Penny Tweedie Photographs, 1975

31 July 2018

Penny Tweedie’s photographs of post-civil-war East Timor are among the best-recognised images of that dramatic period in Timor-Leste’s modern history. The National Library of Australia now holds the original Tweedie photograph collection. We present here a guide to the full set of Tweedie’s Timor images from September 1975.

A small sample of Penny Tweedie Timor images from 1975.

Penny Tweedie was among the first group of journalists and photographers to go to East Timor after the short civil war of August/September 1975.

Prior to this she recorded in Darwin the arrival from Dili of a group of refugees on the ship, Macdili. In Timor she captured images of the Fretilin leadership and its newly formed Falintil armed forces in Dili and on patrol outside Dili, going as far west as Balibo.

Tweedie photographed ordinary East Timorese recovering from the effects of the war, including receiving humanitarian aid and medical attention. She also took many photographs of prisoners held by Fretilin, mostly UDT* followers but also an Indonesian soldier captured on the East Timor side of the border.

Important to Timor-Leste’s archival record
Penny Tweedie’s images have long been recognised by East Timorese as a key record-set in the new nation’s history. Many of her images appear repeatedly on Timorese history and political websites and on social media – though usually without permission or attribution.

More formally, Timor-Leste’s 2002-2005 truth and reconciliation commission, CAVR*, purchased a set of prints of key images which today can be seen displayed at the successor institution, Centro Nasional Chega! It is also known that during his period as Timor-Leste President, Jose Ramos-Horta was negotiating with Penny Tweedie to acquire a fuller set of her images for Timor-Leste archival purposes.

CHART arranged with Tweedie in 2009/10 to put online a full set of her 1975 images as a guide to the collection for researchers and Timor-Leste archival institutions. Sadly her unexpected death in early 2011 meant the project didn’t proceed.

Tweedie at the National Library of Australia
Having unsuccessfully sought over some years to determine the fate of Tweedie’s collection, we were delighted to learn recently that her son Ben had donated her lifetime’s photographic record to the National Library of Australia in 2013.

The collection is a large and complex mix of original film negatives, contact and full-size prints, transparencies, notebooks and correspondence. Timor is a tiny fragment of the whole collection; Tweedie covered many conflict situations in other countries and is particularly well-known for her striking images of indigenous Australians.

See the National Library’s catalogue entry and collection list for more details.

See also CHART’s extract from the NLA’s collection list to point directly to the disparate Timor elements in the Tweedie collection.

Click image to view visual guide to collection

 

Visual guide to Penny Tweedie Timor images
CHART has prepared a visual guide to all Tweedie images from August/September 1975.

With the permission of Ben Tweedie, who inherited legal copyright ownership of the images, we have created low-resolution copies of Tweedie’s contact prints* of all her 1975 film negatives. We have supplemented the images with very brief descriptions of the content of each contact print.

Our purpose in doing this is to inform all East Timor history researchers and Timor-Leste archival institutions of the range of Tweedie’s Timor images and her particular contribution to the historical record.

Note on access and use restrictions
These images may not be reproduced elsewhere without prior permission. Requests for higher resolution copies of any of the images for any purpose must first be directed to the National Library of Australia.*


*Notes:

UDT: União Democrática Timorense / Timorese Democratic Union.

CAVR: Comissão de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliação / Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation.

Contact prints: These are direct, original size positive copies of the original film negatives. They were used in the pre-digital-camera era to identify and select images for reproduction. In the case of the Tweedie Timor items, the negatives were standard 35×24 mm black and white film.

Contacting National Library of Australia: See links from NLA’s catalogue entry for Tweedie collection.


Access to CHART digital files

5 September 2017

We are delighted to announce the launch of CHART Digital – a website to access digital materials created by Clearing House for Archival Records on Timor (CHART) Inc.

CHART Digital is a project to provide access to some digital files on Timor-Leste history, 1974-1999. The digital files were created in the course of CHART work on privately-held Australian collections.

CHART Digital is an interim access step. The original physical collections must ultimately be secured in a public library or archive. CHART Digital provides access to digital copies of some of these materials while decisions are made about where to permanently house the physical collections.

