|Subject: Madison Passes Sister City Ties
[Note: Shortly after 7 pm Tuesday, Feb. 20, the Madison, WI city council UNANIMOUSLY passed a resolution to make Ainaro, East Timor an official sister city of Madison. For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org]
see below for East Timor Seeks Sister City Ties(Feb. 20, 2001)
Capital Times on Passage of Resolution (Feb. 21, 2001)
EDITORIAL; WISCONSIN DIARY; Pg. 12A
Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Madison's international family continues to grow as it adds new "sisters" with a frequency rare among American cities. Madison's list of official sister cities has grown over the years to include communities from Germany to El Salvador. Madison's newest sister is Ainaro, located in a mountainous region of the southeast Asian island nation of East Timor.
For the better part of two decades, Madison activists were in the forefront of an international campaign to free East Timor from Indonesia. The East Timor Action Network drew initial support from Madisonians. U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, has long been the Senate's most outspoken advocate for the rights of the East Timorese.
Madisonians were in East Timor in 1999, when Indonesian forces finally withdrew from the country. And they were among the first to report on the final atrocities committed by the Indonesians -- including the forced expulsion of three-quarters of the East Timorese from their homes, the majority of which were then destroyed.
It was a desire to help Ainaro rebuild that motivated Madison activists such as Diane Farsetta and Natercia Godhino-Adams to encourage the development of a sister-city relationship.
The City Council agreed Tuesday to affirm a relationship with roots going back a quarter century. Now comes the hard part, as Farsetta and others begin to scrape together the resources and tools that will be Madison's contribution to the reconstruction of Ainaro.
Capital Times (Madison, WI)
In other matters the council:
*Voted to establish a sister city alliance with Ainaro, East Timor, the city's 10th sister city alliance.
Ald. Barbara Vedder, District 2, sponsored the measure, saying it maintains Madison's reputation of coming to the aid of oppressed and troubled communities.
The vote followed chilling descriptions of East Timor's troubles since the 1999 referendum that established the region's independence from Indonesia.
"Seventy percent of East Timor's homes, shops, public buildings and infrastructure were destroyed in 1999," said Natercia Godinho-Adams, a native of East Timor who is now a student in Toledo, Ohio. "Madison would bring consistency and commitment to Ainaro."
And Elliot Stokes, an activist with the East Timor Action Network, said that U.S. policy aided Indonesia's repressive policies against East Timor starting in 1974.
"What's important here is you're dealing with a Third World country at the bottom of the world's economic status," he said.
Wisconsin lawmakers U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin wrote letters to the City Council supporting the sister city status, which will encourage a cultural exchange between the two cities.
Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Natercia Godhino-Adams has heard the stories of atrocities in East Timor. She has seen the girls and women weep over tales of rape by the Indonesian army. She has watched men recount killings with faces wiped free of emotion.
The East Timorese have much healing to do, said Godhino-Adams, and much rebuilding from the widespread destruction that followed a 1999 vote for independence from the ruling Indonesians. They can use some help.
That is why Godhino-Adams, a Timorese native now living in Ohio, will ask the Madison City Council tonight to approve a resolution naming Ainaro, East Timor, as Madison's 10th sister city.
The island nation in the Malay Archipelago in the Indian Ocean was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, after Portugal relinquished its colony.
Sponsored by Mayor Sue Bauman and 10 City Council members, the sister city resolution is almost assured of success.
The action will lend a higher profile and credibility to efforts to raise awareness of the situation in East Timor and funds to assist its people, said Diane Farsetta, a member of the East Timor Action Network.
"The people of Ainaro are asking for a sister city relationship," said Farsetta. "It's a place in great need, where people have a strong vision of their future."
Ainaro, a small farming town in the mountains in southwest East Timor, was hit hard by attacks from pro-Indonesian forces, said Farsetta. Some reports have said up to 95 percent of the city's buildings, including its hospital and schools, were destroyed.
Two members of the Madison chapter of the East Timor Action Network have visited Ainaro, establishing contacts, but an initial project under the sister city banner has not yet been decided on.
Immediate possibilities include aid in rebuilding projects or medical clinics, said Farsetta. Another option would be to help the Timorese women develop a fair-trade exchange for their "tais," or traditional weavings, she said.
Such a project would generate income for the women, a basic means of empowerment, said Farsetta.
Many aid organizations are working in the country, which is under a transitional government run by the United Nations. Election of a new government is slated for later this year.
"Our unique role is (to form) an ongoing relationship," said Farsetta.
Such continuing relationships are the essence of the sister city program.
Godhino-Adams agreed that a long-term commitment is essential to making real progress in East Timor.
A psychiatric nurse, Godhino-Adams spent eight weeks in East Timor last summer as part of a recovery counseling program.
On her return to the country she left as a child, she said she was greeted with a contradiction. "It's such a beautiful island, the people are so happy, but underneath is the very sad and traumatic experience in their lives," Godhino-Adams said.
Increases in alcohol abuse and domestic violence have followed the ousting of the pro-Indonesian government, with its Muslim restrictions on alcohol, as cheap liquor became readily available in a society where wife beating traditionally has been accepted.
Those most deeply affected by the war suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in a culture with little understanding of mental illness.
"But there is a growing understanding that some people are suffering because of what they experienced during the war," Godhino-Adams said.
She credits the Timorese resilience to the years of resistance against the Indonesians. "They have been fighting for 25 years for their freedom," she said. "Now they don't have to live in fear and are displaying a desire to rebuild their nation."
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