It's the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Dili on February 19. Yes, I know it's the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin too, but it's the bombing of Dili on the same day which always gets second billing, if remembered at all.
Most Australians thought that Japan was going to invade Australia in 1942, and there are very many Australians who still believe it. But actually, the Japanese did not intend to invade us at all. What they wanted to do was prevent Darwin being used by the Allies against the Japanese plans for expansion in South-East Asia.
Let us remember, that whatever the Japanese intention, the fact is that Australia was not invaded. The country which was invaded by the Japanese was Portuguese Timor. And one of the reasons they came was because Australia had invaded Timor two months earlier.
These invasions of Timor resulted in the deaths of at least 40,000 Timorese people, all civilians. (See James Dunn, East Timor: A Rough Passage to Independence, p. 22) Yet strangely, the invasions are hardly noticed. Instead we get news and commentaries and "what ifs" about the non-existent invasion of Australia.
Australia wasn't invaded in World War II. Timor was. These are the facts.
The Australians were enormously successful as a result of the support of the Timorese throughout 1942. The Australian government recalled its soldiers at the beginning of 1943, and upon withdrawing, their courageous Timorese friends were left behind. The toll exacted on the Timorese for choosing to support the Australians was terrible indeed. Apart from direct killings and the burning of crops, livestock and villages by the Japanese, the Allied bombing raids on the Japanese positions in Timor lasted until 1945, which meant that the Timorese people endured four years of death and destruction. Not Australians, Timorese.
No other nation on the face of the earth has lost over 40,000 civilians as a direct result of protecting Australian soldiers.
The very least Australia could do for these loyal war-time friends of ours is to agree on a border between our two nations.
And the very least we Australians can do is remember their courage and friendship, and work towards a just and permanent outcome on the border issue.
Something immediate you could do is to sign both of these petitions:
Petition to the House of Representatives
Print this one and get people to sign. Instructions on the paper.
Many thanks everyone.
Sister Susan Connelly