|A New Era in East Timor||
U.S. Senate Endorses
Referendum, White House and UN Slow to Act
On September 3, the Senate tightened restrictions on weapons sales to Indonesia, requiring that any agreement to sell U.S. weapons to Indonesia "shall state that such items will not be used in East Timor." This language, in the Foreign Aid appropriations bill, increases pressure on Indonesia to comply with international law and allow self-determination for the people of East Timor.
On July 10, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 237, expressing its support for East Timorese self-determination. Calling on President Clinton to work through the UN and with U.S. allies to carry out UN directives and to support an internationally-supervised referendum, this resolution also urges the administration to "encourage the new political leadership in Indonesia to institute genuine democratic and economic reforms, including the establishment of an independent judiciary, civilian control of the military, and the release of political prisoners."
It may require as much activism to force the Clinton administration to implement S.Res.237 as it took to get it passed. House Concurrent Resolution 258 is the companion to 237. Passage of this bill would reinforce the message sent by the Senate, but without greater constituent pressure and more co-sponsors, opposition within the House leadership could block it. (See action alert and postcards enclosed.)
The U.S. State Department has called for a withdrawal of troops from East Timor and the release of all political prisoners, while Madeleine Albright expressed U.S. support for Timorese participation in the UN-sponsored talks. But Clintons ambiguous policy, (recognizing the de facto annexation of East Timor while acknowledging that no valid act of self-determination has taken place) has not formally altered. Despite the Senate resolution and letters supporting East Timorese self-determination signed by House International Relations Committee Chair Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) and over a hundred other U.S. Representatives, "strategic" and economic ties with the Habibie-Wiranto military regime in Jakarta still prevail.
In the past few months, ETAN helped to organize hearings and briefings at which Indonesian, East Timorese and U.S. activists testified to human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian military (ABRI). Torture survivor Pius Lustrilanang, CNRT (the new East Timorese resistance umbrella group) Representative to the U.S. and the UN Constâncio Pinto, Acehnese lawyer Jafar Siddiq, Indonesian dissident Aryati, journalist Allan Nairn, myself and others described experience or knowledge of ABRI atrocities.
Following the March joint press conferences held by Allan Nairn in Jakarta and ETAN in Washington to release Defense Department documents exposing the JCET training program (see previous Estafeta and the March 30 Nation magazine), the Pentagon announced the suspension of JCET in Indonesia. This was a major victory, but we need to keep pushing on this front: In August, Secretary of Defense Cohen was lobbying for the reinstatement of IMET! Support for Nita Loweys Indonesia Military Training Accountability Act (H.R. 3802), which would close the loopholes in the IMET ban, and ban JCET and related training for ABRI, is crucial.
As revelations of past abuses continue to emerge, it becomes clearer that such training has contributed to torture and murder of East Timorese, Acehnese, and West Papuans, the disappearances of pro-democracy activists, and the military-linked riot-related violence in May in Jakarta.
In April ETAN held a press conference with Representatives Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to announce McKinneys Human Rights Before Military Assistance Act (H.R. 3918) which would prohibit all military transfers from the U.S. to Indonesia. The importance of maintaining existing bans on weaponry has not diminished. This years House Foreign Operations Appropriations bill includes a renewed ban on IMET, and an investigation on JCET. The Senate, in its version, strengthened last years prohibition on U.S. weapons use in East Timor but omitted the ban on IMET (which has been legislated every year since shortly after the 1991 Dili massacre). The battle to keep this ban in place will be won or lost in conference committee, when the House and Senate reconcile their versions of the bill in the next few weeks. Activist pressure on House and Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee members will make the difference! Both should be encouraged to support the IMET ban in the House version of the Foreign Operations bill, and the bar on U.S. weapons use in East Timor adopted by the Senate.
Efforts to attach human rights conditions to appropriations for the IMF are moving forward. One amendment would require the release of Indonesian and East Timorese political prisoners, the withdrawal of troops from East Timor, and a commitment to a referendum before IMF money for Indonesia can be approved. These initiatives have promoted debate over the nature of IMF polices and the effects of "structural adjustment" requirements.
Due to the incredible events of recent months (the retirement of Suharto, the courageous mass demonstrations of Indonesians, thousands of East Timorese protesting in Jakarta and East Timor, world wide press coverage, Indonesian democracy leaders and international heads of state calling for self-determination for East Timor, exposure of ABRI atrocities, concessions forced upon Habibie, congressional successes in the U.S.) our prospects are at last hopeful. But as the late East Timorese leader Konis Santana reminded us: "It is the USA which today holds the key to the solutions to world problems. It is the USA which from the start of the invasion, since Indonesia planned to invade East Timor, has given its support to Indonesia for the invasion and occupation of East Timor." It is also the US which can facilitate or impede UN progress toward negotiating a referendum. A luta continua!