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Senin, 02 September 2013

The Freedom Flotilla Will Go Down In History

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Shirley Shackleton was on board the Lusitania when it sailed to East Timor in 1992 to protest the Indonesian occupation. She offers words of solidarity for the West Papuan Freedom Flotilla

When I heard the shadow foreign affairs spokesperson Julie Bishop comment recently on the Freedom Flotilla sailing peacefully to West Papua, I experienced a moment of déjà vu. In Bishop’s opinion, "If this Freedom Flotilla breaches Indonesia's territorial sovereignty, Indonesia is entitled to use whatever means it wishes to protect it.”

In 1992 I sailed on the Lusitania Peace Ship to East Timor, which had similar objectives to the Freedom Flotilla, and was blocked by warships, a military plane, three helicopters, and threats to “shoot us out of the water”. The rhetoric at that time was similar to that which is being promulgated at present. We were insulted and threatened in what were obvious canards.

Nevertheless youthful volunteers came from France, Guinea-Bissau in Africa, Japan, Germany, Canada, Cape Verde, China, Indonesia, Holland, Austria, Vietnam, Italy, Brazil, India, Sweden, the United States of America, Britain, Australia and Portugal. Some of the volunteers on board had not been born when Indonesia invaded East Timor.

Reports from 2 March 1992 quote Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, Philip Flood, as saying, “Australia will not sacrifice good relations with Jakarta”. He threatened to take “appropriate measures” if “they [the peace mission members] act illegally”. Apparently it didn’t occur to Flood to suggest to the Indonesian dictator Suharto that it would be unwise from public relations point-of-view to sink a civilian ship.

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