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Former envoy rejects claims of a cover-up

Sydney Morning Herald - November 25, 1998

Christopher Henning, London – The former Australian ambassador to Indonesia Mr Philip Flood has rejected claims that he withheld information from the Australian Government concerning the murder of wounded Timorese at the time of the Dili massacre. Mr Flood is now Australia's high commissioner in London.

He told the Herald that although a detailed account of his conversation with the source of his information – Lieutenant-Colonel Prabowo Subianto – was not passed on, the substance of Colonel Prabowo's information, including the number killed in the massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili and further murders away from the cemetery on the same day in November 1991, was sent to Canberra.

"The source of the information was withheld to protect the person who arranged the meeting with Colonel Prabowo, and who continued to provide us with information subsequently," Mr Flood said.

The Herald reported last Wednesday that Mr Flood had noted at the time that the conversation had taken place on the basis that its content would not be reported.

The full details of the conversation were given to Canberra only on May 10, 1994, as the Department of Foreign Affairs prepared its publicity counter-offensive against the journalist John Pilger. In his film Death of a Nation, Pilger claimed that a second massacre had occurred in November 1991 of 150 people wounded in the shooting at the cemetery.

He repeated the claim in an article in The Observer in London last weekend, in which he described the Herald story as "the latest revelation of Australia's long appeasement of the Indonesian dictatorship and its acts of genocide in East Timor", and accused the former foreign minister, then Senator Gareth Evans, and then prime minister, Mr Paul Keating, of "continuing to deny the scale and gravity of the Indonesian atrocity". Both Mr Evans and Mr Keating have denied the story. Mr Keating has said he plans legal action against Pilger over it.

Mr Flood told the Herald: "Gareth Evans has put out a statement that the information was passed on. I can only presume that John Pilger didn't see or didn't want to see that statement, which was published in the Herald on Friday.

"Information was certainly passed on – masses of information."

A few days after details of the Prabowo interview were sent to Canberra in 1994, Senator Evans wrote an article for the Age in which he said that "the balance of evidence" from "multiple sources of information" was against a second massacre.