Sunday, May 14, 2017


Jose  Ramos-Horta, pictured in  Darwin  in  the  l970s  , recently delivered the  Tom  Uren  inaugural lecture in  the  Balmain  Town Hall  , Sydney , broadcast over the ABC .  Uren , a minister  in   the   Whitlam Government ,  strongly  supported  the East Timor  struggle for  freedom , when  Australia  and  the rest of the  Western world  turned a  blind  eye  to  the  slaughter  carried  out  by  the dogs of  war  .
 Ramos-Horta  , in  a  moving speech , quoted    Uren  as  saying  it   often seemed there was  only an  audience  of two and  half  dogs  listening  when  speaking  up  for  East Timor .   Ramos-Horta  , a  Nobel Laurate ,  former president of  now Timor  Leste ,   told  the  audience  he  also  felt  he  had  a similarly  small  canine  audience in  his long   fight  for  freedom  which  spanned   more  than  two  decades .  
In an anecdote of  immense  significance to  the  almost forgotten  important  vital  relationship  between   Indonesia   and  Australia , he told of a  tense  meeting  in Jakarta  in  2000  with  the  Indonesian   government . At the start, the Speaker  had  said   bad things about  Australia ( in  its  support  for  East Timor ).
Ramos-Horta  replied  by  saying  Australia was   doing  for East Timor  what  it had  done for    the  people  of  Indonesia  seeking   freedom  from  the  Dutch ,  unionists  had  even  refused  to   handle  Dutch ships.  Some  of  those  on  the  Indonesian  side  had   nodded , he said .     
He went on to say   Uren  fought on East Timor  with the Australian Sparrow  Force ,  in what   was then  a neutral  Portuguese  colony , the  Japanese  invading  the  island , killing  50,000  locals. 
Captured by the Japanese ,   Uren , 21 years old , a   top  boxer  and  athlete ,  who  passed  through  Darwin   to  fight  in Timor ,  was   forced  to  work on the Thai-Burma railway  and   shipped  back  to  Japan  to   toil  in mines,  where he  saw the  sky turn crimson when the atomic bomb  was  dropped on Nagasaki . 
 Despite all  that   he had been through  and witnessed , he  did  not hold  any grudge against the  Japanese , blaming  the militarists , became a  pacifist , an  early  environmentalist.   
The subject of  the  dispute  over the sea  boundary  between  Timor Leste  and  Australia  was   covered  by  Ramos-Horta...the obvious  solution  a  line  drawn  halfway  between  the  two  countries, recognised by  the  International Court  of  Justice and  the  Law  of  the  Sea --- not supported by  Australia .