Subject: GLW: Socialists build support in East Timor

Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper Issue #459 August 8, 2001

Socialists build support in East Timor


With elections to the country's first post-occupation Constituent Assembly due on August 30, East Timor's socialists are building up their support across the country and are confident of good results.

The Socialist Party of Timor is unique amongst all the parties contesting the elections: it's the only one running on an openly socialist and Marxist platform.

But getting information out about the party has been no easy task.

"We have many technical and logistical problems because we have few funds with which to run an election campaign", PST secretary general, Avelino da Silva, told Green Left Weekly.

"We could fill a hundred trucks or more with our supporters from the districts for rallies, but we cannot afford to pay for so much transport".

As with all the other parties contesting the elections, the PST receives very limited support from the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.

Without such backing, the PST and the other new, smaller parties have found it difficult to compete against the larger, better resourced ones, such as Fretilin, the Timorese Democratic Union or the Social Democratic Party, who can also draw upon relatively wealthy supporters from within East Timor and from the diaspora.

"Despite our difficulties, there is a good morale in the party at the moment", Da Silva said.

One advantage the PST has is that it can draw upon a broad spread of experiences. It has many young activists who were former students in Indonesia and at the University of East Timor involved in the clandestine resistance and the Indonesian pro-democracy movement, but also an older cadre of former Falintil fighters and Fretilin activists.

With the limited resources it has, the PST has concentrated on sendings its cadres from Dili to the districts, to help local groups and open new offices.

Film-maker and solidarity activist Jill Hickson, recently returned from East Timor, told Green Left Weekly "With very little, the PST is achieving quite a lot. They are determined to make the most of the campaign period."

Hickson, who is putting the finishing touches on a film about East Timor, added that, while "the lack of resources and funds is a constant frustration" the PST is "better organised than they were even a few months ago"

In the elections, the party is campaigning for the restoration of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, which was proclaimed on November 28, 1975 in Dili, including its constitution and founding declaration, its anthem and its flag.

The party argues for the restoration of the democratic republic on the grounds that, according to a recently released political manual, it "was formed on the wishes of the majority of the East Timor people and in accordance with the revolutionary spirit of the period "and because ""the proclamation at the time broke all historical bonds with colonialism"

"The concept of the struggle of the East Timorese people over the last 24 years was for the liberation of the nation from the colonial oppression, this concept of nationhood ... inspired the spirit of sacrifice by the East Timorese people".

The party describes its goals as "the liberation of East Timor based on the values of socialist philosophy to create a society which is just, democratic and based on solidarity. The PST bases itself on the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism which is used not as a dogma but rather as a tool to analyse social development and a tool for action aiming towards the formation of a socialist society".

The party also argues that a parliamentary system is preferable to a presidential one, and for the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and judiciary. A president should have limited functions.

The party has also backed the provision of free education and free health services, the rejection of all forms of discrimination and full employment for all East Timorese.

In order to facilitate these rights, the PST "supports the takeover and [enforcement of] a process of [nationalisation] of all wealth of the Indonesian regime by the state; that all sources of the nation's natural wealth must be controlled by the government and used for the welfare of the nation and state".

Regarding the crucial issue of land reform, the PST states that "land is the communal property which was stolen by the colonialism of Portugal and Indonesia and handed over to migrants or the bourgeois class, which to this day has been mismanaged or has been managed without protection and social consideration, and must immediately be nationalised and returned to the local peasant communities. This land will become the property of the community for self-sufficiency based on the principal of cooperative work".

"The PST's political manual and program clearly puts it to the left of any other party contesting the elections", Hickson told Green Left Weekly. "They have established strong bases in many rural areas, despite having little more than their enthusiasm and ideas to win people over".

Hickson believes that whatever the result of the elections, the PST will be a key player in the country's future. "They are very serious about building a left, socialist alternative in East Timor".

[Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor has initiated a special appeal to help the PST with its election work. To date, nearly $4000 has been raised for this appeal.

[A donation to the PST can be made through the Timor Solidarity Aid Fund, bank account: Commonwealth Bank Account No: 2498 1001 4977, Broadway, NSW, Australia. Contact the ASIET National Secretariat on (02) 9690 1230 or email for further details.]

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