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Timor solidarity protests condemn Howard

Green Left Weekly - May 27, 2004

Jon Lamb – Solidarity protests took place across Australia on May 20, the second anniversary of East Timor's independence. The actions condemned the Australian government for its refusal to negotiate a fair and just maritime boundary and for its ongoing theft of East Timor's oil and gas resources.

The actions coincided with protests organised by the Socialist Youth Alliance and the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) in Dili on May 18 to 20, including a mobilisation of around 1000 people outside the Australian embassy on May 19.

Members of the Alliance of Socialist Youth have been on hunger strike since May 18 and at least two were taken to Dili hospital on May 21. Others have pledged to join the hunger strike.

Several of the Australian protests were organised by Timor Sea Justice Campaign (TSJC) groups that have formed this year, reflecting an increasing recognition by supporters of East Timor that this is a critical fight against the bullying and intransigence of the Australian government.

In Melbourne, Margarita Windisch reports that 150 people rallied at a street theatre action outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Speaking on behalf of the TSJC, Vannessa Hearman said that contrary to foreign minister Alexander Downer's assertions, Australian people were not supportive of attempts to rob East Timor. Senate candidates from the Socialist Alliance, the Democrats and the Greens also addressed the rally.

In Sydney, 100 colourful and noisy protestors heard from Susan Connolly of the Mary MacKillop Institute for Timorese Studies and the TSJC, along with Timor Leste's Consul-General Abel Guterres, Greens Senator Kerry Nettle, Jefferson Lee of the Australia East Timor Association and Labor MLC Meredith Burgman.

Around 100 people attended a rally outside parliament house in Adelaide, and in Brisbane, protesters joined a picket of the foreign affairs department called by the Queensland Peace Network. In Darwin, protesters marched through Mindil Beach Night Markets chanting: "Howard is a thief, stop stealing East Timor's oil."