August 20 marked the 19th anniversary of FALINTIL (Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor), which has maintained the armed struggle against Indonesian occupation of East Timor. FALINTIL has been transformed from the military arm of Fretilin into a non-partisan body incorporating all of the nationalist forces fighting for independence. Fretilin combatants, though, still play a major role in the leadership and operations of FALINTIL.
In Sydney, more than 500 people attended a dinner held at the White Eagle Hall in Cabramatta. Harold Moucho from the FRETILIN Committee of NSW spoke of the importance of FALINTIL as part of the overall struggle and said that Indonesia had failed to politically and militarily subdue the East Timorese people.
Festivities on the night included singing and dance performances from the East Timor Cultural Centre, folk guitarist Peter Hicks and the Resistance choir, which sang the traditional Timorese song of struggle "Timor Leste Patria Amada".
From Melbourne, Ben Reid reports that two functions were held to commemorate FALINTIL Day. In Collingwood, a dinner organised by the National Council of Maubere Resistance (CNRM) attracted 450 people. Numerous speakers, including Jose Ramos Horta, special representative of CNRM, and Bishop Deakin from the Catholic Church called for support for the Timorese in their struggle for independence.
Another speaker, federal ALP MP Lindsay Tanner, surprised nobody when he revealed it was almost certain that the ALP national conference next month would not call on the Australian government to recognise East Timor's right to independence and call for an end to Indonesia's occupation.
A second function, hosted by FRETILIN and UDT (Timorese Democratic Union), was held in Dandenong and attracted 200 people.
From Uki, northern NSW, Neil Everley reports on a successful photographic exhibition on East Timor."East Timor Will Be Free!", declared Saskia Kouwenberg at the opening of "East Timor 1942-1992: a Retrospective Photographic Exhibition" at the Uki Buttery, on August 21. The exhibition, presented by Community Aid Abroad and curated by Jenny Groves and Oliver Strewe, is the most comprehensive collection of photographs on East Timor ever assembled in Australia.
The exhibition includes photographs spanning images of towns, villages and rural communities, Portuguese colonists, FALINTIL freedom fighters, the brutality of the Indonesian occupation and the bravery of youth participating in protests. The photographers include Damien Parker, Cecil Homes, Elaine Briere, Mel Sylvester, Oliver Strewe, Jenny Groves, who captures a student protest in 1990, and Max Stahl and Stephen Cox, who photographed the Dili massacre on November 12, 1991. Also included are a number of rare photographs smuggled out of East Timor.
The exhibition was on display in Uki August 20-23, on the first leg of its tour to Queensland. The official opening included speakers from CAA, Friends of East Timor (Lismore), AKSI (Indonesian Solidarity Action) Brisbane and performers from the local community.
Speaking on behalf of Friends of East Timor, Saskia Kouwenberg described the unprecedented level of international support for the struggle by the East Timorese people. Kouwenberg was present in Dili during the 1991 massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery, when Indonesian troops opened fire on unarmed protesters. She described how vividly Stephen Cox's photos and Max Stahl's cinematography caught the brutality of the Dili massacre and presented the horrors of Indonesian atrocities that have continued since the invasion in 1975.
Kouwenberg also spoke of the increasing awareness that John Pilger's film, Death of a Nation, had brought about among people throughout Australia and the new climate of international pressure on Indonesia since the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor, held in Manila in early June.
Speaking on behalf of AKSI, Nick Everett described the emergence inside Indonesia of a new democracy movement that is demanding that the Suharto regime change its policy on East Timor. He said the Australian government was likely to become increasingly isolated internationally for its uncritical support for Suharto and called on people to support a campaign for Australia to abandon the Timor Gap Treaty.