked. East Timor's Government was embarrassed when the report was posted on the website of the US-based International Centre for Transitional Justice.

The Sunday Age yesterday revealed a previously ignored section of the report, which alleges children were taken in uncontrolled removals. An unknown number remain in Indonesia, some unaware of their true identities and their families ignorant of their fate.

"Some who were taken away were treated in comfort and education beyond their wildest dreams. But so many other ones were abused as sexual objects and as economic digits in the household."

Predicting the issue would emerge as a major cause for church and non-government groups, he said: "It won't be swept under the carpet when all this is revealed."

The Sunday Age said that Cardinal George Pell was briefed on the commission's work when he met CAVR chairman Aniceto Guterres Lopes on a visit to Dili last month. He also inspected the commission's archives, now stored in a former Indonesian prison.

The report titled Chega! ( Enough! in Portuguese) alleges children were not spared during the occupation. Compiled over three years and drawing on thousands of testimonies, it alleges children were victims of massacre, torture, detention and rape. While broad details of those atrocities are widely known, the report reveals for the first time the previously taboo issue of the removal of children.

It alleges some were abducted by soldiers, while others were taken from orphanages by officials, charities and religious groups. It alleges some parents were forced or tricked into handing over their children.

The Catholic Church in East Timor is set to demand more be done to reunite families when it formally receives the report this week. Fr Martinho Gusmao, director of the church's Peace Commission, told The Sunday Age a committee would study issues raised in the report and then list what the church believes to be the priorities for immediate action.

A Foreign Affairs spokesman said Australia would be guided by the preferences of the East Timor Government.

'We were put in crates' (The Age 12/2/06)

Whitlam role in ousting East Timor Catholic leader (CathNews 20/1/06)

First Lady of Timor-Leste to present Aquinas Lecture (Australian Catholic University 13/2/06)
Their living hell (The Age 12/2/06)
Indonesian Bishop urges gratitude from ETimorese (ABC Asia Pacific 6/2/06)
East Timor group says Indonesia now committing atrocities in Papua (Radio New Zealand 2/2/06)
East Timor Bishop Wants More Details on Occupation (Zenit 23/1/06)
Reconciliation with Jakarta without justice is meaningless, says bishop of Baucau (AsiaNews.it 21/1/06)

13 Feb 2006