|Subject: National Council of Churches on East Timor
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 09:08:02 -0500
NCC Urges U.S., U.N. Pressure Against Militarization of East Timor
February 16, 1999 -- Alarmed at reports that the Indonesian military has provided arms to residents of East Timor and created para-military groups, National Council of Churches General Secretary Joan Campbell is urging the United States and United Nations to press for disarmament, lest conditions "lead to strife and violence similar to that witnessed by the international community in Somalia and Rwanda."
The Rev. Dr. Campbell addressed letters to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
"We welcome the recent announcement by the Indonesian government that they may now consider independence an option for East Timor," she wrote in letters released today (Feb. 13). "However, reports that the Indonesian military has provided arms to residents of that territory and created para-military groups are completely at odds with the framework of governance being discussed under United Nations auspices.
"We understand from reliable sources as well as via the media that the sense of insecurity and level of tension among the people of East Timor has increased and that potential for further violence is great. In order for the human rights of the people of East Timor to be preserved and protected and new arrangements for governance to be explored in a climate of calm and careful planning, we believe it is important for the international community to take immediate action.
"First, the arming of civilians by the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) must stop and the Indonesian military must withdraw from the territory in a swift but orderly fashion," Dr. Campbell wrote. "Given the record of human rights abuses by the ABRI forces, we are convinced that their continued presence will extend the suffering of the East Timorese people. Second, the United Nations should send an international monitoring force to East Timor as soon as possible to oversee the disarming of the paramilitary and the withdrawal of troops as well as to provide protection to the population against human rights abuses."
Dr. Campbell urged both Secretary General Annan and Secretary of State Albright to "consider these measures urgently" and Albright to press these concerns in bilateral discussions with the Indonesian government and in multilateral discussions with relevant parties at the United Nations."