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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor


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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements


19 November 1997

On the occasion of the visit to South Africa by the President of Indonesia, Mr Suharto, we take this opportunity to voice our disapproval of the methods that the Indonesian government has employed in dealing with the people of Indonesia and East Timor. Since the invasion of East Timor by the Indonesian army in December 1975, the people of East Timor have only experienced the most horrifying repression and gross violation of their human rights.

We are disturbed by the continuous massacres that have characterised the occupation of East Timor. That more than 250 000 East Timorese, which represents a third of the original population of East Timor, have been killed in the past 22 years in the most gruesome manner is totally unacceptable. We wish to express in no uncertain terms that we are totally appalled by this situation.

We are aware that President Suharto is in South Africa as part of the programme by President Nelson Mandela to try and resolve the situation of East Timor. We fully and unequivocally support the efforts by President Mandela. This demonstration today, is not an act of spoiling the efforts by President Mandela, but is a form of strengthening his hand.

We come from a history of gross violation of human rights in this country. It pains us to see other people suffering even worse repression than that inflicted on us by the apartheid regime. Just as we have vowed, as South Africans that never again will the situation of apartheid be repeated in South Africa, this vow extends to all the places in the world such as East Timor, Indonesia, Nigeria, Swaziland, etc. We will support the oppressed peoples of these countries in every way we can.

We also want to highlight the trade union situation in Indonesia, where Mr Suharto is the President. We condemn the shabby treatment meted out against trade unions such as the SBSI. Independent trade unions are prohibited in Indonesia. The unions that are allowed are those that are state sponsored.

We condemn the continuing incarceration of Muchtar Pakpahan by the Indonesian government. It is also disturbing that the Indonesian government continuously refuses to grant Pakpahan visits by overseas people who will be able to independently comment on his deteriorating health condition. That the Indonesian government continuously refuses to allow Pakpahan to go overseas to get better health care is totally sad.

These above examples are a few of a number of horrifying acts that are carried out by the Indonesian government on its people and the people of East Timor. It is in the light of these matters that we have decided to leave our places of work and our meetings to come and express our outrage at President Suharto's track record of violation of human rights.

We add our voices to the calls that have been from East Timor, Indonesia and everywhere else in the world. We urge President Suharto and his government to begin to observe the resolutions that have been passed by the United Nations on East Timor. We urge him to listen to the voices of the East Timorese such as the Nobel Peace Prize winners James Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo. We urge him to release Xanana Gusmao.

We also urge him to listen to the voices of the Indonesian people who are denied trade union and human rights. We urge President Suharto to allow free trade union activity in Indonesia. We further urge him to release Muchtar Pakpahan. We urge him to refrain from disrupting meetings of independent unions such as was done with the recent congress of the SBSI.

As we have learned in South Africa, the best way to resolve differences is through negotiations. We think that negotiations conducted on good faith can go a long way in resolving some of the problems in Indonesia and East Timor as outlined above. We commend the efforts by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, and President Nelson Mandela of trying to resolve the dire situation of East Timor. Mxolisi Dlamini (Logistics Officer) International Department COSATU Head Office 1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets Braamfontein, 2017

P.O. Box 1019 Johannesburg, 2000

Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24 Fax: +27 11 339-5080/6940 E-mail: mxolisi@cosatu.org.za

Nowetu Mpati COSATU Head of Communications

Tel: + 27 + 11 + 339-4911 Fax: + 27 + 11 + 339-2281 E-mail: nowetu@cosatu.org.za