We expect CHART Digital to provide a unique Australian supplement to the extensive online collections already available through the Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum and CIDAC.

Modest beginnings
This online resource begins with one collection – the Timor papers of former Senator Gordon McIntosh. Many of the working files of McIntosh’s time in the Australian Senate (1974-1987) have been digitised and are accessible on CHART Digital. We also selected a small number of individual documents to exhibit the range of material to be found in the larger collection.

Digital files from other collections will be added to the website as time and resources permit. These include, for example, materials from Timor Information Service (1975-1983) and the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) Human Rights office, 1978-2000.

Feedback wanted
We are calling CHART Digital a pilot project. We are keen to get feedback from researchers on the design of the website and any difficulties experienced in finding or accessing material.

Please let us know what you think by way of a ‘Comment’ (see below) or emailing us at: chart[at] timorarchives.info


Resistance radio 1975-1978

21 April 2016

Recordings of radio communications and broadcasts from the Fretilin-led resistance in the early occupation years are rare historical primary-source materials. We present information on known surviving copies and introduce a project to give access to them in Timor-Leste.

Alarico Fernandes, November 1975. The main voice of resistance radio until his surrender/capture with the radio in late 1978. [Photo: Jim Dunn]

Alarico Fernandes, November 1975. The main voice of resistance radio until his surrender/capture in late 1978. [Photo: Jim Dunn]

Alarico Fernandes’ desperate radio transmission (see sample below) from Dili on 7 December 1975, describing the full-scale Indonesian invasion of the newly-declared Democratic Republic of East Timor (RDTL), marked the beginning of three years of direct resistance contact with Australia and the outside world. The radio communications were the only regular source of information from East Timor not controlled by the Indonesian military in those early years.

Australian and East Timorese activists in Darwin conducted clandestine, coded, two-way radio contact for communications between the internal and external wings of the resistance. Occasional uncoded contacts and regular broadcasts from East Timor under the name of Radio Maubere, were also recorded by the activists for later transcription and reporting to solidarity groups and mainstream media.

The public transmissions from Timor reported on all aspects of occupation and resistance inside the territory. Extracts or summaries of then-public material can now be found online in the CHART-digitised, pre-1979 copies of CIET mimeographs, East Timor News and Timor Information Service.

While a definitive history of this part of the broader Timor story has yet to be written, published accounts of the transmission and recording operations at the Australian end can be found in the writings of activist participants Brian Manning, Chris Elenor and Rob Wesley-Smith.

Surviving recordings
Some 250 audiocassettes of resistance radio material is known by CHART to survive in Australia. Almost all surviving tapes are recordings of public radio material; very few internal or coded messages are known. The largest public collection comes from the archives of Melbourne’s Timor Information Service (TIS) and is held at the National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA) in Canberra (see partial list on NFSA catalogue). Other material is still held privately, including a few items owned by Rob Wesley-Smith who recorded them with his own receiver.

rmtapes-summary

Numbers of radio transmission recordings known to CHART to still exist in Australia.

As the figure above shows, we know of no recordings from the very early post-invasion months and the record of the controversial last period of contact in late 1978 is incomplete. It remains to be seen whether more recordings will emerge within Australia or from the archives of the Fretilin external leadership at that time.

Samples
We present here a few fragments of radio transmissions recorded in Australia. Click red ‘play’ button to listen.


Short fragment of Alarico Fernandes reporting full-scale Indonesian invasion of Dili. 00:13 (mins:secs). Source: East Timor Calling/Rod Harris collection. 


The opening segment of a standard Radio Maubere broadcast. 05:41. Source: Rob Wesley-Smith


Alarico Fernandes dictates a message from East Timor Red Cross in resistance-held areas to be forwarded to International Red Cross. 01:51. Source: Rob Wesley-Smith.


Excerpt from Nicolau Lobato speech following the 1977  arrest and expulsion of Xavier do Amaral from his positions as President of Fretilin and the Democratic Republic of East Timor. 05:20. Source: Timor Information Service / NFSA


Small fragments from the final days of radio contact. (1) Coded message from Alarico Fernandes; (2) Awkward two-way exchange between Fernandes and the Australian activist operator; (3) Rogerio Lobato sending repeated message to (unsuccesfully) re-establish radio contact with Timor. 02:57. Source: Rob Wesley-Smith.

