Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: CONG: Economic Assistance for E Timor


[Page: S5429]

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, last week, the Standard Times of New Bedford, MA, published an op-ed piece by Senator KENNEDY on the situation in East Timor , in which he discussed the legislation on East Timor that he introduced with Senator CHAFEE, which is also cosponsored by myself and Senators FEINGOLD, HARKIN, KERRY, JEFFORDS, and REED. This legislation recently passed the House of Representatives as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act.

Senator KENNEDY's legislation would provide additional economic assistance for East Timor, which is struggling to overcome the violence and destruction perpetrated by Indonesian militias, with the support of the Indonesian military, after the vote for independence in August 1999. It would also provide for scholarships for East Timorese students, funding for the Peace Corps to start a program there, and other initiatives.

This legislation outlines a comprehensive approach to a new, positive relationship between the United States and East Timor , including the establishment of full diplomatic relations as soon as independence takes place.

As one who, like Senator KENNEDY, has admired the courage and determination of the East Timorese people and their capable leaders, Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos-Horta, I commend him for this legislation and ask unanimous consent that his op-ed piece be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

[From the New Bedford, MA Standard Times, May 16, 2001]

Prepare Now for the New East Timor

Two leaders of the East Timor independence movement are in Washington, D.C., this week for the first time since the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence in August 1999. Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horin spent 24 years in exile rallying support for East Timor's independence and will be foreign minister in the new government. Xanana Gusmao led the domestic opposition and will be a prominent figure in an independent East Timor . The goal of their visit is to obtain the support of the Bush Administration and Congress for their new country, and they deserve to receive it.

East Timor's road to independence has been long and violent. Portugal ruled East Timor for 550 years before pulling out in August 1975. East Timor was independent for four months before it was invaded by Indonesia in December that year. The U.N. General Assembly and Security Council strongly condemned the invasion, and never recognized Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor .

After two decades of unrest, former Indonesian President B. J. Habibie finally agreed to a referendum in January 1999. In August that year, the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Indonesia, and they did so at great personal risk. Before, during and after the vote, the Indonesian military and anti-independence militia groups killed more than a thousand people and displaced thousands more, hoping to intimidate the independence movement.

Although the militias succeeded in destroying 70 percent of East Timor's infrastructure, they failed to derail East Timor's desire for freedom.

On August 30 this year, looking to America as an example, East Timor will elect a constituent assembly to decide which form of democratic government to adopt.

It is a process that reminds us of our own Constitutional Convention and would make our founders proud. A few months after that, East Timor , which is currently governed by the United Nations, will formally declare its independence. After years of hardship, violence and death, a new democracy will take its rightful place in the world. The new nation is a great success story, but it is far from complete.

East Timor is rebuilding itself from ashes following 24 years of Indonesian rule, and it needs international assistance. It remains one of the poorest countries in Asia. The annual per capita gross national product is $340. As many as 100,000 East Timorese refugees languish in militia-controlled refugee camps in West Timor , which is still part of Indonesia and where there has been a sharply reduced international presence since militias murdered three U.N. workers last September.

In the aftermath of the violence in East Timor , the United States has provided important humanitarian aid and assistance for nation-building. But our assistance has been provided on an ad hoc basis. We have made no commitment to a longterm political investment in a newly independent East Timor , and we should do so.

We should leave no doubt in the minds of any government officials in Indonesia that the United States will recognize and support the new nation of East Timor .

To advance this objective, I, along with Sen. Chafee, have introduced legislation in the Senate to facilitate East Timor's transition to independence.

Reps. Tom Lantos and Chris Smith have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives. Its purpose is to lay the groundwork for establishing a strong relationship with East Timor , including a bilateral and multilateral assistance program. Our legislation encourages President Bush, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency and other U.S. agencies to put in place now the tools and programs necessary to create a reliable trade and investment relationship with East Timor .

It provides a three-year commitment of $30 million in U.S. assistance, including $2 million for a Peace Corps presence and $1 million for a scholarship fund for East Timorese students to study in the United States, and supports economic assistance through international financial institutions.

To help professionalize the army, it authorizes the president to provide excess defense materials and international military education and training, if the president certifies that doing so is in the interest of the United States and will help promote human rights in East Timor and the professionalization of East Timor's armed forces. Our bill also supports efforts to ensure justice and accountability for past atrocities in East Timor .

The bill specifically calls on the State Department to establish diplomatic relations with East Timor as soon as independence takes place. It took President Truman 10 minutes to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in 1948. President Bush should be able to do the same with East Timor in 2001.

The people of East Timor have chosen democracy, and the United States has a golden opportunity to help them create their new democracy. We must prepare for that day now. The great faith in the democratic process they showed by voting for independence under the barrel of a gun must not go unrewarded.

We should put U.S. governmental programs and resources in place now to prepare for the reality of an independent East Timor . If we wait until East Timor declares its independence before we do the preliminary work, we will lose vital time and do a disservice to both the United States and East Timor . We must not miss this unique opportunity to help.

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