The Evolving Narrative of Denial

The Fraser Government and the Timorese Genocide, 1975-1980

Author: Peter Job


As research by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor documents, the years 1975-1980 constituted the worst period of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, during which grave human rights took place involving a high loss of life. In Australia, the government headed by Prime Minister Malcom Fraser (1975-1983) sought to present itself as a supporter of human rights and the international rule of law. It also prioritized relations with the Suharto regime, which it saw as key to its policy position in Southeast Asia. These two positions came into conflict due to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. The Fraser government therefore worked to propagate a narrative concerning East Timor which denied the seriousness of the situation, distorted the historical narrative, deflected blame from Indonesia and depicted the Australian position as principled and realistic. This paper examines the development of this narrative as events progressed and information concerning the crisis in East Timor came to the attention of the outside world. It also examines how the Fraser government employed this narrative internationally in order to protect the Suharto regime from scrutiny.

Countries: East Timor | Indonesia
Topics: Human Rights

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September 2018
© E.D. Starin