The Australian “Parliamentary Friends of Western Sahara Group” was officially launched Wednesday night (26 November 2008), during a dinner held at Parliament House in Canberra. The inaugural dinner was attended by many members of Parliament from all parties, members of the Diplomatic Corps, representatives of NGOs and trade unions as well as members of the Australian Western Sahara Association (AWSA).
The Friendship Group is composed until now of about 20 members from all the main Australian political parties and from the two Houses of Parliament (House of Representatives and the Senate). The Chair of the Group is from the governing party, the Labour Party, the Deputy Chair of the Group is from the main opposition, Liberal Party and the Secretary of the Friendship Group is from the Australian Greens Party.
Ms. Janelle Saffin, Member of the House of Representatives and member of the Friendship Group, spoke during the launch ceremony, on behalf of the Chair of the Group.
Ms. Saffin, MP, pledged the support of the members of Parliament to the Saharawi people and their just cause. She underlined the fact that the Saharawi cause enjoys the support of all political parties in Australia.
She said that Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara is illegal and must end. Ms. Saffin explained that she has witnessed first hand the difficulties of life in the refugee camps during a visit few years ago.
The Representative of Polisario Front in Australia, Mr. Kamal Fadel, expressed the sincere thanks and gratitude of the Saharawi people to the members of Parliament who have joined the “Parliamentary Friends of Western Sahara Group”.
He also thanked the group of Ambassadors who have attended and all those who were present and particularly the members of the AWSA, who contributed towards the success of the launch event.
The Saharawi Representative further explained that the launch of the Group is a historic and very significant event. The number of Parliamentarians who have joined and “the fact that they represent all the main political parties in Australia is important”, he stressed.
He said that this initiative will help raise the profile of Western Sahara in Australia. He also outlined about how Western Sahara is relevant to Australia because Australia is interested in the role of the UN and the respect of international legality.
Australia also gives high priority to the respect of international human rights standards and is dependent on the phosphate imported from Western Sahara, though its illegal to exploit natural resources of Non-Self-Governing territories.
The Representative of Polisario explained the background of the issue of Western Sahara and its similarities with East Timor in which Australia played an important role.
He hoped that the Australian people will continue their support to the Saharawi cause until they achieve their freedom and return to their homeland to live in liberty and dignity.
Ms. Lesley Osborne, Deputy President of the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) spoke during the event, stressing her association’s great satisfaction that the Friendship Group has been established.
She reaffirmed AWSA’s support to the Group, explaining that the association has been active in promoting the Saharawi cause in Australia and is very pleased that a great number of Parliamentarians have joined this noble struggle for international justice.