Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Whittleton visit, 1987

Referenced in the previous post, Canadian Ambassador Jack Whittleton's 1987 visit to East Timor was not taken on a whim. The Indonesian government invitation was turned down by most governments (only East Germany and Nigeria joined Canada in accepting). It was the subject of debate at the Department of External Affairs, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Mochtar Kusumaatmadjaja lobbied hard for Canadian participation. External saw clearly that the invitation to visit was aimed at countries with domestic critics of human rights violations in East Timor. It made a deliberate decision to attend, and felt "any criticism [in Canada] can be managed." The visit itself, Whittleton reported, "achieved objective" of pleasing Mochtar, but he admitted it had given no real opportunity to learn about the situation in East Timor.

These documents were obtained under Access to Information legislation by researcher Sharon Scharfe. They are discussed in her book Complicity: Human Rights and Canadian Foreign Policy, the Case of East Timor.

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