Nationwide actions for freedom for East Timor


Over the weekend of August 23-25, protests were held calling for an end to Australia's de jure recognition of the Indonesian annexation of East Timor. Actions in Darwin, Newcastle and Hamilton were reported in the last issue of Green Left Weekly.

In Adelaide on August 24, around 170 people gathered in Victoria Square, where they were addressed by Chris White, secretary of the United Trades and Labour Council, and East Timorese community representative Diana Felipe. A minute's silence was held for those who died as a result of the Indonesian invasion and occupation.

Street theatre led the march to the head office of Santos, an Australian-based oil company in the Timor Gap, before moving on to the Indonesian consulate, where an effigy of Alexander Downer was set alight to chants of "Suharto is a butcher and Downer is his friend!".

Shane McArthur from Resistance and the SA secretary of the Campaign for an Independent East Timor, Bob Hanney, urged support for further actions demanding freedom for East Timor. A vigil was maintained throughout the afternoon.

In Brisbane, 200 people rallied outside St Mary's Church on August 25. St Mary's parish priest, Father Peter Kennedy, described the plight of more than 1000 East Timorese refugees awaiting an Australian government decision on their request for asylum, emphasising that the church must stand firm on human rights and self-determination for East Timor.

Ansa Corte-Real from the East Timorese community called on Indonesian pro-democracy leader Megawati Sukarnoputri to join other Indonesian activists in supporting an independent East Timor.

Aboriginal leader Lionel Fogarty declared that internationalism must mean "supporting land rights, both for East Timor and for blacks in Australia". Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) member Kim Comerford read a message of solidarity from the PNG-based Pacific Indigenous Youth Forum.

Nick Everett from ASIET urged more support for the campaign to free 18 jailed PRD leaders and trade union leader Muchtar Pakpahan, all of whom are under threat of death.

At a festival after the march, members of Brisbane's Tamil Eelam community, the Queensland Greens and the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) also spoke.

Around 100 people attended a rally in Canberra on August 24, where solidarity activist Bill Tully chaired a panel of speakers including Fretilin representative Estanislau da Silva, ALP MP John Langmore and ASIET activist Sean Moysey.

The rally finished with an open microphone during which activists and passers-by contributed valuable ideas and observations about the issue.

In Fremantle, more than 250 people gathered at Pioneer Reserve on August 25, where CNRM representative Domingos D'Olivera paid tribute to the united East Timorese resistance.

In Lismore, Friends of East Timor held screenings of John Pilger's Death of a Nation at Southern Cross University, Cafe Confusion and the City Hall on August 28.

In Sydney, more than 600 people joined a march on August 25, despite near sabotage by Sydney City Council which, a week before, withdrew permission to use Belmore Park as the march assembly point.

Jose Ramos Horta, special representative of Xanana Gusmao, encouraged people to boycott Australian businesses with close links to the Suharto regime and called for protest actions in Canberra to pressure the government to give refugee status to the 1300 East Timorese in Australia.

Max Lane, national coordinator of ASIET, announced an international day of solidarity with the Indonesian pro-democracy movement on October 28, when hunger strikes will be held to raise awareness and funds for jailed Indonesian activists struggling for their lives.

In Wollongong, 60 people rallied on August 24 to hear Harold Moucho from Fretilin, Nico Warouw from the PRD, Russell Pickering from the DSP, Simon Frew from Resistance and Laura Wilson from Wollongong University SRC.

An effigy of Suharto, displaying an Australian flag and symbolic Australian-made weapon, was torched while protesters chanted, "Free East Timor, Indonesia out now!"

The 400-strong demonstration in Melbourne on August 25 drew support from others campaigning against repression, with contingents from the Kurdish Association and the Turkish Community Resource Centre adding their voice to the call for a free East Timor.

Speakers included Vannessa Hearman from ASIET; Joaquin Santos from the East Timorese community; Shirley Shackleton, who spoke about the Sherman Report; David Scott, author and initiator of the Timor Talks campaign; and Jo Williams from Resistance.