Rob Wesley-Smith with East Timorese kids
in Gleno, East Timor, March 2002:

rob wesley-smith

Rob Wesley-Smith, activist

*note: this page is now (Aug 2002) out of date; it will be updated soon

excerpt from a prescient press statement, Friday 13th August 1999, by Rob Wesley-Smith, Darwin:


There are 3 possible scenarios in East Timor after the 30 August ballot:

1. if Autonomy within Indonesia wins (unlikely), the Indonesian military and their puppet Militias will go on a spiteful rampage against the pro-Independence supporters and their supporters (extremely likely);

2. if Independence wins (very likely), the Indonesian military and their puppet Militias will go on a revengeful rampage against the pro-Independence supporters and their supporters (very likely); and

3. If Independence wins (very likely), the Indonesian military and their puppet Militias will gracefully withdraw, facilitating a peaceful handover (very unlikely).

see also Urgent e-mail campaign, November 1998


Rob Wesley-Smith was the Northern Territory's first 'agricultural cadet' gained in 1962 whilst doing his university studies in Rural Science at UNE then graduating BRurSc in 1966. He started as a government agricultural scientist from Feb 1966 until the loss of his job in 1992. In this he played a pioneering role in many areas of research into the pastoral industry and mixed farming, and was very well known for his active role in 'extension work'; visiting farmers, writing articles, talking on radio, and being the organiser of numerous large 'field days' mainly at Tortilla Flats Research Station. He published about a dozen scientific journal papers, and scores of extension and NT Department papers, and assisted with others. He was the first and only officer to publically raise the alarm about the potential dangers from escape from its restricted habitat of the noxious weed curse Mimosa, prior to the worst scenario becoming reality. He was instrumental in nutrition research and advice which helped implement better feeding regimes on cattle live export ships, which have since played such a big role in our exports overseas.

He has always practised community service in a variety of ways, though is now best known perhaps for his staunch defence of the interests of the East Timorese and for democratisation in Indonesia. In sport he played Australian Rules football for years with Wanderers, coached junior teams, including a Colts premiership, and initiated what became the U15 NTFL, played some SuperRules and did a few years of umpiring. He also coached Kormilda College soccer teams for one year. He was the NT Champion Motocross rider during 2 years around 1971. He managed the only Territorian to win an Australian professional boxing title. He rebuilt his own unique boat and completed some long explorations. In music, highlights are he was a foundation member and early mainstay of the Darwin Chorale, and also sang with the MaleVoice and MayDay choirs. He has been a keen supporter of Aboriginal rights, mainly active in the early 1970s, when he was the Darwin contact for the Gurindji people, and in fact wrote the application which saw them lawfully obtain their first land. He was also instrumental in the establishment of Bulla community, which last year saw the army pioneer a house-building program, and assisted the first Bamyili annual day. He also initiated the Vietnam Moratorium activities in Darwin in 1970. He was the foundation secretary of the then-active NT Council for Civil Liberties 1975-82. In recent years he has assisted various people in court cases. He is a keen chronicler and collector of historical material, his photos and experiences are part of the NT Library Cyclone Tracy exhibition, and he has assisted with some historical research.

In conservation or green issues he has been active throughout his time in the NT, whether it was alerting to weed and erosion problems, better ecological farming practices, better fire management, the need for energy conservation, planting of trees, and so on. In the last year he held a local community meeting re weed invasion, and helped spark off interest in agroforestry, holding a successful field day at his Howard Springs block (which he has changed from bare to a tropical paradise, complete with troppo home he has built). Better town planning has been a consistent aspect of his interest, having objected to building (Customs House) on the Escarpment edge in the early 70s, and then in 1997 co-founding "Guardians of the Green Escarpment" to battle inappropriate development, and then being a foundation member of "PLan" (the Planning Action Network).

East Timor: he has been tireless in supporting this cause, and some of his early work is detailed in his chapter in the book 'Free East Timor' (Jim Aubrey, editor; published May 1998 by Vintage). He is well known locally, nationally and internationally for this work, and I for one am grateful to him (having being born in East Timor myself). He tried to take medical supplies to East Timor in 1976. He has shown imagination and skill in use of the media, written, radio and TV, and in mobilising people for demonstrations, some spectacular, always non-violent, and mostly with very good relations developed with NT Police. In mid 1995 against many odds he successfully convened and chaired an international conference IRCR 'Indonesia and Regional Conflict Resolution'. He organised and chaired the lecture in January at NTU by Jose Ramos Horta which drew over 300 people on a Saturday afternoon. The fact that Indonesia in 1998 has had a spectacular move towards more democratic government, and moves are afoot for improvement of the situation in East Timor, is a compelling reason why, after all these years, this is the year to honour the lifetime commitment by Mr Wesley-Smith to Darwin, the NT, and to better values in Australian public life. Independent, proud, and determined is his character, someone who stands out among others in serving the Territory and its people and who helps change life in the Territory for the better.

