East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign presentation to the UN Decolonization Committee

Presented by Frank Fitzgerald

Mr. Chairperson,

We would like to express the appreciation of the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign to this forum for allowing us a to make this presentation.

It is not necessary to go into the details of the recent sad and tragic history of the East Timorese people. Coming from a country such as Ireland where we ourselves underwent a period of colonization that lasted 800 years, we can speak from a truthful and historical point of view. In this year of 1998, we here in Ireland are commemorating the 200th anniversary of the 1798 rebellion against British rule. One can read today that the colonial power put down this rebellion with the utmost brutality. What marked this rebellion from others was the fact that it was the first time that Catholics, Protestants and dissenters joined together to attempt to oust the colonialists from our troubled land. We are also mindful of the fact that the colonial forces, as they do everywhere, attempted to turn brother against brother, sister against sister, father against son and mother against daughter. How history repeats itself - whether it be in Ireland or Indonesian-occupied East Timor! And, how tragic that we never seem to learn from history. We must remember that during the glorious struggle for independence in India, at Amritsar it was Indian forces controlled by Britain, under the command of an Irishman, that shot dead hundreds of their fellow countrymen and women. It has always been the policy of colonial forces to divide and rule, whether in Kenya, India, Brazil or, indeed, elsewhere.

There will be among us many who by inducement, threat, or personal gain will come before us and tell us of roads built, of schools built, of telephone lines established. They will attempt, in some way, to legitimize the terrible suffering that has been inflicted on our brothers and sisters in East Timor. They will attempt to legitimize a callous disregard for international law. They will tell us that the majority of Timorese are reconciled to the integration of East Timor into Indonesia. They have the right to be heard but, also, the obligation to be challenged. However, at this point in time we must hold out the hand of friendship to those who serve their Indonesian overlords and, indeed, the Indonesian military itself.

Many of you will have observed that over the last number of weeks seemingly intractable problems have been solved in Ireland. Where once there was fear, there is now calm. Where once there was suspicion, there is now trust. And where once there was hatred, the hand of friendship in now being extended.

Indonesia is now at a crossroads. With this in mind, The East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign calls on the Indonesian government to become a New Republic, a Republic of Indonesia like the Republic of Ireland, which respects the wishes of its neighbors and its own citizens; a Republic which cherishes and holds dear the rule of law; a Republic that rather than seeking confrontation, seeks compromise; a Republic that listens to the voices from all over this imperfect world of ours that call for justice and peace; a Republic that neither wants victor nor vanquished - but a Republic that, before it can take its rightful place among the nations of the world, must send us clear and unequivocal signals that it heeds the voices calling for violence to end. It must demonstrate that it honors the voices that call for the Timorese to be part of the solution and will not be left sitting by while other nations decide their future.

Let us hope that the new Indonesian government will have the courage and moral fiber to move the process along that allows a valid act of self-determination in which the people of East Timor are free to choose their own future. Thank you.

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East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign
Tom Hyland
Suite 13, 3rd Floor, Dame House, Dame Street, Dublin 2



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