This scene recreates a real episode in the Hotel Turismo dining room photographed by Bob Hannan in September 1975. It shows the determination of the people of East Timor to achieve independence. Many foreign visitors who travelled to East Timor before the Indonesian invasion would campaign for independence for the next twenty-four years because they were convinced that the peoples' desire for independence was genuine and unshakable.
Ken Fry, a backbencher from the Australian Labor Party, visited East Timor and came away with a deep respect for the East Timorese claim to independence. He would continue to support this cause for the rest of his parliamentary career and beyond. The importance of his visits cannot be overstated: he would be sustained during the most difficult periods of the independence struggle by his conviction that the population was overwhelmingly pro-independence.1
Fry was not alone. Two Northern Territory trade unionists (Lai Con Liong, a Timor-born Chinese wharfie, and Brian Manning, a trade unionist and member of the Communist Party of Australia) flew into Baucau on 19 May 1975. From there, they flew to Dili by light aircraft, observing the events, taking photographs and meeting many East Timorese leaders. On their return, Manning circulated the photographs he had taken to trade union journals and to Tribune, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia. As Secretary of the Darwin branch of the Waterside Workers' Federation and founding Secretary of Darwin's Trades and Labor Council (1971-74), he was well connected in the union movement. Like Ken Fry, he would also be sustained for twenty-four years by his conviction that the population was overwhelmingly pro-independence.2
1 Personal communication, 2004.
2 Personal communication, 2004.