Cesarina Rocha
June 11 1998


visit the APCET web site:

Urgent e-mail campaign, November 1998 (see below)


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Subject: Urgent: new email campaign letter suggestion
Sent: 24/11/98 1:27 AM
Received: 24/11/98 3:04 PM
From: Rob Wesley-Smith,

The UN sellout talks are due to resume today. Stop the SELL-OUT. Full rights to self-determination for East Timor NOW!

The following statement translated and posted by Tapol yesterday can be taken up by all readers and sent immediately as a letter to Kofi Annan and to Portuguese, US and your own officials.

For example, you could copy and paste the following letter, removing the "br"s etc:

to Mr Kofi Annan
UN Secretary General

Please note and act on the following statement from East Timor:

Statement issued Mon 23 Nov by East Timorese students who are now occupying the building of the regional assembly, the DPRD, in Dili. The students entered the building at 8 am local time and are still occupying the building:


We are deeply concerned at the events in Weberek, Alas, Uato-Carabau, Fatuberliu, Same, Baucau, Atabae and Ossu which are in violation of the Dare Communique. We believe that these tragic events have deliberately been created by certain groups anxious to maintain the status quo which has meant the sacrifice of East Timorese lives.

We express our profound condolences to the families of those bereaved.

We bly condemn the brutal and inhuman actions of members of ABRI in pursuit of their military/political strategy to intimidate, arrest, torture, rape and murder East Timorese people.

We condemn the lack of seriousness on the part of the Habibie transitional government in reaching a solution to the question of East Timor by for instance claiming to have withdrawn troops while in fact bringing in more troops and re-arming the para militaries composed of East Timorese.

Condemn the attitude of the regional government and ABRI which have allowed the conflict to intensify without taking preventive and proactive measures to safeguard and protect the people, especially those living in the above regions.

We regret that attitude of some East Timorese who do not have the political will to resolve the question of East Timor on the international stage.


We demand that the regional government and ABRI take the following action:

1. ABRI forces and the para militaries should refrain from taking offensive-repressive measures which can only bring disaster for the people of East Timor.

2. To halt all violence against the civilian population in East Timor generally and especially in Manufahi, Bobonaro, Baucau, Liquica and Viqueque which have already resulted in many casualties.

3. To press for open dialogue between the region government and political organisations in East Timor to seek a peaceful solution which would avoid the continuance of prolonged conflict in East Timor.

4. Establish the basis for a new dialogue as a continuation of the Dare Reconciliation Dialogue, and pave the way for the presence of the UN to supervise and arbitrate this dialogue.

5. Call for dialogue at all levels of the political structures in East Timor to create a democratic atmosphere which will facilitate a resolution of the East Timor question.

We also call on the Indonesian Government:

1. To repeal Law No 7, 1976, on the integration of East Timor into the Republic.

2. To withdraw Indonesian troops from East Timor because the Indonesia military presence is only proof of the illegal occupation of the territory of East Timor.

3. To immediately release all East Timorese political prisoners, in particular Xanana Gusmao, in the context of finding a peaceful solution to the question of East Timor.

4. To stop giving weapons to East Timorese because this only reinforces the policy of divide and rule.

5. Demand that the Indonesian government and in particular ambitious generals should accept responsibility for the thousands of victims among ABRI forces caused only to serve their territorial ambitions, using the war in East Timor as a means of seeking financial benefits and promotions for senior ABRI officers.

6. That the bereaved families and orphans of Indonesian officers killed in action, also including the East Timorese should charge in court these ambitious and opportunist generals.

III. We call on the United Nations:

1. To immediately place peace-keeping forces in East Timore to monitor the repressive actions of the Indonesian military there.

2. To immediately open a human rights office in East Timor to monitor human rights violations by the Indonesian military and conduct investigations about abuses perpetrated by the Indonesian military during their occupation of East Timor.

3. To establish a special UN office on the question of East Timor to respond to all the political demands of the developing situation in East Timor.

4. To call on the Indonesian government to withdraw all its troops, to do so transparently and to complete the withdrawal within six months from now.

IV. We call on the international community:

1. To stop all military support to the Indonesian government because this only fosters the arrogance of the Indonesian military which is ultimately expressed in actions to attack the people of East Timor.

2. To end all financial and economic assistance to the Indonesian government until such time as the question of East Timor is properly resolved.

3. To urge the Indonesian government to remove all obstacles preventing non-governmental organisations from gaining access to East Timor.

Yours sincerely,