Fernandes, Clinton

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Fernandes, Clinton


Education: Deakin University, Ph.D.


Office—School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Defence Force Academy, Northcott Dr., Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600, Australia; fax: +61-02- 6268- 8879. E-mail—[email protected].


Historian, educator, and writer. Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, senior lecturer in strategic studies and coordinator of the politics discipline in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Also head of intelligence for the Australian Defence Force Support to the Sydney Olympics in 2000; visiting fellow at the Australian National University, 2005. Military service: Australian Defence Force, served as an intelligence officer.


Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia, and the Independence of East Timor, Scribe Publications (Carlton North, Victoria, Australia), 2004.

Reluctant Indonesians: Australia, Indonesia, and the Future of West Papua, Scribe Publications (Carlton North, Victoria, Australia), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Overland. Coeditor of War and Society journal.


A former intelligence officer in the Australian military, Clinton Fernandes specializes in strategic studies with a focus on international relations and strategy, especially on issues concerning the national interests of Australia. He is also interested in the scientific and political writings of Noam Chomsky, a world-renowned linguist and political activist. In his first book, Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia, and the Independence of East Timor, Fernandes explores the motives behind former Australian Prime Minister John Howard's efforts, beginning in 1999, to assemble a multinational peacekeeping force to guarantee East Timor's independence from Indonesia. This political move went counter to the Australians government's longtime work to preserve Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor, an effort backed by an influential group of pro-Jakarta lobbyists. "In Reluctant Saviour, Clinton Fernandes has provided an interesting, instructive and necessary analysis of Australia's involvement in the final days of East Timor's annexation by Indonesia and its struggle for independence," noted Matthew Lamb in Arena Magazine.

In his book, the author recounts how an August 30, 1999, vote for independence was held in East Timor followed by the Indonesian military and militias going on a rampage to destroy much of East Timor's infrastructure. On September 20, 1999, Australian forces heading the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) intervened to stop the violence and effectively end the Indonesian rule over East Timor. Despite the seeming heroic intervention by Australian forces with the help of others, the author details that the Australian government in reality was very reluctant to interfere. In fact, according to Fernandes, Howard's government had been against the independence referendum from the start. Even after an overwhelming vote for independence, the Australian government sought to squelch the ability of foreign observers to report on the Indonesian military's efforts to reverse the result via state-sponsored terrorism. Fernandes writes that the Australian government eventually intervened only because of increasing public sentiment in Australia against the violent Indonesian stranglehold on East Timor.

"In contrast to those who have portrayed the intervention as a benevolent act of necessary militarism, Reluctant Saviour seeks to strip away the rhetoric of various governing elites in a Chomsky-like fashion," wrote Damian Grenfell in a review of the book on the API Review of Books Web site. Grenfell went on to write: "The evidence assembled by Fernandes paints a sorrowful picture of successive Australian governments who were unable to let go of bad policy even as it collapsed around them." Other reviewers also praised Fernandes for his penetrating analysis of Australian foreign policy gone wrong. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Antony Loewenstein wrote that the author "convincingly explains the ways in which the Howard Government actively campaigned ‘in support of the Indonesian strategy all along. It functioned as an obstacle to East Timor's independence.’" Loewenstein added: "They were forced to act only after a massive outpouring of public outrage. The Jakarta lobby in the intelligence and diplomatic communities is exposed in the most revealing ways."

In Reluctant Indonesians: Australia, Indonesia, and the Future of West Papua, the author continues his analysis of the Australian government's relationship with Indonesia and another close neighbor, West Papua. In his book, the author provides a history of West Papua from the colonial era to its transformation under Indonesian rule. He goes on to examine the West Papuan independence movement and the problems this posed for Australia's relations with Indonesia. Although many Australians supported the West Papuans' right to determine their own future, the Australian government, still led by Howard, proclaimed that it supported Indonesian territorial integrity and sovereignty. The author goes on to describe the Howard government's further support of Indonesia via an incident that occurred in February 2006, when forty-three West Papuans claimed asylum in Australia. Shortly afterward, the Australian government proposed reforms to policies on asylum-seekers to prevent the arrival of more West Papuan refugees.

In his book, the author also delves into what he perceives as a sham regional government in West Papua in which Jakarta and the Indonesian military largely do the real day-to-day governing and have all the power. Fernandes explains how West Papuans are seeking a new government system based more on indigenous forms of rule that could still be achieved while remaining united with Indonesia. In the meantime, the author details how Indonesia oppresses the West Papuans through taxes, clearing the local forests, and even Indonesian television, which rarely shows West Papuans but rather depicts white people and fosters an attitude that dark skin is bad through its many skin-lightening product advertisements.

Writing in Quadrant, Robert Murray referred to Reluctant Indonesians as a "timely little book, which summarizes the recent and less recent historical background and suggests that a partly autonomous state within Indonesia is the best route forward, with the overbearing and self-interested Indonesian army the force most likely to stop that happening." A contributor to the Labor E Herald Web site wrote that the author provides "a timely, provocative, and profound challenge to the orthodox views of the foreign policy establishment."



Arena Magazine, February 1, 2005, Matthew Lamb, "Matthew Lamb on Australia and East Timor," review of Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia, and the Independence of East Timor, p. 48; October-November, 2006, Annie Davis, review of Reluctant Indonesians: Australia, Indonesia, and the Future of West Papua, p. 51; December, 2006, Jennifer Power, review of Reluctant Indonesians, p. 43.

Australian Journal of Political Science, September, 2006, Stephen Barton, review of Reluctant Saviour, p. 469.

Australian Journal of Politics and History, March, 2006, R.E. Elson, review of Reluctant Saviour, p. 156.

Bulletin with Newsweek, December 7, 2004, Paul Daley, "Bad Neighbours," p. 73.

Journal of Australian Studies, March, 2005, Damian Grenfell, review of Reluctant Saviour, p. 188.

National Observer—Australia and World Affairs, summer, 2005, R.M. Pearce, review of Reluctant Saviour, p. 70.

Overland, autumn, 2005, Max Lane, "Canberra's Crimes in East Timor: A Prosecution from Below," review of Reluctant Saviour, pp. 88-89; autumn, 2007, Damian Grenfell, "Challenging the Mantras on West Paupa," review of Reluctant Indonesians, p. 78.

Quadrant, December, 2006, Robert Murray, "Seeking Merdeka," review of Reluctant Indonesians, p. 92.

Sydney Morning Herald, February 13, 2005, Antony Loewenstein, "In Praise of Soeharto the Despot," review of Reluctant Saviour.


API Review of Books,http://www.api-network.com/ (March 4, 2008), Damian Grenfell, review of Reluctant Saviour.

ETAN—East Timor & Indonesian Action Network,http://www.etan.org/ (March 4, 2008), Vannessa Hearman, review of Reluctant Saviour.

Labor E Herald,http://eherald.alp.org.au/ (October 3, 2006), "Book: West Papua—Its History and Future," review of Reluctant Indonesians.

University of New South Wales at Australia Defence Force Authority Web site,http://www.unsw.adfa.edu.au/ (March 4, 2008), faculty profile of author.

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