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 .