Timely pamphlet on Timor
Opening Up. Travellers' impressions of East Timor 1989-1991
Edited and compiled by Kirsty Sword and Pat Walsh
Australia East Timor Association. 1991. 50 pp. $5
Available from AETA, PO Box 93, Fitzroy 3065
Reviewed by Melanie Sjoberg
This is an extremely pertinent pamphlet produced to provide insights into the difficulties of life in East Timor and the limitations on the ability of the people to organise. The articles also reinforce the importance of keeping Indonesia and East Timor open to scrutiny at a time when the Suharto regime is increasing its repression.
Not that visiting East Timor in and of itself necessarily affords an exposure to the tragedy of life for the repressed peoples. As Pat Walsh points out in the opening article, "24 Hours In Dili", "It would be tragically simple to visit Dili (which is not East Timor) on a Sunday, stay in a hotel in the business district (and therefore be physically and socially removed from the people) see nothing out of the ordinary and conclude that everything is normal".
The determination of one British traveller is tested at length as he describes the various schemes attempted by the Indonesian authorities to restrict his movements.
"Timor seemed like one mass grave", wrote one visitor. "Every Timorese to whom I talked about self-determination, including those who accept integration as a fait accompli, agreed that the great majority of Timorese are unreconciled to Indonesian rule and would change their political status if they could", stated another.
Shirley Shackleton, wife of one of the Australian journalists murdered during the invasion in 1975, has contributed an article full of sharp images of the difficulties encountered in the daily routine of women. She articulates the onerous tasks with which they are burdened because of limited access to health care, housing and sanitation.
Another article by a tourist observing protests during January 1990 reminds us that the struggles have been ongoing, although mostly unknown to the international community.
Overall, this pamphlet offers a cheap and accessible opportunity to understand the lives of the people struggling for justice and their right to determine their own future.