East Timor delegation calls for solidarity

Issue 

East Timor delegation calls for solidarity

By Vannessa Hearman

MELBOURNE — Belinda Morieson, branch secretary of the Australian Nurses Federation, and John Cummins, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union construction division branch president, who returned last week from an ACTU- and APHEDA-organised delegation to East Timor, told a Trades Hall Council delegates' meeting about the need for Australian solidarity with the East Timorese people before the autonomy referendum in late August.

Morieson, who met with volunteer doctors working at the Motael Clinic, spoke of the devastating lack of health care in East Timor. She said sutures, x-ray machines and immunisation were unavailable, whilst injuries such as machete and bullet wounds were distressingly common.

Cummins recounted meetings with student and women's organisations, and leaders of the resistance, including Xanana Gusmao in Jakarta. "I had never before experienced a country under occupation. In parts of East Timor, every hilltop is occupied by a military command post. It's a huge job to get rid of the 15,000 Indonesian soldiers currently stationed there."

Cummins expressed skepticism about the ability of the United Nations to supervise the ballot while the Indonesian-backed paramilitary groups are still operating. He raised the idea of unions in Australia sending representatives as monitors and said that industrial action must commence against Indonesian companies operating in Australia and Australian companies making profits in Indonesia.