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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RAMOS HORTA DEBUNKED ASIO'S ASSUMPTIONS

by Sasha Uzunov

De-classified Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) files, lodged with the National Archives of Australia, from the mid-1970s reveal that East Timorese independence leader Jose Manuel RAMOS HORTA debunked a number of assumptions that ASIO held about his political leanings.




1970s radical chic: Timorese independence leader Jose Manuel RAMOS HORTA of the FRETILIN Party, visiting Darwin, Australia in 1975, refused to be viewed through a Cold War prism by ASIO. 










Photo source: www.naa.gov.au - The National Archives of Australia.






If the small South-East Asian half island of East Timor had gained its independence from colonial power Portugal rather than being violently taken over by neighbouring Indonesia in 1975 and had also embraced the British sport of Cricket, RAMOS HORTA would have made a champion batsman, rather than an international statesman at age 26.

Simply put in Cricket terminology RAMOS HORTA played ASIO with a straight-bat and deftly deflected the propaganda war waged by Indonesia during the Cold War by accusing the FRETILIN Party, vanguard of the Timorese independence movement, of being communist, which in the West and in ASIO's view would have been anathema. East Timor got its rightful independence in 1999 and with Australia finally letting go of its fear of Indonesia by embracing Timorese self-determination.

The ASIO files state clearly that RAMOS HORTA made it obvious that FRETILIN was neither Marxist or Stalinist. ASIO analysts saw the light on this. You can see the change in assessments. Instead, ASIO, some would say in a rather paranoid manner, placed undue emphasis on the prominent Australian left wingers who showed an interest in East Timor. There are thousands upon thousands of pages on prominent Australian journalist Jill Joliffe and Denis Freney who gave their support for Timorese independence.

The ASIO files reveal that RAMOS HORTA, grateful for left-wing support, also kept a healthy distance from his supporters. He also counted flamboyant Andrew Peacock, later to become Australia's Foreign Minister in the conservative Fraser government, as a friend.

In 2008, Australia's top investigative reporter Phillip Dorling, writing in the Canberra Times newspaper and quoting from the ASIO files, summed it up thus:

 ""That Horta should avail himself of the [Communist Party's] hospitality in no way reflects his concurrence with the political aims of that party.'' Notwithstanding observations such as these, the extensive and detailed ASIO intelligence reporting of Ramos-Horta's association with Australian communists, especially Freney, and with the leftist journalist Jill Joliffe..." 

A July 3, 1975 ASIO assessment sent to the Joint Intelligence Organisation - HORTA: "FRETILIN WAS NEITHER MARXIST OR STALINIST BUT SOUGHT AN INDEPENDENT IDEOLOGY.

A June 27, 1975 ASIO report- HORTA IS IN AUSTRALIA REPRESENTING THE VIEWS OF FRETILIN A POLITICAL MOVEMENT ENDEAVOURING TO OBTAIN INDEPENDENCE FOR PORTUGUESE TIMOR BY DEMOCRATIC MEANS. HE IS TALKING WITH PEOPLE IN ALL AREAS OF GOVERNMENT...

ASIO officers were instructed to: "THAT HORTA SHOULD AVAIL HIMSELF OF [THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF AUSTRALIA] CPA'S HOSPITALITY IN NO WAY REFLECTS HIS CONCURRENCE WITH THE POLITICAL AIMS OF THAT PARTY. That is why it is imperative to head reports as has been done in this case, "CPA interest in FRETILIN" or "CPA interest in Visit of RAMOS-HORTA," not merely "FRETILIN" or "Jose Manuel HORTA."

Simply put, the Timorese people were fighting for their very existence in the face of the expected Indonesian invasion which came on 7 December 1975 (Pearl Harbor Day).

RAMOS-HORTA went on to share the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with fellow Timorese, Catholic Bishop Belo. In the post-1999 era he has served as the new state's Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and President.


RAMOS-HORTA in 2009. Photo source: USAID.
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