The South African arrests – BA Santamaria to Terry Byrne

B.A. Santamaria, Your Most Obedient Servant, Selected Letters: 1938-1996, Edited by Patrick Morgan, The Megunyah Press, Melbourne, 2007, 575pp.

Page 354-55

172 Terry Byrne The YCW in Vietnam

YCW President Tiny Byrne asked BAS on 12 June 1978 to support the case of a man arrested in South Africa.

22 June 1978

Mr. Terry Byrne,

President, Melbourne Y.C.W.,

355 Lonsdale Street,


Dear Mr. Byrne,

Thank you for your letter and the accompanying kit relating to the arrest of Mr. Phelelo Magane.

I would regard it as my duty to do what I can to help those who are persecuted for expressing opposition to outrageously unjust policies, whether in South Africa, the Soviet Union or any other country. I attach a copy of a “News Weekly’ editorial (17.5.78) dealing with the recent case of the Filipino student, Teotimo Tantiado, as evidence of the attitude which I believe to be proper in these matters.

Early in 1973,1 intervened personally with the then Foreign Minister of South Vietnam (Mr. Tran Van Lam), on behalf of five Y.C.W. internees. Mr Lam was a close personal friend, and I believe that those representations contributed to the release of those imprisoned within a relatively short period of two months of the making of the original representations.

Unfortunately, in that matter, I came to the conclusion that I was deceived as to the bona fides of the Y.C.W. leaders. It is a fact that since the Communist conquest of South Vietnam, while thousands have been put to death and some hundreds of thousands—including the Coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon—languish in concentration camps, the former Y.CW. leaders, together with the small group of priests associated with them, occupy semi-official positions in the Communist administration. In view of the fact that all democratic elements which opposed the Thieu regime and demanded an immediate peace—including the widely-advertised ‘Third Force’—have been swept out of public life, there is only one conclusion which can be drawn as to the real nature of the activities of the Y.CW. Leaders.

This conclusion is even more inescapable after a reading of Tiao Tenant’s “Giai Phong”.

Mr. Terzani is a supporter of the present Vietnamese regime, and is quite explicit as to the policies actually pursued by the ‘Catholic opposition’ to president Thieu including the Y.C.W.

These events occurred when Miss Jan Madigan was National Secretary of the Y.C.W., and accordingly may well be unknown to you. However ‘Action Vietnam’ is referred to in your accompanying kit. Naturally, I am not reassured by this fact

You will understand, however, why further assurances concerning Mr. Magane’s activities would seem to be needed before one takes the step of making personal representations on his behalf.

Yours sincerely,

BA Santamaria