The Guardian September 15, 1999


Huge support for East Timor

Without the tremendous solidarity for East Timor by ordinary people all 
over the world, governments would still be sitting on their hands and 
saying "it's up to Indonesia".

Pressure must continue to ensure that the UN peace-keepers are sent 
immediately and that they act to stop the bloodshed and suffering of the 
East Timorese people.

That world governments awaited Indonesia's permission before going to the 
aid of the East Timorese is a warning that Indonesia could still hinder the 
effectiveness of the UN force or that the governments "friendly" to 
Indonesia, which are supplying the peace-keeping forces, will continue to 
connive and collude with the Indonesian government to achieve its aims.

The objective of the UN force should be nothing short of booting the 
Indonesian military out of East Timor immediately. While Australian trade 
unions have welcomed the backdown by Indonesia and responded by suspending 
their bans on Garuda Airlines all other bans will remain in place "until it 
becomes clear that peace and security has been restored for the people of 
East Timor", said ACTU President Jennie George.

Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Leigh Hubbard said, "Until there 
are actual peace-keepers in place, the union movement and community 
organisations will not be relaxing the campaign against the Indonesian 
government".

The groundswell of huge public demonstrations that have taken place across 
Australia shows that the Australian people are angry and want action. No 
issue in recent times has captured the attention of so many Australians 
from all walks of life. Everyone is talking about it and the mainstream 
media cannot ignore it.

Tens of thousands have attended rallies and hundreds have attended pickets, 
candle-light vigils, hunger strikes and prayer services. Numerous rallies 
have been organised every day of the past week by unions, students, 
churches and community groups. Everyone was eager to protest and as well as 
attending the major rallies, they organised their own.

Sydney

The major rally in Sydney last Saturday was an awe-inspiring show of 
solidarity and the strength of the people when they are united in a common 
purpose.

About 20,000 people crowded into Hyde Park. The rally overflowed the square 
around the Archibald Fountain. Many had to climb trees to get a view. The 
loud and clear PA system meant that speeches could be heard clearly from 
two city blocks away. People from all directions continued to pour into the 
rally.

The crowd listened intently, and quietly (except when applauding or 
chanting) which created an atmosphere of gravity, solemnity and 
determination.

The crowd cheered in support when told of union bans on Garuda Airlines and 
shipping to Indonesia.

Melbourne

A huge rally of about 30-40,000 people was held in Melbourne on Friday 
calling for an end to the bloodshed in East Timor and the implementation in 
practice of the independence so overwhelmingly supported in the recent East 
Timorese referendum.

Commencing at the GPO with a series of speeches, by trade unionists, 
church, Timorese, political and community activists, the enormous crowd 
cheered, chanted and applauded as speaker after speaker added their weight 
to the calls for immediate UN intervention and sanctions against the 
Indonesian authorities.

An enthusiastically received message of encouragement from Xanana Gusmao 
was played to the thousands in attendance. This interview was taped on 
Thursday night, just after reports of the murder of Xanana's father by the 
military butchers had been received and was delivered emotionally to an 
emotion-charged audience.

Details of actions by trade unions were welcomed with huge applause. 
Messages of support for the actions taken by Australian unionists were 
received from Indonesia, Japan and the United States and read to the rally.

Resolutions were carried by acclamation calling on the Howard Government to 
condemn official Indonesian involvement in the slaughter, demanding 
immediate armed UN intervention and an end to any and all military 
cooperation between Australia and Indonesia.

Spokespersons for the East Timorese community expressed their heart-felt 
thanks for the overwhelming messages of support and solidarity in their 
hours of sorrow and grief and called for an escalation of demands and 
actions from all sectors of the community.

A further rally in Melbourne will be held at 2pm on Sunday, September 19, 
outside Parliament House.

Perth and Adelaide

Over two thousand rallied in Central Park, Perth, on Friday and on Saturday 
over three thousand marched through Perth streets chanting "Indonesia 
out!". Similar solidarity demonstrations took place in Adelaide.

High school students staged a "walk out" in Sydney on Friday and held a 
large and vocal rally at Town Hall Square which was later joined by 
university students.

"People talk about giving East Timor to the East Timorese. It's not their's 
to give. It doesn't belong to Indonesia. It belongs to the East Timorese; 
it's their right", said Polly Steward of Gosford High school, one of the 
many young speakers from the floor at Friday's rally.

Australia has a moral obligation to ensure the East Timorese finally 
achieve their aspirations for freedom. Australia's collusion with Indonesia 
in the past, its benefiting from Indonesia's occupation by the Timor Gap 
oil treaty with Indonesia, its arming and training of Indonesian military 
means that Australia shares responsibility with Indonesia for the past 24 
years of murder, torture and terrorism of the East Timorese.

What you can do:

* Send letters to local/state/federal MPs

* ring/fax/write to Howard and Downer, the Indonesian Embassy, the UN, the 
US Government or Embassy;

* attend rallies and actions;

* donate to relief programs;

* contact your union and take part in union actions;

Ask Australian and foreign governments to:

* support union bans on Indonesian products;

* implement economic, political, sport and trade sanctions;

* cut military ties;

* confiscate or freeze the Suharto family's extensive financial investments 
in Australia;

* demand that thousands of abducted East Timorese be returned to East 
Timor.

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