|Vol. 3, No. 2 - Spring 1997|
"Sufficiently Sanitized by the Nobel Prize"
By Lynn Fredriksson, ETAN Washington Representative, and Charles Scheiner
After many years of raising issues, East Timor's supporters in Washington are being taken more seriously both here and in Jakarta. President Suharto's rejection of U.S. military support (see page 1) because he finds the East Timor issue distasteful is a good step but the rotten taste must not be allowed to fade away. Now that the F-16 sale and IMET struggles are won, at least for the moment, we have the opportunity to step up Washington's pressure on Jakarta until they reach the inevitable conclusion that East Timor is just not worth the price.
The last four months have been a very hectic time in Washington, as the increased awareness of East Timor has provided many opportunities for action, and many actors on the stage. Suharto's letter has favorably resolved our two highest priority issues; now we need to explore ways of cutting other arms sales, redirecting economic aid, looking at trade relationships and otherwise increasing the cost to Indonesia's military elite of occupying East Timor. The East Timorese people, of course, have already paid an inconceivably high price.
Internal Congressional considerations have also had an effect on our strategy, as Congress strives to avoid controversy by omitting major areas of legislative work. Nevertheless, the flurry of activity in Washington this Spring is paying off, with many new allies, contacts, and coalition partners joining East Timor's side.
This article summarizes some of the major areas of work. As always, grassroots support around the country is the engine that drives East Timor work in the Capitol.
Mr. Ramos-Horta Goes to Washington
NPR's All Things Considered, the Derrick McGinty Show, the Voice of America and the Washington Post all covered the Nobel Peace Laureate's visit. The Post headlined Thomas Lippman's article, "No White House Meeting for East Timor Advocate" (5-28-97), which quotes an administration official suggesting that Ramos-Horta has not been "sufficiently sanitized by the Nobel Prize" to rate a White House meeting, In New York later that week, Ramos-Horta did meet with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, the first cabinet-level official to see him, and Richard Holbrooke, a close Clinton advisor just appointed special representative for Cyprus. Clinton, Gore, and Albright remain evasive, although Al Gore's office has indicated they will reconsider a meeting during Ramos-Horta's next visit. Congressman José Serrano (D-NY) is circulating a letter among his House colleagues, asking President Clinton to meet with Ramos-Horta. Add your voice to the White House comment line (202-456-1111, fax:202-456-2461) to help make this happen!
Travails of the Kennedy Bill
It emerged from the International Relations Committee as part of the State Department and Foreign Aid Authorization Bill (H.R. 1486). Although substantially weaker than the original Kennedy Bill, the provision in the Authorization Bill (sponsored by Howard Berman (D-CA)) would make "small arms sales, crowd control equipment, armored personnel carriers, and such items that can commonly be used in the direct violation of human rights," as well as military assistance (excluding E-IMET), contingent upon specific improvements in human rights in both Indonesia and East Timor. The conditions pertaining to East Timor include the release of political prisoners, the withdrawal of Indonesian troops, and the establishment of a three-way dialogue among Indonesia, Portugal and East Timorese leadership under UN auspices.
Congress is nothing if not unpredictable, and this massive bill was divided (State and Foreign Aid separated) before coming to the House floor in early June. The Indonesia provision is now part of the Foreign Aid Bill, which many believe will never pass the House of Representatives. As we go to press, Patrick Kennedy has also introduced language similar to the Berman Provision as an amendment to the State Bill; this will reach the floor on June 10. This does not preclude the Berman Provision in the Foreign Aid Bill (if it reaches the floor), but would rather reinforce it.
The IMET question became at least temporarily moot, however, when Indonesia surprised many by rejecting it (see page 1). Angered by congressional controversy over human rights in East Timor, Suharto wrote President Clinton, refusing E-IMET and the F-16 sale. As Foreign Minister Ali Alatas stated in a June 6 press conference, "The government of Indonesia has decided to forego its participation in the Expanded International Military Education and Training (E-IMET) program offered by the United States government as well as its planned purchase of nine F-16 planes from the United States government."
The bill, with 33 co-sponsors, has been mired in Doug Bereuter's (R-NE) Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. ETAN has asked full Committee Chair Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) to move this resolution to the full committee where it will not be stuck under Bereuter's pro-Indonesian heels.
Rep. Bereuter, in congressional discussions and articles in his hometown newspaper (Lincoln Journal-Star, April 25), is offensively defensive of Indonesia. He maintains his support for E-IMET because "I am willing to oppose foolish-but-feel-good lobbying campaigns pushed by certain ethnic groups or religious denominations even if I find myself on the losing side." In another late-breaking development, Tony Hall has reintroduced the text of H.Res. 45 as an amendment to the State Department Authorization Bill. If could be accepted en bloc; if it appears separately, it will likely face Bereuter's fierce opposition.
Code of Conduct
Representatives protest Indonesian repression
Also in the House, we expect something to emerge from the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of Appropriations, to cut military assistance, but otherwise similar to the Authorization Bill language banning small arms and some other U.S. weaponry sold to Indonesia. Please call, write or fax your Representative (especially if they're on the Appropriations Committee), and encourage them to support whatever ban on weapons sales and military assistance to Indonesia is introduced as part of the Appropriations Bill.
ETAN lobby days
In the Senate
Also in the Senate (a little further down the road), a similar amendment (which would parallel what emerges in the House Foreign Ops Subcommittee) will likely be introduced in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Ask your Senators, especially those on the committee, to be strong and firm on restrictions on weapons sales and military assistance to Indonesia. If they're already friendly to East Timor, encourage their leadership on the issue. If they're uncommitted, offer them recent information documenting ongoing, severe human rights abuses around the Indonesian election period.
Stanley Roth belatedly nominated
The controversy over the Roth nomination delayed it for five months, leaving the position vacant. But in May, Secretary Albright submitted his name for Senate confirmation for this position. Although some Senators will raise serious questions about his record, he could be confirmed. Nevertheless, the delay and opposition to his nomination has put him on notice that he must prove that the Administration's Indonesia policy has not been bought for a few campaign contributions. Senate confirmation hearings for various assistant secretaries could take place in early July. There's still time to encourage your Senators to debate Stanley Roth's qualifications and human rights record.
During Peace Action's "Spring Cleaning" lobby days in mid-March, U.S. arms sales to Indonesia were a central focus. In addition to helping with training and lobbying, ETAN activists joined Peace Action for the largest demonstration to date at the Indonesian Embassy. Thirty-one people were arrested for a nonviolent "die in" on the Embassy driveway, bearing crosses with the names of East Timorese killed in the Santa Cruz massacre. Art Laffin, Anne Tucker and Reba Mathern, the only ones to refuse to pay a $50 fine, went to court on June 4. Their trespass charges were dismissed on June 4, though the government reserved the option to reactivate the charges later.
Last but not least, I'm pleased to report that ETAN doesn't let President Clinton off the hook as easily as the Washington Post. On May 25, Matthew Jardine and I gathered local ETAN activists to inaugurate a new banner: "Mr. President: U.S. Policy on East Timor is Sinful" at the Foundry Methodist Church service, which was attended by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. When the police and secret service cleared the roads around the church, amazing acoustics were established and a number of strong voices reached and admonished the president for his shameful support of U.S. military assistance to Indonesia and inaction on behalf of the East Timorese right to self-determination. Let's keep up the direct action!