Subject: Democracy Now Transcript - East Timorese Aderito Soares and ETAN's Karen Orenstein

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Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now Transcript 
July 10, 2000

Amy: You're listening to Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now. I'm Amy Goodman. Scores of East Timorese demonstrated outside the entrance of the US mission in Dili, East Timor last week. Participants sang and lit candles along the street in front of the American Diplomatic Mission in memory of the more than 200,000 East Timorese who died as a result of the Indonesian occupation. The protesters said they wanted to recall the supporting role the US Government played in what many observers have classified as a genocide in East Timor and to demand justice and accountability for US actions. 

The demonstrators distributed pamphlets to all of those going into the Independence Day party at the mission. The protest took place July 4. The pamphlets read, "Honoring the 224th anniversary of American independence, 1776-2000 by remembering 24 years of American support for Indonesia's crimes in East Timor." They detailed the complicity of the United States in Indonesia's illegal occupation, and made five demands of Washington: 

1. A release of all US Government documents relating to East Timor. 
2. The establishment of an independent commission in the United States to investigate the nature and extent of US complicity with Indonesia's crimes in Timor. 
3. They demanded an apology for the US role. 
4 Reparations from the US to the people of East Timor. And finally, active US support for an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999. 

This weekend I got the chance to speak with Aderito Soares, who is a grassroots activist in East Timor, and asked him to elaborate on the demands. Also on the line was Karen Orenstein, of the East Timor Action Network of Washington. Aderito Suarez.

Aderito: The action actually is the first action after the referendum. We tried to raise the issue to demand that East Timorese people already demand during these 24 years an international tribunal. First we start to demand to the US government to release the documents related to East Timor from '74-1999. Of course this is very important how to find out what's going on before, in appropriation for instance, prepare to invade East Timor. There is some relation how US back-up, how US support, help Indonesian government Indonesian military to invade East Timor. This is very important how to find out all these documents completely show to the people of East Timor, and of course to show the world, how US support and back-up in re the invasion of East Timor. The second of course, the demand is to create an independent commission composed of the academic help to investigate the human rights violations that took place during these 24 years with the support of the US government, US foreign policy to Indonesian government, and of course, of course we need, the US Government needs to publicly apologize to the East Timorese people what they have done during these 24 years helping and support Indonesian military during the invasion here. And try to discuss with the Timorese about reparation to the East Timorese people and of course in the end of all these is to establish an international tribunal. Of course we see that now UN still hope that Indonesians can and Indonesians can brings the perpetrators to the court, to the justice. We are very, we lack of trust to Indonesian tribunal, to the Indonesian court, and I think not only are we the Timorese that lack of trust for Indonesian tribunal, like Indonesian experts, or Indonesian lawyers or Indonesian activists they also don't believe, they don't trust their own judicial system. So how can we perceive this, if you see that UN Commission that came to East Timor in September of last year, they recommend to security council to set up this tribunal, at the same time you see here UNTAET try to set up a, what they call, a panel of judges to bring informational expert, informational judge to sit together with national judge, with Timorese judge. But just only to proceed case those small fish here, not big fish. The time for this is just to start from January to September of last year. The question is how about violation that took place from 1975-1999. that is the question.

Amy: I'm going to bring now Karen Orenstein into the conversation. She is a Washington Representative of the East Timor Action Network and just recently went to West and East Timor. Welcome to Democracy Now, Karen.

Karen: Thank you, Amy.

Amy: Karen, can you lay out what you're doing here in the United States about the situation in East Timor? Of course, with the Indonesian military now forced out, the people of Timor are building their own future. What kind of legislation is going on right now here?

Karen: Well there are a number of issues going on in Congress. In terms of East Timor there's two pieces of legislation, the East Timor Security and Repatriation Act of 2000, which would delay reengagement with Indonesian military, until the territorial integrity is respected , until refugees are allowed to return home safely and until there is complete cooperation with the UN administration in East Timor. What's more troubling right now is what's going on with the refugees. If you'll allow me to go into that a little bit and that effects what's going on in terms of Congress. As you know, the referendum occurred over 10 months ago and still militias are in control of the camps in West Timor, where more than 100,000 East Timorese refugees remain. Militia incursions into East Timor are on the increase and just two weeks ago there were grenades and ammunition shot at UN peacekeepers. In spite of this right now our Congress, excuse me, not our Congress, the US administration is trying to start a planned phase of reengagement with the Indonesian military, which would send exactly the wrong political message to ....

Amy: Sorry, go ahead.

Karen: Which would send exactly the wrong political message to the Indonesian military of legitimacy.

Amy: Explain the situation in West Timor. How people ended up there, how East Timorese ended up in Indonesia, because West Timor is Indonesia.

Karen: Sure, At the height of violence following the announcement of the results last September over 250,000 East Timorese were forced, mostly at gunpoint, onto planes, ships and trucks to go be taken into Indonesia, mostly in West Timor which borders East Timor, but also throughout the Archipelago. Along with them were the militia leaders who forced them to go and this is all organized by the Indonesian military. Right now the militia leaders are still in clear control of the camps, in spite of pledges by the Indonesian government to disarm and disband the militias months ago, none of that has happened, nor has a single militia leader been arrested for atrocities committed in East Timor. As part of a Congressional staff delegation in which I participated at the end of April, we actually had a meeting with a militia leader who is accused of raping and killing a number of people, and these are the sort of people who are walking around. There are continuous reports of training by the Indonesian military of militias and they have access to modern weapons, and this has continued now for 10 months.

