Union support for East Timor
By Peter Johnston
DARWIN — The Northern Territory's peak labour body last week moved to pressure the Indonesian and Australian governments to act in support of East Timorese independence.
The Northern Territory Trades and Labor Council (NTTLC), as it did after the 1991 Dili massacre, has endorsed a motion calling upon all unions and the ACTU to immediately impose economic bans on all trade and commercial enterprise related to Indonesia.
While it remains to be seen how many unions take up the call, the move is a welcome reiteration of the union movement's ability and responsibility to extend solidarity and support to oppressed people everywhere, and to maintain a focus that also looks beyond the immediate economic interests of its own members.
The motion also emphatically endorsed the right of the East Timorese nation to determine its own political future, called for United Nations monitoring of Indonesian troop withdrawal and sponsorship of a transition to independence, the immediate disarming of the paramilitary groups and the immediate freeing of all East Timorese political prisoners.
Prime Minister John Howard's response to the latest developments in East Timor is described as "pathetic and embarrassing ... his equivocation over the question of East Timorese independence, because of the potential financial cost to Australia in foreign aid terms, was utterly shameful".
The NTTLC also pledged, "In consultation with the East Timorese people and the ACTU, we will assist with materials, training and financial support where requested".