Email posted to east-timor
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Hello Ina & Isa,
I thought I would send you Tom's email. Gareth, Teifi and I visited Dublin in September 1995 specifically to visit Tom Hyland. Shirley Shackleton had told us about him and had given us his address. I remember it was a very cold, windy, blustery late afternoon when we arrived, and the darkness of the night was just beginning to move it. Nobody appeared to be around - I suppose they were keeping out of the cold and in any case it was the time of night when families are inside starting to get their evening meal together. Having arrived in Ireland after leaving warmth and blue skies behind, Tom's housing estate seemed pretty stark and bleak to us, but when we finally arrived at his house, our hearts were warmedto see a big sign above his doorway, telling the world loud and clear that the Irish East Timor Centre was alive and well, and flourishing - in a country which already had its own significant share of difficulties. So, in the room crowded with filing cabinets and the paper debris of busy activists, we met Tom and other supporters , plus 4 dogs if I remember correctly.
As a result of that first meeting, Tom invited us to attend a play about East Timor being shown in Dublin's downtown theatreland. I think it had been written locally, and it was brilliant. With a cast of only three actors and a commentator, plus a couple of boxes as stage props and a screen to show video footage of British Hawke Aircraft (which were being exported to Indonesia and used in East Timor) we sat absolutely enthralled from beginning to end of the drama. The audience's attention was riveted throughout. At the conclusion of the play, the packed house didn't move out of their seats. Tom moved onto the stage and addressed the audience, many of them students, telling them about his role in helping East Timor and suggesting what they might like to pursue. Then he asked Gareth to contribute a little bit about what we in Australia were doing. Thus opened up an intense discussion about the situation in East Timor which many, many people had never previously heard about.
All this goes to show what one person, or one small group of people, can do and what a powerful influence they can be in inspiring others. In fact, instead of leaving Dublin early next morning as planned, Gareth and I stayed an extra hour or two so that we could pen a letter of support to the Eire Government for the active part they were taking in Europe and America to help the people of East Timor. Then we delivered it personally to the Minister who had responsibility to the European Parliament. The world can be a small place, can't it?
I'll write again soon. For the meantime, the Mullumbimby Market made $500 last Thursday (or was it $700? the weather wasn't good, so probably not!) and Duncan put it in the HOPE East Timor bank account the same day, so you can access it if needed.
If you come across Tom Hyland in East Timor, give him our love and best wishes.
East Timor Ireland Solidarity
Campaign (ETISC) Added June 14
. The East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign (ETISC) was founded in April 1992 by Tom Hyland, a former bus driver. One evening about a month prior to that Tom and a group of friends had been playing cards in his house when a neighbour arrived and asked to watch a programme called First Tuesday on ITV. The programme was about a country they never heard of called East Timor. They sat mesmerised as they watched Indonesian soldiers gunning down 270 peaceful unarmed East Timorese. This massacre had taken place on November 12th 1991 in the Santa Cruz cemetry in Dili.
. Tom and the others were so shocked by what they saw that they resolved to so something. So a converted room in Tom’s house in Ballyfermot, they set up ETISC to campaign to raise awareness in Ireland of the plight of East Timor. At first the group had very little but by borrowing typewriters and a computer from friends they started writing to politicians and the media. They also started giving talks in schools, colleges, clubs, trade unions,a nd to anyone who would listen.
. Every November 12th, ETISC held demonstrations at the British or Australian embassies because of the support these countries had given to Indonesia in terms of arms and diplomatic support. The biggest break for the campaign with then Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating’s visit to Ireland in September 1993. After Keating arrived, hundred of people demonstrated outside Dublin castle where he was meeting leaders from all political parties. The incident received huge coverage and was debated and discussed on radio, TV and all the newspapers. This helped bring the plight of East Timor to the people of Ireland.
. Since then the leading role of Ireland—which has campaigned actively on the issue of East Timor—in the EU and the UN—has been acknowledged including by the joint winners of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, Bishop Carlos Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor’s foreign minister in exile. In a speech in Toronto in 1995, Dr. Horta declared: “In terms of its influence and in what it has achieved, no country has done more for East Timor than Ireland.”
. The group is based in Dublin and most of the people who work there are volunteers.
Contact: Room 16, (3rd floor), Dame House, 24-26 Dame Street, Dublin 2. Tel/Fax: 353-1-671 9207
10 Univ: "The Joy that freedom Brings" Article added June
“That a small nation like ours, through diplomatic efforts, can assist other small nations such as East Timor on the road to self- determination is a deep source of pride for us all, ... Our involvement in the affairs of East Timor did not begin around the Cabinet table, or in Government Buildings, it all began in a Ballyfermot living room, with a wonderful individual, a bus driver named Tom Hyland [co-founder of the East Timor Ireland Support Campaign]" David Andrew, former Foreign Minister, Ireland