Protest against human rights violations

Issue 

Protest against human rights violations

By Michael Tardif

SYDNEY — More than 100 people gathered outside the Global Cultural Diversity Conference on April 28 to protest against continued human rights violations in East Timor, Bougainville and West Papua.

While the conference, hosted by the Australian government to celebrate 50 years of the United Nations, described itself as a celebration of cultural diversity, protesters pointed out that the Australian government continues to directly support governments which are destroying important cultural groups in the region.

Despite UN resolutions against Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, Australia has been one of President Suharto's most vocal supporters. Australian aid is used in Indonesia to train troops who continue to occupy East Timor. In addition, Australia is now selling small arms and other military equipment to the Indonesian military.

East Timorese and much of their traditional culture have suffered severely under the occupation.

The Australian government's general support for the Indonesian government also condones its transmigration policy, which is swamping the cultures of the people of West Papua and parts of Sumatra.

In Bougainville, Australian military aid has been used to support the PNG government's blockade of the island. Many people have died as a result of being denied access to medical attention.

The rally heard speakers from a range of groups, including Jose Filipe from Fretilin, John Otto from West Papua and Moses Havini from the Bougainville Interim Government. Heidi Pegrem from the socialist youth organisation Resistance urged people to support the National Day of Action on East Timor, organised by Resistance and sponsored by a number of organisations, on May 13.