East Timor Week in Darwin
By Sally Anne Watson
DARWIN — August 15-21 was proclaimed "East Timor Week" by activists who worked hard and in unity to publicise and protest against Suharto's military dictatorship in East Timor and West Papua and the involvement of Australian governments, past and present.
On campus, Student Supporters of East Timor and Resistance, in conjunction with Blue Stocking Week, provided information stalls at NT University. On Tuesday evening, John Pilger's Death of A Nation was screened to 50 people. Prior to the film, the Lafaek Youth Culture Group performed popular East Timorese dances, and Maria Alice Branco and Fatima Gusmao spoke about the struggle of women resisting the occupation, suffering rape and forced sterilisation by the Indonesian military.
Other campus based events included student activists standing for an hour in silence, in solidarity and mourning for the 200,000 Timorese killed in the last 19 years and the ongoing violations against women in East Timor. This was followed by a Blue Stocking Week Thursdays in Black presentation.
On August 17, activists demonstrated outside the Indonesian consulate, where celebrations were being held commemorating Indonesia's independence from the Dutch colonisers. Protesters demanded that Indonesia recognise the independence of East Timor and, speaking Bahasa, loudly encouraged the Indonesian people to join in the struggle and to fight for democracy in Indonesia. An effigy of Suharto and the Indonesian flag were burned.
A larger action of 50 people was held the next day outside the NT parliament, where the Council of Australian Government Ministers meeting was taking place.
On Saturday night, the Darwin to Dili Dance fundraiser was well attended, with Timorese band Ilimanu and Australian band Peckas, a truly cross-cultural event with lots of dancing and high spirits. The week of activities concluded with Catholics for a Free East Timor holding a prayer service on the next day.