Vol. 5, No. 2
|Militia Attack Humanitarian Team in Liquiça||U.S. "Deeply Disturbed" by Militia Attacks on Civilians
by Lynn Fredriksson, DC Representative
The Clinton administration has finally arrived at a consistent and unified position on East Timor. U.S. Ambassador Stapleton Roy, Assistant Secretaries of State Harold Koh and Stanley Roth, National Security Council officials and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright all publicly support fair application of the New York Accords which call for a vote in East Timor in August. They condemn Indonesian military-supported paramilitary terror against the East Timorese people and hold the Indonesian military and government responsible for security in East Timor, which must improve dramatically if a free and fair vote is to be held in August. They call for redeployment of Indonesian troops, open access to East Timor and the release of Xanana Gusmão.
Stronger and stronger statements are made more and more frequently. This trend intensified after April massacres in Liquiça, and in Dili at resistance leader Manuel Carrascalão's home. More condemnation followed recent paramilitary attacks on UN outposts. The writing on the wall is unmistakable, and it's splattered in blood: The U.S. government can safely hedge no longer.
So why hasn't this shift in position affected the Indonesian government, the Indonesian military and the paramilitaries, or the horrendous conditions in East Timor?
The problem is a continuing reluctance to utilize the significant influence the U.S. government wields over Indonesian President Habibie and General Wiranto -- especially through remaining U.S. military assistance, and billions of dollars of U.S. and multilateral assistance to Indonesia. All such economic aid should be halted immediately and only reinstated -- at the very least -- after the Indonesian government disarms those committing the violence in East Timor and helps the UN to create a peaceful environment in which East Timorse can safely voice their will at the ballot box.
While there is no doubt that "rogue elements" in the Pentagon and elsewhere favor continued unconditional U.S. assistance to the Indonesian military regardless of slaughtered civilians, most U.S. Congresspeople oppose such immoral, short-sighted policies. On June 22, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed an amendment to the State Department Authorization bill (based on Senate Resolution 96) urging a tougher U.S. policy toward Indonesia in support of conditions necessary for the vote in East Timor. On June 30, the Senate voted 98-0 to reinforce its own action by approving a similar amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The actions required in these amendments are directed not only at the State Department, but at the Departments of Defense and Treasury as well. At press time, an amendment to the State Department Authorization bill, based on the recent Senate amendments and H.Con.Res. 97, is scheduled for a vote. [Patrick Kennedy's (D-RI) H.Con.Res. 97 also calls for a freeze of U.S. military assistance and arms transfers to Indonesia until Jakarta has assisted in the successful disbanding of its paramilitaries and has substantially reduced its own troop presence in East Timor.]
On July 15, Congressman Bill Luther (D-MN) introduced H. Res. 251, expessing concern over recent paramilitary attacks on the UN, and calling on the Indonesian government to secure the environment for a peaceful vote.
Among a steady stream of letters to U.S. and Indonesian officials, one initiated by Rep. Tony Hall (D-OH) to President Clinton is currently circulating for House signatures. It calls on the administration to do "everything in its power to convince Jakarta to call off the paramilitaries."
In early May, at a press conference with Francisco de Jesus da Costa, a survivor of the Liquiça massacre, Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced pending resolutions condemning state terror in East Timor. The same week, Franciso, Vicente Soares Faria, Manuel dos Martires, Indonesian human rights activist Aryati, and Bishop Belo's biographer Arnold Kohen, testifed before both the Human Rights and Progressive Caucuses, and the Human Rights Subcommittee to draw further attention to the brutal killing and disappearances of hundreds in the weeks leading up to the UN agreement. ETAN has published a pamphlet entitled "Paramilitary Violence in East Timor" with testimony from these individuals. It is available for one dollar from ETAN.
Their testimony, coupled with earlier Washington visits of East Timorese activists Jose Ramos-Horta, João Carrascalão, Domingos Savio, Ezequiel de Olivera, and Luciano da Conceicao, among others, and the efforts of hundreds of activist lobbyists throughout the U.S., have moved Washington policy this year. Chris Smith (R-NJ) created a focus for this pressure by reintroducing a bill (H.R.1063), based on one initiated by Nita Lowey (D-NY) last year, to close loopholes that have allowed the Pentagon to continue training Indonesian troops despite congressional intent.
Though attached to an extremely problematic bill (the Emergency Appropriations that funded the U.S. war on Yugoslavia), Congress approved $6.5 million to support the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor. The State Department subsequently provided an additional $3.5 million. Years of education and lobbying created the environment in which this funding was expeditiously approved.
This year the State Department and other administration offices have received countless faxes, letters and phone calls demanding U.S. action to force the Indonesian government to disarm the paramilitaries, withdraw troops from East Timor, release Xanana Gusmão and other political prisoners, open access to East Timor, and expand the UN mission. These messages have been heard.
We must now urge more specific demands about ending U.S. military and financial assistance to Jakarta. The World Bank has already suspended Social Safety Net funds to Indonesia until it meets ten economic and human rights related conditions. Because one of these conditions pertains specifically to East Timor, the U.S. should continue suspending these funds until after the August ballot in East Timor. And it is high time for a statement from President Clinton.
Activists must continue to increase support for H.R. 1063 to guarantee it comes to a Congressional vote by November. We need more co-sponsors (especially Republicans) as well as commitments from those willing to vote. We must maintain the ban on IMET training and the prohibition on use of U.S. weapons in East Timor within the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. We must maintain the "Leahy Amendment", which prohibits U.S. training to foreign units committing human rights abuses, in the Defense Appropriations bill. And we must work to increase support for H.Con.Res. 97. Finally, Representatives and Senators should be encouraged to join a congressional delegation that will monitor the vote in East Timor.
Politicians in Washington have traveled a good distance for East Timor. It is critical that they walk the final miles. Without serious pressure from Washington the Indonesian government is unlikely to stop the pre-vote violence in East Timor. Without your continued activism the U.S. government is unlikely to take these final steps. Please keep up the pressure for the East Timorese people, and... A luta continua!