Unionists say no to UN deal

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Unionists say no to UN deal

By Pip Hinman

SYDNEY — On May 6, the day after Indonesia and Portugal signed the United Nations-brokered deal on East Timor in New York, activists here picketed the Indonesian Trade Promotion Centre to voice their anger.

According to Patrick Lee, the NSW general secretary of the Independent Education Union of Australia, the fact that the UN deal allows the Indonesian military (ABRI) to supervise the autonomy ballot means there is no chance it can be free and fair.

The picket, organised by Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET), was the first of three to be held over coming weeks.

Other trade union officials also spoke in support of East Timor's right to self-determination. The industrial officer of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Tim Ayers, reported on the union's decision to hold a stop-work meeting to consider putting bans on maintenance of Garuda planes.

Robert Coombs, NSW secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, commented on the role the union had played in helping Indonesia free itself from Dutch colonialism four decades ago. "We didn't do this to let go on what's happening now", he said.

The MUA has passed a resolution supporting independence for East Timor. Coombs said it is prepared to place bans on Indonesian shipping.

Alison Tate of the ACTU's aid agency, APHEDA, spoke of the urgent humanitarian crisis sweeping East Timor, and said that until there is peace, reconstruction will be impossible.

Ian Jordan, a councillor with the Public Service Association, told the picket that the CPSU federal secretary had written to the Indonesian government requesting that the pro-independence terror gangs be disarmed. He said the union supported the call for ABRI to leave East Timor.

Phil Bradley, from the NSW Teachers Federation, said he was ashamed that the Australian government still recognised Indonesia's illegal takeover and occupation of East Timor. He said the union had pledged to provide material resources and people to help in the electoral process and beyond.

Max Lane from ASIET condemned the "bankruptcy" of the New York agreement. Lane praised the courage of the pro-independence East Timorese students who have been peacefully demonstrating in Dili, and commented that real change in East Timor will come about only through mass pressure from inside that country, Indonesia and countries such as Australia.

Andrew McNaughtan from the Australia-East Timor Association gave details of the terror campaign being waged by the pro-integration gangs, and said that it was in "Australia's national interest" that there be a free and fair vote. The next ASIET-sponsored picket, which will hear from student leaders, will be on May 13 at 4.30pm at the corner of Market and York Streets in the city.