By Wendy Robertson
Students in Australia and overseas have declared May 22 an international day of solidarity with the struggles for independence in East Timor and genuine democracy in Indonesia. Rallies and demonstrations are planned in 11 cities across Australia and in 10 other countries.
In this country the demonstrations will target Australian Defence Department buildings, Liberal Party offices and Garuda airlines (the state-run Indonesian airline) to protest against Australian military and political ties with the Indonesian regime.
Sean Healy, national coordinator of Resistance, explained: "Despite all the information coming out of East Timor and Indonesia about the role of the military, the government of John Howard and Alexander Downer continues to provide military assistance, in the form of training and joint exercises. It continues to recognise the 'legitimacy' of Indonesia's claim to East Timor — the only government that does.
"As well, it has praised the United Nations plan which allows Jakarta to maintain control of 'security' in East Timor. The Australian government has not been neutral; it has been a consistent backer of the Jakarta regime."
Before the rally in Sydney, there will be a hunger strike in solidarity with political prisoners Budiman Sujatmiko, Dita Sari and Xanana Gusmao. In Melbourne, a tent city will be held in the days before May 22 to increase the public profile of the campaign. Darwin Resistance branch is going to hold a sleep-out outside the Indonesian consulate the night before the rally.
Last month, Resistance decided to redouble its efforts in solidarity with the East Timorese and Indonesian struggles, both through its own efforts and through building and supporting events organised by Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET).
In the last few weeks, more than 1000 people have seen the new documentary Indonesia in Revolt: democracy or death, made by ASIET member Jill Hickson. The film brings to Australian activists images and testimonies of the Indonesian student democracy movement.
Emergency pickets have been held in most major cities. Weekly pickets to protest against the killings in East Timor have been established in Melbourne and Sydney by Resistance and ASIET. Church groups, from the Sherwood parish in Brisbane to the Mary McKillop Institute in Sydney, have also held vigils and protests. The Mary McKillop Institute is supporting the May 22 rally.
May Day marches this year were led by large, vibrant contingents in solidarity with East Timor and Indonesia. Trade unionists will be speaking at the May 22 rallies about efforts to step up the Australian trade union movement's solidarity with East Timor and Indonesia. In particular, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has arranged for Resistance and ASIET members in Sydney to attend building site meetings to talk about the need for solidarity.
On university campuses, Resistance has been drawing the links between the major issue in the student movement at the moment, fighting "voluntary student unionism", and the campaign in solidarity with the Indonesian and East Timorese students. Many student unions and student campaign collectives are supporting May 22.
Resistance has just completed a national campus speaking tour by activists who recently visited Indonesia. The campaign is also getting a good response from high school students; Resistance's Perth branch will be organising screenings of Indonesia in Revolt at Perth high schools.
May 22 will not be the end of Resistance's campaigning. Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor will be a major theme of Resistance's national conference in Melbourne, July 8-11.