A message from Helen Hill. Support ETAN in 2021
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A Message from Helen M. Hill

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L to R: Shirley Shackleton, Helen M. Hill, Jose Ramos-Horta, Irena Cristalis at 2019 Solidarity Conf  in Dili, Timor-Leste.
L to R: Shirley Shackleton, Helen M. Hill, Jose Ramos-Horta, Irena Cristalis at 2019 Solidarity Conf in Dili, Timor-Leste.

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Helen M. Hill
Dili, Timor-Leste

Helen M. Hill speaking in DiliDear friends,

I first visited Timor-Leste in January 1975, as a master’s student from Monash University. I spent two months travelling the country with Jose Ramos-Horta, Nicolau Lobato, and Mari Alkatiri. I rode Timor ponies with Mau Lear and Vicente “Sahe” dos Reis to visit the FRETILIN literacy programs.

Following Indonesia’s illegal and brutal invasion of December 1975, I was unable to visit the country again for another 24 years. But my concern for the Timorese people had not waned. In early 1976, I was in New York, assisting Ramos-Horta set up his office at the United Nations to advocate internationally for Timor-Leste’s self-determination. This was long before computers, emails, and the internet. We had a state of the art Selectric typewriter and received telex messages from Australia (including reports from Timor transmitted by radio to Darwin), and elsewhere.

Little did we know then that Timor solidarity activists, including the founders of ETAN, were to become pioneers of using the internet for activism.

Before I continue, I want to take a moment to urge you to donate in appreciation of ETAN’s information services and its work for justice, human rights, and self-determination. You can contribute here.

In the early 1990s scattered East Timor supporters around the world began to make use of electronic communications. Those specifically interested in Timor-Leste, such as Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL in London, Elaine Briere in Canada, the Australia-East Timor Association in Melbourne (of which I was a founding member), the Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere (CDPM) in Lisbon and others began reg.easttimor on APC, a progressive computer network. 

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Helen M. Hill with Max Stahl.
Helen with Max Stahl.  
Thanks to Max Stahl’s film footage, the November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre became global news. ETAN, the East Timor Action Network was founded soon after that terrible event by peace activists John M. Miller, Charles Scheiner, and Indonesian-American Rev. Max Surjadinata, among others. ETAN successfully sought to change U.S. policy to one in support of Timor’s self-determination by restricting and for a time ending U.S. security assistance to Indonesia.

Global email discussion lists like reg.easttimor contributed throughout the 1990s to building up a sizable body of knowledge and opinion about the situation in East Timor, even though world media did not give the country’s politics any detailed coverage.

 ETAN increasingly took over the coordinating role in distributing a comprehensive set of messages, including nearly everything that was being said in the English-speaking media around the world about Timor-Leste. As the 1999 independence referendum approached, many thought that most solidarity groups like ETAN would close once self-determination was achieved.

 That did not happen.  

Instead, ETAN reaffirmed its commitment to the rights of the peoples of Timor-Leste and the wider Indonesian region, renaming itself the East Timor and Indonesia Action N Network, while continuing to press for human rights accountability. Please support ETAN’s work by donating today.

New people began to turn to ETAN who had not been in the solidarity movement but who wished to support development of the newly independent country. ETAN is now the “go-to” source for access to media articles and academic research on Timor-Leste and Indonesia. ETAN’s east-timor listserv (the successor to reg.easttimor) is used extensively by Timorese, Indonesians, and malae (internationals). It has become an indispensable research tool for journalists, academics, and those in human rights and development assistance. It is a key site for posting job advertisements in Timor, helping Timor-Leste’s growing population find meaningful employment.

 The relevance and usefulness of the list is clear. In the past year, more than 1000 new people have joined.

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The relevance and usefulness of ETAN is also clear, as we prepare to press the new U.S. president and administration to support human rights, accountability, and a demilitarized policy toward Indonesia, West Papua, and Timor-Leste. Please support ETAN's fight for justice, accountability, and human rights for West Papua, Timor-Leste, and Indonesia.

The 21st century has seen the rise of social media (which in many ways is very fleeting) and ETAN has a presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, yet ETAN’s email listservs remain the indispensable source to which researchers and others turn for documents on Timor-Leste, Indonesia; and West Papua. Much of the list is archived online available to all. And ETAN’s information services are still maintained by mainly the same group of enthusiasts who work selflessly. The Timorese Government has rightly recognized ETAN for its information and solidarity work with the Medal of the Order of Timor-Leste in 2012.

ETAN and its incredibly productive output rely on funding from those who believe in what it is doing. We have all watched with appreciation as ETAN expanded its efforts to encompass human rights issues in Indonesia and self-determination for West Papua, along with its continued support for Timor-Leste. I urge you to just consider what would you do without ETAN? Where would you get your information on Timor-Leste, Indonesia, and West Papua? Who else is going to press the new Biden administration to support human rights and justice in the region? Then make a contribution relating to how valuable you find ETAN.

Remember, ETAN is not just a useful stream of emails, it is part of Timor-Leste’s history. It comes out of a pioneering use of the internet by human rights and solidarity activists. It is provided by real live human beings who believe in what they are doing. Your contribution will help ensure ETAN’s independence too -- and how important is that, in this era of ‘fake news’?!

I thank you for helping to insure ETAN’s continued existence, independence; and unwavering commitment to human rights and self-determination.

In solidarity,

 Helen M. Hill

Member, ETAN Board of Directors
Orden Timor-Leste 2014
Advisor to Minister at Ministério da Educação, Juventude e Desporto
Former Senior lecturer at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

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