East Timor ACTION Network
Question the Candidates
Election 2004 & East Timor and Indonesia
While the primaries and general election may still seem a long way off,
the election season is already in full swing. Now is the time to challenge
or praise incumbents' records on East Timor and Indonesia, and ask all
candidates for federal office their positions on justice for East Timor,
restoring U.S. military ties to Indonesia and other related issues.
These interactions can have a real impact. In 1992, ETAN activists in
Wisconsin publicly challenged Republican Senator Robert Kasten's support
for U.S. training of Indonesian soldiers. Russell Feingold picked up the
issue, defeated Kasten, and today remains one of East Timor's strongest
supporters in Washington. "I hadn't always planned to become involved in
East Timor, because I wasn't always aware of the situation there,"
Feingold once said. "But then… the East Timor Action Network
brought the plight of the East Timorese people to my attention."
Here are a few things you can do (see sample questions for candidates
- Challenge Presidential, House and Senate candidates to state their
position on U.S. military training and weapons sales to Indonesia while
the Indonesian military continues to evade accountability for crimes
against humanity committed in East Timor, block reform to establish
civilian control of the military, and carry out brutal acts of
repression in Aceh, Papua and elsewhere. Urge the candidates to actively
support an international tribunal to bring those responsible for decades
of crimes against humanity in East Timor to justice.
- Raise the issues at debates and campaign events; write and call the
candidates and encourage others to do so. Praise those who've stood up
for the people of East Timor and Indonesia, challenge those who haven't,
and encourage newcomers to clearly state their positions on these
issues. When people ask questions in a variety of fora, candidates see
that these issues are important to people in their district or state.
Try to get the candidate to make specific commitments to oppose training
- including so-called counter-terrorism training, weapons sales and
other military aid to Jakarta and to support justice for East Timor,
which must include an international tribunal for East Timor. Follow up
with a letter, reiterating your position and outlining your agreement or
disagreement with the candidate. (Be prepared to provide additional
information for candidates who may not be familiar with East Timor or
- Write letters to local papers calling on candidates to take stronger
stands on the issues.
Sample Questions for Candidates (also feel free to ask these questions
after the election of new and returning members of Congress):
- Most U.S. military assistance to Indonesia has been suspended since
the Indonesian military and its militias devastated East Timor in 1999.
The administration and some members of Congress are now working to
restore these ties even though those most responsible for organizing
those crimes against humanity have yet to be held accountable and the
Indonesian military continues to terrorize its own people. Do you agree
that we should not provide any training - including "counter-terrorism"
training - or sell weapons to the Indonesian military? What role should
supporting human rights have in U.S. foreign policy?
- The USA Patriot Act states that "domestic terrorism" includes: (A)
…acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws
of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended-- (i) to
intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy
of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the
conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or
kidnapping. The Indonesian military has systematically targeted
civilians to advance its domestic interest. The Indonesian military
regularly commits atrocities of the worst kind against civilians in Aceh
and elsewhere. Crimes against humanity were regularly committed by the
TNI in East Timor aimed at intimidating the East Timorese from
peacefully supporting independence. Further, the corrupt Indonesian
military has known ties to terrorist fundamentalist groups like Laskar
Jihad. Given this background, would you consider the Indonesian military
to be a terrorist organization? Doesn't providing U.S. assistance to the
Indonesian military contradict our policy of rooting out terrorism?
- In 1999, after East Timor voted for independence, the Indonesian
military and its militias ransacked East Timor. Indonesia has clearly
proved it is unable to hold its armed forces accountable; twelve of
sixteen military and police officers prosecuted were acquitted of all
charges in trials widely regarded as a sham, and the court effectively
rewrote history in the Indonesian military's favor. Those convicted
received very light sentences and none are expected to serve a day in
jail. Do you support going to the UN Security Council to create an
international tribunal for East Timor to make certain justice is served?
What other steps should the U.S. take to support justice for these
serious crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East
Timor since Indonesia invaded in 1975?
- On August 31, 2002, an ambush took place in the Papua province in
Indonesia. Two U.S. citizens and one Indonesian were shot dead. The
Indonesian police and many others believe the Indonesian military is
responsible. On May 19, 2003, the Indonesian military declared martial
law in Aceh, a resource-rich region in North Sumatra, initiating its
largest military campaign since the 1975 invasion of East Timor.
Thousands of human rights violations have occurred since then. In light
of the Indonesian military's past and continuing gross human rights
violations against their own people, and now the likely involvement in
killing U.S. citizens, what are your views on funding and training the
Indonesian military or other militaries that do not respect human rights
and international law?
- While there is currently a ban on supplying "lethal" military
equipment to Indonesia, the Indonesian military (TNI) continues to use
weapons they received before the bane. In Aceh, American F-16 fighter
jets, OV-10 Bronco planes (used for bombing and strafing), and other
equipment have been used to enforce martial law and undermine a
U.S.-backed ceasefire. Should the U.S. openly protest the use of weapons
by Indonesia against civilians in Aceh? What should the U.S. do to
encourage a peaceful resolution of conflicts in Indonesia?
Please e-mail any responses to