Access in Timor-Leste
In concert with Australia’s NFSA and Timor’s Resistance Archive and Museum (AMRT), CHART has initiated a project to make radio recordings available for research and exhibition in Timor-Leste.

The TIS collection of some 200 recordings was deposited with NFSA in 2002. These recordings were given to TIS in the late 1970s by key Timor and radio contact activist, Denis Freney. All recordings have since been professionally digitised by NFSA for long-term preservation and access.

In July 2015, CHART and AMRT signed an agreement for a pilot project on transfer of recordings to Timor-Leste. In exchange for digital copies of recordings, AMRT staff will create, and copy to NFSA, textual summaries of recording content to assist researcher access. At the conclusion of the pilot project some time in 2016, the parties will review the process and decide on the next steps to ensure eventual access in Timor-Leste to available radio recordings.


Keeping secret (some) Australian goverment archives

16 April 2014

The National Archives of Australia’s holdings of government records about East Timor are a rich evidential and research resource, but parts of the record remain closed to public scrutiny.  We explore this continuing secrecy through summarising a recent effort by researcher and author Clinton Fernandes to access some restricted 1981-1982 documents.

naa-parts2021red

On 2 April 2014, the President of Australia’s Administrative Appeal Tribunal (AAT) affirmed an earlier National Archives of Australia (NAA) decision to deny Clinton Fernandes access to parts of two Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) folders about East Timor (pictured above).

In 2012 NAA had examined and released the folders to Fernandes (and to general public access), but denied access to 140 of a total of some 600 pages. These pages were excluded on the grounds that, if public, they could cause damage to Australia’s security, defence or international relations or that they were provided in confidence by another government (see details in Section 33 (1)(a) & (b) of the Archives Act 1983 .

Fernandes sought from NAA a review of that 2012 decision but with little result – so he followed standard procedure by then appealing to the AAT for an independent judgement on access to the excluded pages.

Public and closed hearings on January 30 and February 3 this year finally resulted in the AAT’s written decision of April 2. The decision (see full text) kept all ‘exempt’ material secret except for one line on one page and one paragraph on another page.

The folders
The two folders are part of sequence of folders titled ‘Portuguese Timor – Political – General’. This folder sequence, which dates back to 1946, was created and maintained by DFAT in Canberra.

The two folders in question, ‘parts’ 20 and 21, cover the dates 05 August 1981 to 11 January 1982. Clinton Fernandes sought access to these folders because they cover the period of a late-1981 Indonesian military operation known as Operasi Keamanan.* 

Many of the public documents in these two folders do shed some light on what Australian officials did learn about the 1981 military operation. The material judged to be not secret can be viewed online through NAA – see Part 20 & Part 21.

We can only guess how much more information is in the still-secret pages of the folders – at least some of which came from the USA government or Australia’s intelligence coordinating body, the Office of National Assessments (ONA).

Government barrier to fair process
Fernandes’ appeal to the AAT was made more difficult by an action of the Australian government. In January, Attorney-General George Brandis issued a so-called ‘public interest certificate’ which required secrecy for official written evidence and verbal testimony to the AAT. The AAT President hearing the case acknowledged the disadvantage to Fernandes – the certificate meant his representative could neither see nor cross-examine the evidence put to the Tribunal.

A further consequence of the certificate was that the reasoning behind the Tribunal’s final decisions were also to be kept secret – leaving Fernandes with little grounds to challenge the decisions.

The decision – key points
Much of the text of the formal AAT decision is details on the procedures and legal context of the decision-making process. The substantial elements of the decision were:

1. With the exception of ten pages (‘folios’), the AAT affirmed the original NAA decision to deny access to the large number of ‘exempt’ pages. (Decision paragraph 62)

2. After further evidence from the Inspector-General of Intelligence & Security (IGIS) on these ten pages, the AAT decided that only parts of two of the pages could be released (paras. 62-64).**

Why the continued secrecy?
The AAT decision text implies that documents cannot be exempted from access on the grounds of “mere embarrassment” or exposure of Australia or Indonesia to public discussion and criticism (see para 34).

