Philippine solidarity with East Timor

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Philippine solidarity with East Timor

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Asia Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET) launched the Help East Timor Now campaign with a week of solidarity activities here starting on June 14. The campaign is part of efforts internationally to provide humanitarian assistance and solidarity for the people of East Timor.

Davao City was chosen to launch the campaign for a number of reasons. It is where Initiatives for International Dialogue, the NGO which acts as the APCET secretariat, is located. Davao City is also the home of the welgang bayan, or people's strikes, which played a crucial role in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

The campaign launch was held in front of the office of the Davao City Council, where 150 people watched cultural performers from the agit-prop theatre collective Kathara play traditional instruments from Mindanao, dance and read poetry. Members of Makamalay, an organisation composed of youth who are victims of child labour, also took part in the performance.

Speakers included Abilio Belo, an East Timorese studying in the Philippines and Jon Land, a member of the Australian solidarity group Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor.

On June 15, Belo addressed the local legislative assembly, which passed a resolution stating concern over the deteriorating situation in East Timor. Belo and Land were also interviewed on Davao television and radio. A photo and information exhibit was opened in the foyer of the city council, attracting a lot of attention from the public.

Student forums, convened by APCET on June 15 and 16 at the Holy Cross Diocesan College and Attenao College respectively, discussed the history of the occupation and the current situation in East Timor. On June 17, an ecumenical memorial service involving 40 people was held outside the Indonesian consulate, in memory of the many East Timorese who have been killed by the pro-integration terror gangs in recent months.

The week of activities culminated with a concert for East Timor at the Puslin Man pub on June 18, where a video documentary on the pro-integration gangs was also screened nightly.

The impact of the solidarity week deeply worried the Indonesian consulate, which issued a media statement complaining of "bias" by APCET. Consulate officials and Indonesian intelligence agents where present at many of the events — five of them even turned up to the Puslin Man pub one evening, all claiming to be East Timorese!

The APCET steering committee, involving affiliates from the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and Malaysia, met during the week and discussed plans. Details for a women's fact-finding mission were finalised, and it was agreed that APCET would attempt to send an observer mission to East Timor for the ballot in late August. APCET aims to hold its next conference in East Timor around May of next year.