Solidarity with East Timorese and Indonesian people grows
Campaigning in solidarity with the East Timorese struggle for independence and the Indonesian people's struggle for democracy heated up around Australia last week, building up to the international day of solidarity on May 22.
In Brisbane, reports Andy Gianniotis, 100 people gathered at a vigil in King George Square on May 9 where prayers and speeches condemned the Indonesian military and the violence of the pro-integration militia against the East Timorese people. The vigil was the last of three held on Sunday evenings organised by the Graceville-Corinda Catholic parish. Mike Byrne from Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) and Paul Toon from Brisbane's East Timor Action Coalition addressed the vigil.
Jo Brown reports from Canberra that more than 50 people attended the launch of the new documentary Indonesia in Revolt: democracy or death on May 13. The film was introduced by Dave Gosling from ASIET, who recently returned from a student exposure tour of Indonesia organised by the socialist youth organisation Resistance. He spoke about the ongoing struggle for full democracy and social justice in Indonesia, and noted that many of the activists featured in the film (which was shot last year) are still playing a leading role in workers, student and urban poor movements.
The day before, religious leaders prayed for slain East Timorese outside federal parliament. The Catholic bishop for the Canberra region, Pat Power, blessed a 1.5 metre-long cross inscribed with the names of some of the murdered East Timorese. Prayers were also given by Richard Randerson from the Anglican church, Ahmed Yusef from the Muslim community and Reverend Thorwald Larenzen from the Baptist church.
The protest then moved to the National Press Club, where Treasurer Peter Costello was scheduled to speak. Fifteen protesters dressed in black gave out white paper doves to passers-by.
In Hobart on May 12, members of Resistance and ASIET protested outside the state foreign affairs office in Argyle Street, says Tony Iltis. Nikki Ulasowski, an organiser of the protest from Resistance, commented that it was vital that Australia end its military ties with Indonesia and step up pressure on the Indonesian regime to withdraw all of its troops so the East Timor can vote freely on August 8.
On May 14, around 20 people attended a public forum titled "Indonesia and East Timor: revolution or chaos?" organised by Resistance. Bronwyn Jennings, a student activist from Melbourne spoke about the Indonesia exposure tour that she and other Australian students participated in last month.
Cass Ilia and Alison Dellit report that 50 people attended a candlelight vigil for East Timor in Newcastle on May 7. The vigil, organised by Friends of East Timor, called for self-determination for East Timor and an end to the violence which has racked the country since it was invaded by Indonesia in 1975.
A special guest was Fretilin representative Estanislau De Silva, who spoke about the need for Indonesian troops to withdraw from East Timor, and the long struggle of the Timorese people. He praised the inspiration of the students in Indonesia and stated that their struggle has greatly helped the struggle of the Timorese.
On May 13, 25 students attended a meeting at Newcastle University to hear from Resistance member Aaron Benedek, a participant in the student exposure tour, and ASIET national secretariat member Jon Land. Land argued that the only way to ensure a democratic vote on independence in East Timor was for the Indonesian troops to be withdrawn.
Benedek argued that support for the radical forces, and in particular, the People's Democratic Party (PRD), which still has leaders in jail, is essential to aid the dismantling of Indonesia's New Order regime.
Justin Randell told Green Left Weekly that 20 people attended a Wollongong University Resistance Club forum on May 12. NUS Women's Committee member Angela Luvera, who participated in the exposure tour, outlined the state of the struggle for democracy in Indonesia. The activities and successes of the PRD were a feature of the talk, particularly the spectacular growth of the party in the last few months.
Wollongong Resistance also held a speak-out on May 15 and another is scheduled at Wollongong University on May 20. On May 21, ASIET is showing Democracy or Death to coincide with the anniversary of the resignation of Suharto.
See the listings on pages 26-27 for details of the international day of solidarity actions in your city.