Vol. 6, No. 2
CONTENTS: Summer 2000 Estafeta
Indonesia Human Rights Network Coming Together
When East Timor’s security situation improves, opposing U.S. military ties with Indonesia will be less relevant to East Timor. The new Indonesia network will look at Aceh, Maluku, West Papua, Kalimantan and Jakarta, enabling ETAN to maintain its East Timor focus in a cooperative relationship.
Fifty U.S. and Indonesian activists have been participating in an exploratory committee discussion for several months. This group has agreed to forge an Indonesia Human Rights Network in the U.S. which would cooperate with other Indonesia solidarity groups internationally and our Indonesian NGO counterparts. Such a network would allow ETAN to refocus its own limited energies on the changing needs of an independent East Timor, while reinforcing the strength of that independence by pushing U.S. foreign policy to support peace and democracy in Indonesia.
The exploratory committee reached broad consensus that there is a pressing need to continue the grassroots organizing and Washington lobbying ETAN has done in coalition with other organizations to shift U.S. foreign policy to support democratization, human rights and demilitarization in Indonesia. This network would also take on press work, education, research and analysis.
The Indonesia Human Rights Network will aim to break the power of the Indonesian military by denying it international support, thus creating democratic space for the Indonesian people to make their own economic and political choices. The network will help to stop continuing military repression and overt violence around the archipelago by exposing it to international criticism and sanction. Members of Congress need to hear about Indonesian military terror perpetrated in West Papua, Aceh, and elsewhere, and U.S. administration officials must be told that restoring support for Indonesia’s military is unacceptable.
If you are interested in participating in an Indonesian Human Rights Network and want a copy of the exploratory committee’s proposal, contact Lynn Fredriksson of ETAN’s Washington office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-544-6911.
Between May and July, thousands have died in fighting between the Christian and Muslim communities in the Indonesian islands of the Moluccas (Maluku), formerly known as the Spice Islands. Hundreds of thousands more have been made refugees.
While the conflict is often characterized as religious, elements of the military and their paramilitary allies have fueled the fighting, feeding a cycle of revenge killings and creating a justification to escalate repression and military action.
Indonesian scholar George Aditjondro ascribes the origin of the violence, which erupted in January 1999, to a “well-planned” operation by military officers and politicians intended to weaken then-opposition politician Megawati Sukarnoputri and strengthen the military.
In a disturbing reprise of East Timor, Indonesian Defense Minister Sudarsono called “rogue” officers an “uncontrollable factor” in the bloodshed, claiming he is powerless to force them out of the region. Kown Kopassus officers have been observed fighting with militia on both sides of the conflict, and the army and national police have supplied new weapons used by both Christians and Muslims.
Leaders of the two communities had begun to make peace, but as the violence was beginning to wane last April, 10,000 Laskar Jihad fighters arrived from Java. The result was a new wave of killings.
While Jakarta has complained that its ability to deal with the conflict is thwarted by the U.S.’s post-Timor arms embargo, NGOs and religious leaders have called for a removal of troops and armed outside provacateurs like the Jihad.
They have also called for continued restrictions on military ties and prosecution of those responsible for last year’s violence in East Timor. The Indonesian rights group INFID recently wrote that “such trials would signal to the military that inciting violence . . . will not go unpunished.”
The international community should demand that Indonesia act effectively to demilitarize Maluku, removing outside troops, police, weapons and militias to allow Christians and Muslims in the region to re-establish peaceful conflict resolution. Since President Wahid’s government has trouble controlling the military or its gangs, the U.S. should buttress his efforts by continuing to deny that military weapons, training and spare parts until it respects civilian control at the top and the lives of civilians at the bottom.In Memoriam: Saylor Creswell
Long-time ETAN/NY volunteer Saylor Creswell died in January after a battle with cancer. Whether stuffing envelopes, staffing a literature table or putting up flyers, Saylor could always be counted on to do the often thankless, but essential, tasks necessary for a group like ETAN. Each year Saylor would arrange ETAN’s participation in the Socialist Scholars Conference and make the countless calls needed to arrange New York area lobby days appointments. Even while ill he would do his best to come to meetings or mailings, if only to get an update and offer encouragement. Last summer, he hosted a successful fundraiser which helped send an IFET observer to monitor East Timor’s vote. Active in protecting his Cooper Square neighborhood in New York City’s contentious Lower East Side from rapacious developers, Saylor saw no problem in acting locally and globally. Saylor will be missed by his friends in ETAN and elsewhere. We send our condolences to his family.
On July 4, 50 East Timorese activists staged a peaceful demonstration outside the U.S. mission in Dili. Participants sang and lit candles along the street in front of the mission, commemorating the 200,000 East Timorese killed under the occupation.
The gathering recalled the key role (despite shifts toward congressional support for East Timor in the 1990s as a result of constituent pressure) that the United States government played in backing Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor.
The demonstrators made five demands of Washington: 1) a release of all U.S. government documents relating to East Timor; 2) the establishment of an independent commission in the United States to investigate the nature and extent of U.S. complicity with Indonesia’s crimes in East Timor; 3) an apology for the U.S. role in the invasion and occupation; 4) reparations from the U.S. to the people of East Timor; and 5) U.S. support for an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975-1999.
The organization sponsoring the protest, the 1975-1999 Alliance for Justice, is made up of human rights activists, women's rights advocates, students, members of families victimized by Indonesia’s war, and others. It works to ensure justice and accountability for the suffering and destruction that took place in East Timor during the Indonesian invasion and occupation. To see a copy of the Alliance's press release and pamphet go to www.etan.org/news/2000a/alljust.htm