BY LEIGH HUGHES
CANBERRA — Hunger strikers chained themselves to the fence of the Indonesian embassy on August 16 to highlight the fact that Indonesia currently has more political prisoners than when the dictator Suharto fell in 1998. An effigy representing the Indonesian Armed Forces was burnt. Protesters demanded that the Australian government end military ties with "murderers".
These acts of civil disobedience were part of a national day of action in solidarity with the people of Indonesia, Aceh and Papua New Guinea initiated by Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET), and endorsed by 2001 Students and Sustainability Conference.
Two huge police search and rescue response vehicles, the Diplomatic Protection Service and a number of police cars arrived to deal with the "lock on". Resistance activist Cecilia Judge told the search and rescue team over a megaphone that their services could be put to better use in Indonesia, where they need assistance searching for the corrupt fugitive son of dictator Suharto, Tommy Suharto.
Students at Newcastle University and the University of Queensland in Brisbane also held hunger strikes. A tent at UQ provided information about Australian governments' support for the repressive regimes, past and present, in Indonesia, as well as backing the International Monetary Fund-enforced privatisation in PNG. Mock kidnappings of "Acehnese independence activists" from crowded lecture theatres symbolised the continuing military repression in Aceh.
At a speakout at Southern Cross University in Lismore, students were encouraged to join the October protests at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane. SCU environment officer Anastasia Guyse also spoke about the damage done by Australian mining companies in PNG and West Papua. The superannuation funds of university staff were being invested in mining projects in West Papua, Guyse pointed out. Activists from Resistance and the Socialist Alliance also spoke. A statement from the radical PNG-based Melanesian Solidarity group was read out.
Chanting "Stop the killing, stop the lies, end all military ties!", protesters marched to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Melbourne after meeting outside the state library. Speakers from ASIET, the Ambonese community and Resistance were heard.
Nike, notorious for paying workers in Indonesia $2 a day for 14-hour days, was the target of a picket and blockade in Sydney. Around 40 people protested outside the Nike store on George Street. Police assaulted and intimidated protesters, threatening mass arrests. The protesters vowed to be back to continue the campaign against the multinational's abuse of human rights in the Third World.
Driving rain didn't deter a spirited crowd protesting outside the office of the federal member for Karangamite, Stewart McArthur, in Geelong. High school activist Xavier Balkin spoke of the impact that Australia's military ties has on activists campaigning for independence in Aceh and West Papua.
Forums discussing the struggles in Indonesia, PNG and Aceh were held in Darwin and Wollongong.