Amy: And where does the Clinton administration stand on the issue of supporting the Indonesian military and West Timor?

Karen: Well, in September there was a suspension of military ties between Indonesia and the US, and that suspension has been written into law, dependent on certain conditions such as the return of refugees, the disbanding of the militias , the bringing to account those military leaders and militia leaders responsible for the violence in East Timor,, these conditions are still in law, the problem is that some in the Clinton Administration are trying to whittle away the ban. There is right now for the end of July planned a joint military exercise between the US and Indonesian marines, navy and coast guard. Why they are doing this now is a question. Things in the camps in West Timor are getting worse, the militia incursions into East Timor are also increasing. In addition, within Indonesia itself, things seem to be falling apart, hundreds of people have died in the last few weeks in the Moluccas Islands, there is East Timor style militias in West Papua, there are increasing military sweeps in Aceh. Things aren't getting better, they're getting worse and this is exactly the wrong time to start up any sort of military ties with the Indonesian military.

Amy: So why does the Clinton Administration want to? Is it just the standard supporting US arms manufacturers?

Karen: I think so. It's always been the view of the Pentagon to keep a connection to military ties. We don't want to appear anti-military. They believe, they have a line that the Marines, the Air Force and the navy are somehow better than the Army, so that they would want to engage with the Marines, Navy and Air Force. But this is dubious, at best, within East Timor itself, Marines in September handed out weapons to militias, they took people at gunpoint onto Navy ships and air force airplanes, which took East Timorese to other islands in Indonesia. So it's an artificial distinction and it's opposed, this reengagement is opposed, by Indonesian civil society leaders and human rights leaders. For them, the key point of leverage for reform has been our military suspension, and to go back on that now could not only threaten to stop any reforms that have happened, but they could also reverse them.

Amy: Who are you recommending that people call?

Karen: They should call their senators and their representatives, first of all to get them to co-sponsor HR4357 or S2621, which are the East Timor Repatriation and Security Act of 2000. And they should also just voice their opinion that now is not the time to support the Indonesian military in any way, its time to only support the Indonesian civil society, the government and NGOs, and they could call 202-224-3121, that's the Congressional hotline.

Amy: I wanted to bring Aderito Soares back into the conversation, who is on the phone with us from Dili, East Timor. Its quite remarkable now, this different East Timor, not occupied by Indonesia anymore, but Timor after the referendum was raised to the ground by the Indonesian military and militias. Many of the buildings burnt as people were driven out of their homes. What is the state of East Timor today?

Aderito: First of all, I think I'll say that this is a very optimistic society. As you say it, we started from scratch after the military burned down everything and then we started from zero. Of course at the same time you are facing all of the other big giants. Before we faced the Indonesian military as our enemy, but now starting by facing the other enemies. Of course you have, we have UNTAET here , but once you talk about UNTAET and then just take an example of the judicial system.

Amy: Now when you say UNTAET you mean the United Nations Administration?

Aderito: Yes, it's too slow in setting up the justice system here. Except, it seems last year they set up the tribunal, have the judge, but we are still waiting for when we start the process of justice. At the same time the people are demanding the International Tribunal, but it seems that UNTAET tried to make easy how to answer the demands of the people by setting up the panel of judges. As I explained to you, they are going to bring the international judge, and then combined with national just to prosecute the militias, the small fish, the small fish, while the big fish are in Indonesia. How to bring them to the justice, to the court, that is the question. Of course, there is another factor, we are trying to start everything from the beginning, but I think we are very committed to starting a good system, to create an independent, a real independent East Timor in the future, but of course it is not something easy. We need to work harder than before.

Amy: Is the United Nations including Timorese in building your country?

Aderito: Yes that is a very good question. UNTAET used to say that they try to give chance to Timorese to participate in the process, but in reality, I would say that this kind of lip service, talking about the participation of the Timorese in the process. Why? I said, it is kind of lip service because you know just an example of people in the rural area, they don't know even what's going on in the nation, in Dili, that's the lack of information to the people. That's just an example of how they disseminate, the slow dissemination of information to the people, people in the rural areas. They even don't know what's going on in Dili, that's the problem of participation of the people. How people can participate if they have no information on this whole process?

Amy: What can people in the United States do? There has long been a solidarity movement in this country around East Timor, especially since the '91 massacre in which soldiers with US weapons gunned down more than 250,000 East Timorese. Today, what can people do?

Aderito: Yes, that's very important ways. We need to keep the national and international solidarity for East Timor. I think that should be all of our mission as a people, how to help the Timorese people in setting up this country. I think there is another agenda, of course. We need kind of international solidarity talking about volunteers to work here, not only the entire people, but how to bring, how to build the people to people relation in the picture. I think that should be our commitment at an international level for the Timorese.

Amy: Aerito Soares, speaking to us from Dili, East Timor as the country tries to rebuild itself after the Indonesian occupation and the vote for independence that took place that this past August. We are also speaking with Karen Orenstein, of East Timor Action Network in Washington. The number there: 202-544-6911. The website: That does it for now.

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