For further information: Nuno Rodrigues, Sa'he Institute for Liberation
tel: +61-(0)407 609488
On February 15, beginning at 10:00 am, more than 100 East Timorese people, joined by citizens of eleven other countries, nonviolently protested plans by the United States and other governments to attack Iraq. For four hours, the peaceful but enthusiastic group walked several kilometers through Dili, the capital of the world’s newest nation. The march was the second in the world on 15 February, coming a few hours after a massive turnout for peace in Melbourne, Australia. Over the next two days, protests will take place in hundreds of cities in Europe and America.
In East Timor, marchers rallied behind a banner reading “East Timor Against War on Iraq: No War, No Racism!” Other banners and signs included “No War in Iraq”, “No Blood for Oil,” “End War” and “Keta Ataka Iraq” (Don’t attack Iraq). The diverse, well-behaved crowd, including children, activists, UN staff, NGO local and international workers, cultural workers and many others, was accompanied by lively drumming and music.
They stopped at the embassies of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. At each stop, organizers read a statement (text below), and participants, including both East Timorese and citizens of the country whose Embassy was being addressed, spoke through a loudspeaker in English and Tetum. There was no heckling or counter demonstration, and passers-by were almost unanimously supportive. At least a dozen local and international police guarded each embassy an unnecessary precaution as the protest was always non-confrontational and polite.
At the United States and British Embassies, the Ambassador came to the front gate (demonstrators were not able to come up to the gate due to recently-installed concrete barriers) and met with one or two protest representatives. Ambassadors Grover Rees (USA) and Hamish Daniel (UK) declined to address the entire group, but said they would pass the message for peace back to their governments. The Australian Embassy had informed organizers in advance that it was closed on Saturday, and only security personnel were present.
In an act of unreasonable hyper-sensitivity, UN Security had warned UN staff to avoid the demonstration, although they had not informed them of the purpose of the protest, nor of its peaceful nature. A few UN personnel did participate, calling the warning “absurd.” Similarly, there were very few members of East Timor’s government present, although many and told organizers over they past few days that they would be there. The government has yet to formulate its position on the Iraq issue, although Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta recently told a university audience that he supported United States efforts to oust Saddam Hussein, although he believed the U.S. should allow UN inspectors as much time as they need to resolve the issue peacefully.
Statement presented to the United States, United Kingdom and Australian embassies in Dili, East Timor, 15 February 2003
Hapara Funu - Stop War
The impending war between the United States (with a few supporters) and Iraq is a matter of global concern, and we, the people of East Timor, like so many people everywhere in the world, want to make our voices heard.
The government of the United States (with support from Great Britain and Australia) is leading the charge for war against Iraq. These three governments have helped East Timor’s independence since 1999 but from 1975 until 1999 they supported the brutal Indonesian military occupation of this country, supplying weapons and training to the Indonesian army to better enable it to kill and torture the East Timorese people.
There is no moral principle in their current desire to overthrow Saddam Hussein, which will create massive casualties among Iraqi civilians and others, when they felt no compulsion to overthrow Suharto, who was at least as bloody and brutal as Hussein. We believe that the real reason for this call for war is OIL not Saddam Hussein, international terrorism, or weapons of mass destruction. The United States, like many other governments that now want to overthrow Saddam Hussein, supported this same Saddam Hussein when his policies on oil were profitable for their companies.
Suharto’s dictatorship was eventually ousted by the Indonesian people, who accomplished “regime change” through largely peaceful means. The people of East Timor made our own “regime change” through the Popular Consultation. In both cases, international support was mostly nonviolent and always defensive, never targeting civilians.
As every East Timorese knows, the Indonesian invasion of this country resulted in massive civilian casualties and destruction. Yet, during 24 years of illegal occupation, neither East Timor’s resistance nor any foreign government advocated invading Indonesia or attacking Indonesian civilians. The Indonesian people, like the East Timorese, were victims of Suharto, not to be punished for his crimes.
Likewise, the people of Iraq, living under Saddam’s repression, are not his co-conspirators. An invasion of Iraq would kill even more Iraqi civilians, on top of hundreds of thousands who have already died from the decade-long embargo. The decision about who should govern Iraq is one for the people of Iraq to make, not foreign governments although those governments can provide nonmilitary help, if requested by the Iraqi population.
The United Nations is dealing effectively with the dangers of Iraq’s possible weapons of mass destruction, and we urge all governments especially Iraq and the United States to cooperate with its multilateral process, and to use every chance for negotiation and compromise.
After 25 years of war, the people of East Timor want peace not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. East Timor is a small and new nation, but we know quite a lot about the death and destruction that come with war, and we don’t want to see similar destruction anywhere. Therefore, the civil society organizations signed below, joined by many, urge all governments to respect the decisions of the United Nations, and not to take the law, or the war, into their own hands. Human life is too precious to be wasted for political or economic profit.
Dili, East Timor, 15th February 2003
International Day Against the War in Iraq
Sah'e Institute for Liberation
La’o Hamutuk (The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis)
Perhimpunan HAK (Association for Law, Rights and Justice)
Fokupers (East Timor Women’s Communications Forum)
Haburas (Green environmental organization)
Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violensia (Men’s Association Against Violence)
Judicial System Monitoring Programme
Fortilos (Indonesian Forum for East Timor Solidarity)
Renetil (National East Timor Student Resistance)
see also Dili Anti-War Protest, Feb. 15
The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis
1a Rua Mozambique, Farol, Dili, Timor Lorosa’e
P.O. Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia)
Tel: +670-3325013 or +61(408)811373