|East Timor Action Network Dedicates "East Timor Way"
Unveils Street Sign Near Indonesian Consulate on Anniversary of Annexation
July 17 Demonstration Backs Free & Fair U.N. Vote by East Timorese
On Saturday, July 17 at 1:30 p.m., the East Timor Action Network/NY (ETAN) dedicated a street sign naming 68th Street "East Timor Way." The sign -- posted by the City of New York at the northwest corner of Madison Ave. and 68th Street in Manhattan -- temporarily names the street in front of the Indonesian consulate. The posting of the sign is the result of a lawsuit by ETAN.
Some 40 people attended the ceremony where a traditional East Timor cloth temporarily covering the sign was removed. Speakers at the ceremony and subsequent demonstration included John M. Miller, coordinator of the New York chapter of ETAN, Nancy Chang of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the lead attorney on the lawsuit and Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio.
The dedication ceremony was followed by demonstration in support of self-determination and human rights for East Timor directly across from the consulate. Charles Scheiner of ETAN and Max Surjidanata, an Indonesian-American spoke at the demonstration. The dedication and protest took place on the anniversary of Indonesia's formal annexation of East Timor as its 27th Province and just weeks before a U.N.-organized vote by the East Timorese on their political status.
"The street naming commemorates the courage and spirit of the people of East Timor. East Timor Way' will serve as a daily reminder to the Indonesian Government of its pledge to allow a free and fair vote by the East Timorese people on their political status," said John M. Miller coordinator of ETAN's New York Chapter.
The U.N.-organized vote, now scheduled for the weekend of August 21, was recently postponed by several weeks because of continuing violence by Indonesian-backed paramilitary militias who have been threatening and killing civilians and pro-independence leaders. While voter registration has begun for the plebiscite, the U.N. continues to evaluate the security situation in the former Portuguese colony. Several U.N. posts have been attacked by pro-Indonesia militias in recent weeks.
"Integration Day" is the day East Timor was annexed by a decree of then-President Suharto on July 17, 1976 in a move not recognized by the United Nations. On May 5, Indonesia, Portugal and the U.N. agreed to hold a vote by the East Timorese in which they will choose between continued Indonesian rule or a transition to independence.
With the support of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), ETAN sued the City of New York. The lawsuit challenged its refusal of ETAN's request for a temporary street renaming. The posting of the sign for July 17 is a partial settlement of the federal lawsuit which criticizes the arbitrary way in which the city implements its temporary street sign policy. ETAN and CCR will continue to litigate the first amendment issues involved.
Indonesia invaded East Timor on December 7, 1975. Since then, at least 200,000 -- one-third of the population -- have been killed. Since its founding in November 1991, ETAN has worked to shift U.S. policy to support human rights and self-determination for East Timor and democracy and human rights in Indonesia. It has 25 local chapters across the United States.