23 Juni 2013

Could West Papua be Abbott's East Timor?

Australia was instrumental in supporting East Timor's fight for independence in the 1990s. What role would an Australian Coalition government have in the move towards West Papuan independence, asks Tracee Hutchison.

When former prime minister John Howard and then foreign minister Alexander Downer began working toward East Timor's independence in 1999, history now tells us that they did so, initially, without letting on to the Indonesian government.

As the Australian government continued to publically support Jakarta's territorial claim over the resource-rich Indonesian province, privately the actions of Howard and Downer set in motion the makings of a new nation.

John Howard's leadership overseeing the UN-sponsored independence referendum and Australia's peacekeeping role in the fledgling nation remains, as he wrote in his biography Lazarus Rising, one of his proudest achievements and won him international acclaim. (Perhaps everywhere except Indonesia, where the issue of Timor Leste remains contentious).

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