We know some documents from the USA remain secret because the US has asked Australia to keep them so. That is the law (Archives Act 33(1)(b) – so that decision is not surprising. But we do not know why the US wants the material kept secret.

All but a fragment of the documents remain secret because the Tribunal was persuaded by government claims their release will damage some or all of Australia’s defence, security or international relations. But the ways in which specific documents might cause such damage is not revealed.

Only minor clues to Australian government thinking on this can be found in the decision text.

Public evidence from ONA claimed disclosure of its material would be seen by other (hostile ?) parties or could damage relationships with ‘international partner agencies’ which, in turn could damage the broader security/defence relationships (paras 55-56). This is the standard general case made against release of any intelligence agency material and is not a revelation.

The same ONA official also referred to current tensions between Australia and Indonesia as a factor – implying that anything which might exacerbate the tensions was against Australia’s interests (para 57). Again, these are standard arguments which have been asserted by successive Australian administrations for decades.

Comment
We can only speculate on the specific reasons for the continued need to keep secret 30-year-old archives about Timor. Readers are invited to add their own thoughts by way of ‘Comments’.

The most likely reasons are to do with developing and maintaining Australia-US-Indonesia security and intelligence relationships – but beyond that, who knows? Another possibility is that some of the exempt information reveals high quality information about Indonesian military activities in 1981 and/or points the finger at the role of particular Indonesian military individuals still in service or public life.

Whatever the reasons, the Australian government and its agencies are strongly protecting some information from public access. So concerned with continuing the secrecy, the Australian government has flagged it is considering an appeal to the Federal Court against the AAT decision to release those tiny fragments on two pages. (See: Paragraph 6 part 4 of this subsequent April 8 decision of the AAT).

One partial solution to this overall problem may lie with Indonesian and US citizens pressing their own governments to release their still-secret official records on East Timor.

 – – – – – – – – – – –

* The operation was notable for its use of a ‘fence of legs’ (pagar betis) tactic in which large numbers of Timorese civilians were conscripted to assist Indonesia forces to sweep through the territory to capture the Fretilin-led resistance. There were fears at the time that this forced conscription could lead to serious food shortages in rural Timor. This operation also resulted in thousands of East Timorese being incarcerated on Atauro Island.

** Parts to be released: The first line of the hand-written text on Part 21, folio 130 and the first paragraph of Part 21, folio 133.

 


March 24: International Day for the Right to the Truth

24 March 2014

CHART co-founder and board member, Pat Walsh, draws attention to this relatively new official United Nations marker – the International Day for the Right to the Truth.

UN-right-to-truth-banner

Given the official thrashing meted out to whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, many may be surprised to know that the international community believes in a right to the truth (albeit related to human rights violations) and wants the right promoted and upheld!

As enunciated by the UN, the right applies specifically to victims of human rights violations and their tormentors. It entitles victims or their families and representatives to seek, receive and impart information on their case. Equally, it obliges governments and their agencies – prisons, police, military, hospitals and so on – to preserve and provide access to the relevant files in their possession. The initiative has particular relevance to East Timorese and Indonesian victims and their respective governments.

The UN has dedicated March 24 each year to draw the attention of both victims and governments to the right and its practical implications for both. March 24 is the day Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated in El Salvador in 1980 for speaking the truth.

CHART welcomes the UN’s initiative. It underlines the importance of archives. We also hope that March 24 will spur Timor-Leste to consider the implementation of the 17 recommendations* in the CAVR Chega! report that relate to human rights archives – something CHART is able and willing to help with.

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* Chega! recommendations on archives: In summary, CAVR called on corporations and governments to contribute funding and documentation to assist Timor-Leste to re-build its patrimony. Governments such as Portugal and Indonesia and the Vatican, UN, Indonesian Human Rights Commission and Courts are asked to preserve and make accessible their records on Timor-Leste. More specifically, Indonesia is asked to make available its records on the war in Timor-Leste and the Comarca Balide. Timor-Leste is asked to enact general archival legislation and to convert the Comarca into a human rights and archival centre.

More information:
Official United Nations webpage

The Right to the Truth. Pat Walsh, 15 March 2011

Victims’ Right to the Truth. Pat Walsh, 24 March 2013

Chega! report recommendations