Back in 1990, a Timorese lady from East Timor, living in Darwin (Australia),
visited Shimonoseki. She had lost her son during the Indonesian military
invasion of East Timor (1975) and had to leave her mother country. Local
citizens of Shimonoseki impressed by her crying appeals for freedom and
her vitality decided to establish The Shimonoseki-East Timor Association. Formerly, on the occasion of the visit to East Timor of Pope John Paul,
and of the use of Japanese ODA to Indonesia as well as of the military
action taken by the Indonesian army in East Timor with the consequent violations
of human rights, some Shimonoseki citizens had been moved to take action.
The results of the efforts of Shimonoseki mothers produced a campaign to
assist the children of East Timor. One of the members of the group visited
Timor in 1991 bringing back the realities he observed over there. The following
massacre of Santa Cruz was brokenhearted sad news for many local citizens. The problem was, what
to do next? We tried, incessantly, making all kinds of little efforts:
A carabaos' campaign, fund raising for medical care, education assistance,
information campaign to let Japanese know about the Timorese situation,
international solidarity action, local political lobbying, etc.
Our cooperation with the national network has widened interest and activities
with regard to East Timor, and Shimonoseki has strengthened international
solidarity links as well as collaboration with Yamaguchi and Shimane prefectures.
On one hand, Japan had deepened its relationship with the Suharto regime
in such a manner that it was cynically said that Indonesia had become the
28th prefecture of Japan. But in spite of observing with great regret an
unclear future, the fight of the East Timorese, the waves of democratization
in Indonesia, and the movements of cooperation in many countries with the
East Timorese in the diaspora was taking momentum.
The situation made a turn together with the economic crisis in Asia. At
the time of the movement for democratization in Indonesia, the shows of
solidarity among the Indonesian and Timorese youth broke the barriers of
distrust. When angry university students from Indonesia studying in Japan
decided to leave a public gathering to protest the Santa Cruz massacre
in 1991, complaining that their government and military never committed
such a crime, an East Timorese youth who had scars of torture run after
them and, patting on their shoulders, spoke to them in the Indonesian language:
let's build together our future, I felt a new hope. A few days ago, East Timorese and Indonesian young
people attended again a public gathering to oppose the Indonesian government
policies and the attitude of the military. They shook hands promising to
work mutually for the establishment of a future where they respect all
as human persons and neighbors. A citizen from Shimonoseki who watched
them, deeply moved by their gesture, said openly: It has been wonderful to continue the activities of this Shimonoseki-East
Timor Association. What has been confirmed in this city springs out everywhere in the world,
and it will, certainly, become the trend in the 21 century.
Unless Japan apologizes and compensates Koreans for the historical invasion
of the Korean Peninsula and all the mistakes done for more than 100 years,
the construction of a new future will never start. In 1895, following the
Treaty of Shimonoseki, this city became the jumping-off place for annexing
the Korean Peninsula. Learning from this 100-year experience, we gradually
continue supporting the exercise of self-determination of the East Timorese.
In spite of various forces working against and economic interests, the
problem of East Timor is a serious issue that requires an urgent solution
which will determine the moral destiny of human mankind in the 21 century.