By Rebecca Meckelburg
On July 17 a national day of solidarity with East Timor, called for and organised by the Australian Coalition for a Free East Timor, mobilised about 200 people nationally. The protest marked the 20th anniversary of the ratification by the Indonesian parliament of Indonesia's "official" annexation of East Timor as its 27th province.
The largest action, in Melbourne, was attended by 50 East Timorese and several Australian supporters. Fifteen people attended the Friends of East Timor demonstration in Perth; in Sydney, 30; and in Hobart, 25.
In Adelaide, about 40 attended a rally organised by the Campaign for an Independent East Timor. CIET representative Andy Alcock condemned the ongoing genocide in East Timor and called on the Australian government to end its legal recognition of East Timor's annexation. The action included street theatre, readings from Michelle Turner's book Telling: East Timor and solidarity greetings from Australian Aid for Ireland, Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor, the United Trades and Labour Council, Australian Democrats, Democratic Socialist Party, Resistance and the Australian Greens.
The Brisbane action was addressed by Ansu Corte-Real from the East Timorese community, Jim Dowling for the Catholic Worker Community and Kim Comerford and Nick Everett from Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor.
A number of speakers at the actions, including Indonesian academic Dr George Aditjondro, who was at the Sydney picket, drew attention to Suharto's decision to send his emissary to Dili to unveil a 17-metre-high Christ the King which stands on a 10-metre globe to symbolise East Timor's status as Indonesia's 27th province. The height is significant because July 17 is the day Indonesia declared its annexation of East Timor and August 17 is Indonesian Independence Day.
The Catholic Worker community in Brisbane, on July 17, unveiled its own statue at the Commonwealth Building — an almighty dollar sign and a gold coin imprinted with Suharto's head. Jim Dowling, spokesperson from the community, said, "We come here to affirm our resistance to all attitudes, policies, corporations and governments which are prepared to destroy a whole people to secure power and prosperity". The unveiling was followed by a vigil.
Many speakers around the country stated that the best action that the solidarity movement can take at this time is to demand that the Australian government withdraw its legal recognition of the annexation of East Timor. Calls to support and actively build the August 25 national day of solidarity to demand the withdrawal of this recognition were well received.