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.