I would like to add my congratulations to all ETAN activists
on the occasion of your 20th anniversary and also to
reaffirm our solidarity with you.
As an activist in one of
the Australian solidarity groups, I know about the great
contribution of ETAN to the existence of the RDTL today. I
am a member of the Australia East Timor Friendship
Association of South Australia Inc (AETFA), which was
originally, the Campaign for an Independent East Timor,
South Australia Inc (CIET).
On 28 May this year, our group celebrated its 36th
anniversary with about 80 young people from TL who are
undergoing secondary and tertiary education in Adelaide. It
was a very joyous occasion to celebrate both our anniversary
with the 9th anniversary of an independent Timor-Leste.
The international awareness of the
Timor issue which was achieved by the East Timor solidarity groups, I believe,
was also a factor in the minds of leading Indonesian decision makers, when,
after the Asian economic meltdown and the fall of the dictator Suharto, they
were forced to allow a plebiscite for independence.
During the late 1990s, Charles Scheiner introduced two
submissions that we made to the UN to appeal for it to make
greater efforts for the East Timorese. During the
celebrations for independence in Dili in 2002, some of our
members were fortunate enough to meet him at the Xanana
Resource Centre at a function for solidarity groups and
However, we can take nothing away from the
tenacity and the courage of the members of FRETILIN,
FALINTIL and RENETIL who fought against overwhelming odds in
their struggle against the TNI.
It was crucial that there were people actively promoting
independence for Timor and demanding the withdrawal of the
TNI. This helped the progressive forces within the UN to
prevent it from ratifying the illegal Indonesian occupation
and to demand that the TNI withdraw. I believe that it is a
great tragedy that in the case of West Papua, the UN
ratified the phoney Act of Free Choice in that country in
1969. As a result, these people have suffered the brutality
of the TNI for even longer than the East Timorese.
The international awareness of the Timor issue which was
achieved by the East Timor solidarity groups, I believe, was
also a factor in the minds of leading Indonesian decision
makers, when, after the Asian economic meltdown and the fall
of the dictator Suharto, they were forced to allow a
plebiscite for independence. Their hands were forced when
they were confronted with a national economy that was in a
dreadful state because of the huge amounts being spent on
the TNI to supress people in East Timor, West Papua, Acheh
and parts of Indonesia itself together with the massive
corruption that had been allowed by the dictatorship.
I also agree with Noam that now there is an independent
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, we need to continue our
strong advocacy for the pursuit of justice and compensation
for the victims of the TNI barbarity throughout its
occupation. Several Australian governments were complicit in
supporting the TNI's illegal occupation because of their
unquestioning support of US administrations. In addition, of
course, the Howard government forced an unfair agreement on
the fledgeling RDTL government on how the oil and gas
resources in the Timor Sea should be shared. With such a
small population, the RDTL is not in a good position to push
these issues with the current Indonesian and Australian
We have made demands that the Australian government
refuse to continue aiding and arming the TNI while the
Indonesian government does nothing to bring the war
criminals in its ranks to justice, does nothing about
compensating the victims of the TNI and refuses to withdraw
from West Papua. Further, we have lobbied a number of
Australian politicians to also to call on the UN to
instigate an international ban on all aid to the TNI until
these conditions are met. We also cooperate with the
Australia West Papua Association on these issues.
The Australian politicians we have approached always use
the excuse that the RDTL government is not making these
This is the reason why we have to continue the important
advocacy role as well as raising money to support projects
to assist Timor Leste to rebuild and redevelop.
We hope to continue our working together on these
important campaigns with you.
Congratulations and thank you for all the valuable work
you have done over the past 20 years to contribute to peace,
social justice and human rights in East Timor and the Asia
The major terrorist organisation preventing this in our
region is the TNI and both of our governments support it
while espousing their promotion of human rights.
In closing, I should mention that progressive people in
Adelaide were excited to have Noam come to Adelaide to
deliver the annual Edward Said Memorial Lecture organised by
the University of Adelaide and the Australian Friends of
Palestine Association on 5 November. The numbers attending
were so great that the organisers had to hire the Adelaide
Town Hall which can accommodate over 1000 people. Even the
premier of South Australia was in attendance. Noam was also
in Australia to receive the Sydney Peace Prize, which so
many believe was thoroughly deserved because of his great
work to promote peace, justice and human rights.