organizers had written to him the day before.
La'o Hamutuk has talked with many Australians, both here and in Australia, who support Timor-Leste's right to a fair maritime border with their country. But unlike at previous rallies here, they did not make an appearance, although protests and well-attended conferences in Australia during the last few months attest to their integrity and determination. We understand that people who work for the Australian government, the programs it funds, or the United Nations have had to surrender their freedom of speech on these issues, but many others have not.
We hope that the warning messages distributed by the Australian Embassy (left), the U.S. Embassy (right) and the United Nations (below) didn't scare people away. Australia told its citizens to "avoid spontaneous gatherings, demonstrations, protests, street rallies and other large public gatherings," while the United States warned that "Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations."
The United Nations, which has worked hard to support human rights, sovereignty and democracy in Timor-Leste, sent an internal 'broadcast' to its staff the day before the demonstration that "Although the event is announced as a peaceful protest, such issues can always deteriorate and develop into something less organized. Therefore UNDSS is as usual reminding staff members and dependants (sic) to avoid large crowds and gatherings as this could always have potential to turn into a mob." As all UN staff sign contracts agreeing not to participate in such events, this may have been unnecessary. A second UN 'security broadcast' on the morning of the protest expected "some traffic disturbance" and reminded "staff and dependants to avoid getting caught in a crowd as it can always change into a mop (sic) with short notice. PNTL is at the scene."
Respect is not only about a fair maritime boundary, it's also about respecting Timorese people's dignity, character, self-control, humanity and rights to peaceful expression.
For more photos of the Dili demonstration, as well as other information and background on the maritime boundaries dispute, see La'o Hamutuk's website. The most recent material is toward the bottom of the page.