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APCET takes on regional agenda

Green Left Weekly - June 30, 2004

Robyn Waite, Dili – The Asia Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET) is a coalition of Asian human rights groups and East Timor solidarity networks that was founded at a conference in Manila in 1994 with the aim of galvanising solidarity with East Timor's struggle for national self-determination. With East Timor having won its political independence, the fifth and final APCET conference, held in Dili on May 15-19, decided to transform APCET into a new coalition with a focus on issues of self-determination and demilitarisation in the broader Asia-Pacific region.

The conference was attended by 150 delegates. Australian organisations represented at the conference were Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific (APSN) and the Australian Coalition for East Timor (ACET). Representatives from Burma, Aceh, West Papua, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Maintain, Malaysia and Indonesia highlighted the peoples' struggles in those countries and emphasised the useful role a more far-reaching solidarity coalition could play in the region.

Activists and human rights workers from East Timor also supported the resolution to expand APCET's brief, and decided to form their own solidarity organisation, which will be part of the new grouping.

The new organisation will be established by August with assistance from the APCET secretariat. The new APCET is still committed to supporting the people of East Timor, and the conference resolved to work actively on two issues – the Timor Sea maritime boundary dispute with Australia, and the establishment of a UN tribunal to bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in East Timor to justice.

Lawyers from several countries presented a public indictment paper against Indonesian generals Suharto, Benny Murdani, Prabowo Subianto and Wiranto – all of whom were key figures at various times in the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. The charges relate to four of the most serious massacres that occurred during the period from 1975 to 1999.

The new APCET will present the indictment papers to the UN and will establish a "people's tribunal" to put pressure on the UN to act. An ad hoc regional working group has been established to prepare the first council of the new coalition within one year.