etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer U.S. Senate Supports Self-Determination for East Timor
Pressure Builds for Habibie to Do the Same

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today praised Senate passage of a resolution calling on President Clinton to "support an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination" in East Timor. ETAN urged the President to shift U.S. policy to one supporting East Timor’s democratic rights.

On Friday, July 10, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 237 which urges the Clinton administration to "work actively, through the United Nations and with United States allies, to carry out the directives of existing United Nations resolutions on East Timor and to support an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination."

“The resolution sends a strong message to Indonesia's President Habibie that his proposals on East Timor fall far short of East Timorese demands and simple justice. The U.S. must firmly back the East Timorese right to vote on their political status in a U.N.-supervised referendum,” said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN.

The Senate Resolution, sponsored by Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI) and 17 others also encourages “Indonesia to institute genuine democratic and economic reforms ... and to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all the people of Indonesia and East Timor.” The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), unanimously passed the resolution in late June.

ETAN praised the work of Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) for preparing the resolution and shepherding it through the Senate.

Senator Feingold on introducing the resolution on May 22 said: “The East Timorese deserve the support of people of conscience all over the world, and the United States should use its world leadership position on their behalf. The United States should begin immediately to encourage the process of self-determination in both Indonesia and in East Timor.”

In recent weeks, East Timorese have demonstrated for their right to self-determination in the tens of thousands throughout the occupied territory. Recently, Indonesia’s President Habibie recently offered to give East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, an undefined “special status” and to free East Timorese political leader Xanana Gusmao in exchange for international recognition of Indonesia's illegal annexation of the territory. Habibie has rejected independence and a U.N.-supervised referendum on self-determination. Gusmao, the Portuguese government and East Timorese Nobel Peace laureate José Ramos-Horta have all rejected Habibie’s proposal unless it allows for fundamental right of East Timor to self-determination after a period of autonomy.

Two U.N. Security Council resolutions and eight U.N. General Assembly resolutions have supported East Timor 's right to self-determination. Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, in December 1975 and formally annexed it on July 17, 1976. At least 200,000 people – one-third of the population – have been killed.

In a December 1996 letter, President Clinton wrote to Senator Feingold expressing interest in the idea of a United Nations-sponsored self-determination referendum.

ETAN is working for the passage of a similar resolution in the House of Representative. House Concurrent Resolution 258, introduced by Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), John Porter (R-IL), Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) has 57 additional co-sponsors.

Since its founding in November 1991, the East Timor Action Network has worked to shift U.S. policy to support human rights and self-determination for East Timor and democracy and human rights in Indonesia. It has 20 local chapters across the United States.