Wayne Sievers

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Wayne Thomas Padraig Sievers (born 13 May 1957) is a former Australian police officer, trade union official, a social justice campaigner and has unsuccessfully stood in numerous elections. He exposed the failure of the Australian Government, despite being forewarned, to prevent widespread Indonesian military-backed militia violence in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor during the territory’s 1999 independence ballot. Thousands of people are believed to have died and East Timor’s economic infrastructure was shattered. Sievers had served as an Australian police officer attached to the United Nations during the infamous militia siege of the United Nations compound in Dili, East Timor.


Early history[edit]

Born in Sydney to parents of Irish and German descent, he was the youngest member a large farming family in the Canberra district of Fyshwick. He entered the Australian Defence Force at a relatively early age. He transferred to the Australian Federal Police where he established a reputation for innovative and effective methods in drug investigations, intelligence probes and community policing. In 1996 Sievers aroused controversy when he established the first police gay and lesbian contact officer scheme in Canberra after noticing unacceptable levels of violence and assault against this community.

Police work in East Timor[edit]

By the late 1990s an economic crisis had contributed to the collapse of the corrupt Suharto government in Indonesia. It was replaced with the government of President Jusuf Habibie, whose political position was weak and whose character was often seen as erratic. In 1998 former Australian Prime Minister John Howard looked to establish a reputation for himself as a regional statesman, and he attempted to solve the issue of the Indonesia’s brutal 24-year military occupation of East Timor. A third of the population had died as a result of genocidal campaigns by the Indonesian military in this territory just off Australia’s northern coast. Habibie accepted Howard’s proposal for an independence referendum in East Timor, apparently in the mistaken belief that the people of East Timor would vote to remain a part of Indonesia. The Indonesian military, whose generals had extensive business interests and land holdings in East Timor, immediately set about derailing the ballot. Drugs and cash were used to recruit members for armed civilian militias to operate under the control of the Indonesian military. Their purpose would be to attack pro-independence supporters and later the United Nations in East Timor – the UN would later conduct the independence ballot.

In a concession that would have profound and tragic consequences, Australia agreed to an Indonesian military demand that the Indonesian military provide security for the vote and not foreign military forces. Only unarmed United Nations Civilian Police, the largest contingent of whom came from Australia, would accompany the United Nations electoral officials. Wayne Sievers volunteered for this mission and arrived in East Timor as a team leader in June 1999. Unknown to him and the other UN police volunteers were the intelligence reports already being received by the Australian Government suggesting they could become targets of the military-controlled and murderous militias.

After arriving in East Timor, Sievers – an intelligence officer by background – began to receive Indonesian Army and militia documents clearly detailing the Indonesian military's plan to kill independence supporters and destroy the territory in the event of a vote for independence. He passed these on to the United Nations and to the Australian Government, but became deeply concerned when it was apparent these warnings were being ignored. The former Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, was confronted by the media with allegations that the Indonesian military were actually organising the violence rather than protecting the people of East Timor and the UN peacekeepers. He denied this, claiming instead that only a few "rogue elements" in the military were involved. These claims worried those on the ground in East Timor, including Wayne Sievers. The Australian Government had by then received information from its own sources and was well aware that the violence was being orchestrated from the highest levels of the Indonesian military. There were suggestions that Mr Downer's claims were part of a cover up to avoid public scrutiny of a policy failure. It ultimately saw the death and destruction on an immense scale as the Indonesian military double-crossed Australia.

East Timor voted by nearly 80% in favour of independence from Indonesia in the United Nations-sponsored ballot in August 1999. When the results of the ballot were announced in early September, the Indonesian military and their militia supporters immediately unleashed a campaign of violence and destruction that would result in the reported deaths of thousands. About a third of the population were forced at gunpoint into Indonesian West Timor and the United Nations presence contracted to the UN compound in Dili. A siege lasting several weeks began, with several thousand East Timorese sheltering in the compound with the UN. Food, water and sewage were cut off and disease outbreaks threatened.

Wayne Sievers was present during the siege and helped to care for the refugees. He also assisted in running convoys of evacuees through the city to the airport. These convoys came under fire as they made their way through the burning city. On another occasion he intervened at Dili Airport to stop a senior Indonesian police officer from handing over 30 East Timorese refugees from Baucau to local militia to be killed. He arranged for diplomatic assistance after they were refused permission to board an aircraft for Australia and escorted them to the relative safety of the UN compound in Dili. It is believed that several thousand East Timorese were killed in the weeks following the independence ballot. The violence that ultimately resulted in the United Nations leaving the territory, followed by several weeks of unrestrained massacres that were ended after the Indonesians withdrew and the Australian-led INTERFET (United Nations International Force in East Timor) arrived to restore order.

Wayne Sievers was evacuated from the UN compound to Darwin, Australia, on 11 September 1999, sick with dengue fever. He had also contracted malaria twice in the previous six weeks. After discharge from hospital he became the Secretary of the Australian Federal Police Association's ACT Division in Canberra. From this platform he campaigned strongly on industrial issues affecting police including peacekeeping veterans, community safety and the failure of the Australia's to heed warning on the coming violence in East Timor. He appeared on national media in this role, and soon became the subject of an allegedly politically motivated campaign to discredit him and force him from the Australian Federal Police.

Politics[edit]

Wayne Sievers resigned from the Australian Federal Police in 2001 and accepted a post as Director of the National Office for the Australian Democrats political party. He was also elected as President of the ACT Democrats in Canberra and campaigned on a raft of social justice issues. He stood as a Senate candidate in Canberra for the party in the 2001 Australian election. He was ahead of the government incumbent in two-party preferred opinion polling, but was narrowly defeated in a swing back in government support following the 11 September terrorist attacks and the Tampa affair incident. During his leadership, however, the party achieved its first ever parliamentary representation that year in the ACT Legislative Assembly. Party membership in the Canberra region doubled.

The Australian Democrats were strongly positioned as the third force in Australian politics at this time. Internal tensions in the party, however, could no longer be contained following the 2001 election. A split emerged on tax policy between the left of the party, the majority of the membership, and the centre to which most federal Senators belonged. The split was made far worse by the actions of a faction associated with the national Australian pornography industry lobby group. This faction not only attempted a take over of the party in the ACT but also wielded considerable power in the party's National Executive. Sievers resigned, disillusioned, from the Australian Democrats in 2002. The disunity and division so damaged the party's stocks that it lost almost half of its representation in the 2004 Australian election. The sole Democrats representative was also defeated in the 2004 ACT Legislative Assembly elections. The party was wiped out at the 2007 Australian election, losing all its remaining senators. Wayne Sievers was encouraged to join the Australian Labor Party (ALP) by a number of that party's leaders, including the late Al Grassby. He is now an active ALP volunteer in Canberra. On 4 March 2008 the ALP candidates for the (Australian Capital Territory general election, 2008) were announced. They included Wayne Sievers, now endorsed as a candidate for the seat of Brindabella.

After leaving the Australian Federal Police because of his public position on East Timor, he worked in the area of rehabilitation for convicted offenders. He now works in immigration fraud investigation and holds Masters Degrees in Business Administration (MBA) (University of Canberra), Public Administration (Griffith University) and Public Sector Leadership (Griffith University). He also holds a Graduate Diploma in Fraud Investigation (Charles Sturt University).

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