Melbourne Demonstration: A Statement of Acknowledgement

For the fourth consecutive year, Eritreans sympathetic to the plight of our people at home staged a peaceful demonstration against PFDJ-sponsored festival in Melbourne from the 23rd through to the 25th of December. The 2005 demonstration has been unique because the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA) formally participated in it for the first time, and its representative in Australia gave a statement of solidarity with the oppressed people in Eritrea. The reasons for boycotting the festival have been widely circulated in the Eritrean websites that have strong affiliation to the opposition and strong support to the struggle for democratic change in Eritrea. Hence, this will not be reported here. The focus of this letter is to acknowledge by expressing deep appreciation and gratitude to the committed patriotic Eritreans, who actively participated in the demonstration to make the event a popular and colourful stand against dictatorship.

On the organisational level, this year’s event was unprecedented. The young and old guards of our liberation struggle worked cooperatively to stage a successful demonstration. The level of political maturity among the opposition forces is improving and, although the organising committee confronted challenging issues, it managed to discuss and resolve them properly and democratically. The effort that went into preparing the demonstration was remarkable, reflected, among other things, in the clarity of the political message. Placards condemning the abuses of the regime were displayed near the gate of the venue and around the demonstration zone.

Although the event coincided with the Christmas and the New Year holiday period, there were some among the participants with work conditions not so flexible for them to be in front of the venue in time. But, these people have shown a strong commitment by turning up few hours later and still contributed significantly to the success of the event. We thank this particular group of demonstrators. In particular, we salute the Taxi Drivers who had to stop for almost half of their shift-time to support the event. Our deepest appreciation also goes to the large crowd of young people who participated in the demonstration. Their presence was noticeable on the third day and we truly thank them for standing with justice. The participation of the energetic youngsters is an encouraging sign and a step in the right direction. We value the generosity of those who donated money and food, and those who provided other logistical support that ultimately contributed to the success of the event. We thank the services of the individuals who continuously supplied the crowd with tea to keep them active and awake throughout the night.

Finally, the peaceful demonstration achieved its main objective of encouraging a significant portion of Eritreans in Australia to boycott PFDJ festival. Festival turn over is on a steady decline from one year to the next, although we don’t expect any formal admission of that by the Eritrean authorities. The demonstration is having a consciousness-raising effect certainly not to the desire of the latter. Our assessment is that this year’s as well as the preceding years’ demonstrations have been extremely successful. It is undeniable that the aim of the festival has shifted dramatically; from an earlier purely income generating occasion to a survivalist political intransigence. The insistence on the continuation of the festival in the face of popular rejection is almost getting to a point where it can only be interpreted as a meaningless challenge to the will of the majority.

Melbourne Demonstration Organising Committee

29 December 2005

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