Free East Timor campaign escalates



Free East Timor campaign escalates

By Vannessa Hearman

MELBOURNE — The East Timorese community held a rally in the city centre to coincide with the New York signing of an agreement between Indonesia and Portugal on East Timor on May 5.

Demonstrators marched from the Bourke Street mall to Garuda Indonesian Airways offices, before concluding at Casselden Place, where Department of Foreign Affairs offices are located.

The sentiment of the rally was to continue the path towards self-determination, and the ballot planned for August 8 was seen as a way towards this. Yet some are still sceptical as to how such a ballot could be free and fair, with the militias in East Timor terrorising the population and openly targeting independence activists.

The rally came on the heels of a Free East Timor contingent organised by Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) at the May Day rally on May 2. The contingent was joined by Ma'hodu, an East Timorese resistance leader who was in Australia as part of a reconciliation meeting organised by the Australian National University in Canberra.

In a colourful parade, those in the Free East Timor contingent on May Day, including 40 East Timorese chanted: "Stop the rapes, stop the killings, free East Timor now". Some Kurdish supporters also joined the contingent, linking the struggles of Kurdistan and East Timor.

Friday night candlelight vigils have continued at the Indonesian consulate at 72 Queens Road. Beginning on April 30, the vigils have attracted 50-60 people each week and gained strong support from the Timorese community.

Vigil organiser Jo Williams explained that on May 21, a tent city will be set up outside the consulate for 24 hours, culminating with a rally the next day, May 22, an international day of solidarity for Indonesia and East Timor.

"At the moment, our plans are pretty ambitious, with an independence day breakfast on May 22, street performance by the Melbourne Workers' Theatre and hopefully a concert after the rally. We need volunteers to make the day a huge success and donations or loans of such vital things as tents, mobile toilets, a 40-gallon drum and other things."

The next candlelight vigil is on May 14 from 5pm at 72 Queens Rd, Melbourne. To help out for May 22, ring Jo Williams on 9329 1277.