Subject: Two State MPs return from fact-finding tour of ET
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 98 19:26:37 0000
From: John Sinnott <aetamel@peg.apc.org> Organization: Australia-East Timor Association, Melbourne

JEAN McLEAN, M.L.C Member for Melbourne West Province

MEDIA RELEASE

23 September 1998

TWO STATE MPs RETURN FROM FACT-FINDING TOUR OF EAST TIMOR

Yesterday, Tuesday 22 September, two members of the Legislative Council of Victoria's State Parliament returned from a nine-day fact-finding tour of East Timor. The two parliamentarians are the Hon. Jean McLean (ALP), MLC for Melbourne West Province and the Hon. Doug Walpole (ALP), MLC for Melbourne Province. Jean McLean is the Secretary of the Australian Labor Party's State Foreign Affairs Committee and is also the Convenor of Parliamentarians for East Timor in the Victorian Parliament.

Ms McLean has taken an active interest in the issue of East Timor for many years. She attended the inauguration of a radio link with the East Timorese resistance held at a secret location in the bush near Darwin in May 1985 and was a passenger on the Portuguese ship, the Lusitania Expresso , which attempted to sail to Dili in March 1992.

Manuel Carrascalão, formerly a leader of the pro-Indonesian APODETI party told them how he had brought together representatives of most East Timorese political parties to press for a referendum to enable the people of the territory to determine their own future.

Benito Antero, a student leader, explained how students had organised protest rallies amongst the community in places as far away as Los Palos, at the eastern end of the island.

Manuel Abrantes of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace outlined its program for advocating respect for human rights in East Timor.

At Dili's Becora jail the parliamentarians talked to East Timorese political prisoners who had recently called off a hunger strike designed to put pressure on the Habibie government to release their leader, Xanana Gusmão.

They travelled to East Timor's second largest centre, Baucau, and other towns including Aileu, Maubisse, Manatuto, Venilale and Los Palos. They also paid a courtesy call on the Indonesian military commander in East Timor, Colonel Tono Suratman.

In discussions with church leaders, academics, student and political leaders they were constantly told that the Timor Gap Treaty should be renegotiated so that East Timor could obtain its rightful share of the oil and gas revenues. People also felt that Australia should end its military aid to Indonesia and replace it with humanitarian aid to East Timor. They condemned the role that successive Australian governments have played over the last 23 years. An overwhelming number of the East Timorese they spoke to wanted independence rather than autonomy within Indonesia.

Following their extensive consultations in East Timor Ms McLean and Mr Walpole said that the Australian Government should openly:

1. Pressure the Indonesian Government to release all East Timorese political prisoners, including Xanana Gusmão.

2. Recognise the role of the United Nations in the resolution of the issue of East Timor.

3. Support the right of the East Timorese people including Xanana Gusmão to join Indonesia and Portugal at the United Nations-sponsored negotiations on the future of the territory.

4. Call on the United Nations to monitor the withdrawal of all Indonesian armed forces from the territory and to replace them with a multinational police force that is acceptable to the people of East Timor.

5. Call on the United Nations to supervise a referendum on self-determination.

6. Increase Australian government aid to East Timor as a matter of urgency in the following areas: health food water supply trauma counselling human rights training agriculture and fishing credit facilities for very small businesses

7. Urge the Indonesian Government to allow non-government organisations to operate independently of Indonesian Government control in East Timor.

For more information please contact Jean McLean on 9689 6536 or 0418 104 008.

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