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Dili massacre commemorated around Australia

Green Left Weekly - November 19, 1997

The sixth anniversary of the Indonesian military's massacre of mourners at Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery on November 12, 1991, was commemorated in many parts of the country.

From Brisbane, report Roberto Jorquera and Karen Fletcher, more than 70 people attended a benefit concert on November 8 to raise funds for the protest action planned for December 6 and 7 at the Canungra Army base in the Gold Coast hinterland. Indonesian troops are trained at Canungra.

Nick Everett from Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) gave greetings and emphasised the link between the struggles for democracy in Indonesia and independence for East Timor. Everett warned, "We must not place our hopes on the ALP changing its policy towards East Timor while in opposition. Even though we welcome a change, it is what they do in government that is most important."

On November 12, 20 demonstrators held a speak-out outside the Defence Force recruiting centre, calling on passers-by to remember the 1991 massacre and join the campaign to stop Australian military cooperation with the Suharto regime. The demonstration was joined people who had attended a commemorative mass at St Stephens church.

After the demonstration, a forum organised by the Democratic Socialists and ASIET discussed the latest developments in the struggle for independence in East Timor and in the campaign to obtain special visas for the refugees who fled East Timor in the wake of the Dili massacre.

Kathy O'Driscoll reports that a commemoration was held in Lismore. As the sun rose, white crosses representing the 273 murdered East Timorese were placed in a local roundabout.

Chalk-ups around town advertising a lunchtime rally and explaining the role the Australian government plays in supporting the annexation of East Timor drew positive feedback. Interactive street theatre involved people by getting them to cut military (neck)ties.

The rally attracted 70 people. Saskia Kouwenberg and Russell Anderson, eyewitnesses to the massacre, spoke of the need to keep up the pressure on the Australian government and to support the struggle for self-determination in East Timor.

Participants then each took a cross or a banner and walked down to the war memorial, where a minute's silence was held in remembrance of the victims of the massacre.

The action also demanded that the Australian government admit more East Timorese refugees and let those already here stay. Lismore Friends of East Timor are organising a bus to attend the demonstration at Canungra army base on December 6-7.

In Newcastle, activists laid one cross for each person killed in the Dili massacre on a giant cloth map of East Timor. Sr Carmel Hanson of the Christian Sanctuary Network spoke about the situation in East Timor, the plight of Timorese refugees in Australia and efforts of the sanctuary network to offer asylum to any Timorese threatened with deportation.

Australia-Asia Solidarity Network convener Paul Toner spoke. Folk singer Alex Bainbridge sang a song highlighting the hypocrisy of Australia's role in East Timor.

East Timorese activist Naldo Rai and Indonesian dissident Edwin Gozal will be speaking in Newcastle on November 27 at the Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre.

A lively speak-out was held in Canberra on November 15. The gathering heard speakers from Resistance, ASIET and other activists. Liberal Chief Minister Kate Carnell, who was opening a mobile phone business nearby, was drowned out.

Kerryn Williams from ASIET condemned the role of the Australian government in East Timor. Natalie Zirngast from Resistance spoke on the growing links between the Indonesian democracy movement and the independence movement in East Timor.

A succession of speakers wearing masks of current and former prime ministers read quotes exposing their roles. Masks of Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard were sold to passers-by, the proceeds going to the campaign to free Indonesian political prisoners.

Tim E. Stewart reports that Darwin had one of the best attended mobilisations in years. There was spirited march through the city's streets on November 12. A majority were East Timorese, many organised by the Timorese National Youth Resistance (RNJT).

The street march at dusk was followed a memorial service at St Mary's Cathedral. Later a rally was held at the Indonesian consulate, which was addressed by speakers from Resistance, RNJT, National Council of Maubere Resistance, the AustralAsian newspaper, Australians for a Free East Timor and Christians in Solidarity with East Timor.