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11 December 1997 Edition

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Virtual Independence Day for East Timor

by Proinsias O Maolchalain

East Timorese independence became a virtual reality on Tuesday when writer Joe O'Connor launched the East Timor domain on the Internet.

Speaking at the launch in the Irish Film Centre in Dublin, Joe O'Connor said that the day was ``something of a virtual independence day - a liberation day of the imagination,'' adding that he hoped the real one would not be far away.

On the internet, each country has its own allocated name space called a domain. For Ireland the domain is .ie, so UCD's address is www.ucd.ie while Sinn Féin's is sinnfein.ie. The domain .tp has been registered by Connect Ireland on behalf of the East Timorese with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

``Most of you will know something of East Timor, a small country with, like our own, a history of violence, colonisation and poverty, which for 22 years this month has been illegally occupied in the name of so-called democratic annexation,'' O'Connor told those at the launch. ``Since then a brutal regime of repression has existed, 200,000 people, one third of the entire population have been killed. Every kind of human rights abuse has been documented. But the desire of the East Timorese for self-determination has refused to die away.''

O'Connor rejected those who would scoff at the establishment of the domain, and would ask what use it served faced with the might of the Indonesian military establishement aided by the United States. ``Every free country is at heart a shared idea,'' he said. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Synge played as important a role as Pearse, Constance Markieviez and Connolly, creative artists whose most revolutionary act was to imagine Ireland. As Yeats himself put it ``forging the space where Ireland could grow, where a people could plant the seeds of freedom and nationhood, long before that country's freedom was recognised on any map.''

Speaking on behalf of the East Timor community in Ireland, Dino Gandara Rai thanked Connect Ireland who have established the domain and emphasised the importance of the internet in overcoming censorship.

``Since Indonesia invaded my country western journalists have not been allowed in East Timor. In western countries you believe if you have evidence, you do not believe if you have no evidence. There have been UN resolutions but no concrete action,'' he said.

John Pilger, the award winning Australian journalist and broadcaster, in a message of support for the venture, described the domain as an ``electorinic safe house'', which he said would be seen as an historic bench-mark on a people's struggle for freedom.

The East Timor Campaign can be accessed at http://www.freedom.tp
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