|Subject: CapTimes: U.S. must not forget E
Capital Times (Madison, WI) September 5, 2001 Wednesday, ALL Editions
EDITORIAL; Pg. 9A
AMERICA MUST NOT FORGET EAST TIMOR MASSACRES DIANE FARSETTA
Editor's note: For the better part of two decades, Madison activists
have been in the forefront of an international campaign to free the
Southeast Asian island nation of East Timor from Indonesia. The East Timor
Action Network drew initial support from Madisonians. U.S. Sen. Russ
Feingold, D-Wis., has long been the Senate's most outspoken advocate for
the rights of the East Timorese. Madison's newest sister city is Ainaro,
located in a mountainous region of East Timor.
Check out these Web sites: the East Timor Action Network/US:
www.etan.org; and Madison-East Timor projects: www.aideasttimor.org.
Thursday marks two dark anniversaries for East Timor -- an Indonesian
military-led massacre in 1999, and the murder of three United Nations
refugee workers by military-backed militias in 2000. With the Bush
administration currently pushing to renew ties with the repressive,
unrepentant Indonesian military, it is imperative that U.S. citizens know
-- and act on -- this history.
As a United Nations-accredited observer of 1999's referendum on
independence in East Timor, I lived near the Nossa Senhora de Fatima
Catholic Church in the town of Suai. After 24 years of illegal Indonesian
military occupation, East Timorese people I talked with were determined to
vote, in spite of an ongoing campaign of intimidation waged by the
Indonesian military and their militia proxies.
Three days before the referendum, I attended a peaceful, joyous
pro-independence rally that ended with militiamen accosting those at the
rally, screaming "blood will run in the streets." Even then,
hundreds of people were living in Suai's churchyard, searching for
sanctuary from the wrath of the militias and their military sponsors.
Concerned for the safety of these refugees, I and other observers stayed
near the churchyard into the night.
Our fears of an attack on the churchyard were realized several days
later. By that time, the escalating violence and targeting of foreigners
had forced me and virtually all other observers to leave East Timor.
Subsequent investigations revealed that the Indonesian army and police,
together with local militias, entered Suai's churchyard the afternoon of
Sept. 6. The attack was led by 1st Lt. Sugito of the Indonesian Army and
retired Indonesian Army Col. Herman Sedyono, the local administrative
head. Witnesses heard Sugito and Sedyono say all priests, men, and women
would be killed. Militiaman Igidio Manek shot one of Suai's Catholic
priests, the widely respected and charismatic Father Hilario, and trod on
his body. Manek later abducted a 15-year-old East Timorese girl, Juliana
dos Santos (after killing her brother), taking her as a "war
prize" and sex slave. Militia and military killed about 200 people.
During the massacre, police and soldiers stationed outside the churchyard
shot those attempting to escape.
The Suai massacre was, tragically, only one incident in a month when
more than 2,000 people were killed, hundreds of women and girls were
raped, 75 percent of all buildings were destroyed, and some 300,000 people
were forced, often at gunpoint, across the border into Indonesian West
It was exactly one year after the Suai massacre -- on Sept. 6, 2000 --
when militias hacked to death and set on fire three United Nations
international staff working with East Timorese refugees in West Timor, as
Indonesian police stood by and did nothing. Six militiamen confessed to
the crime, but Indonesian courts gave them -- as U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan stated -- "unacceptable" sentences of just 16 to 20
months. After the verdict, one militia man announced he was "proud of
what he had done."
Why is it important U.S. citizens know this history? Crimes against
humanity are just that -- they demand universal attention and action to
end them and punish the perpetrators. Today, 100,000 East Timorese
continue to languish in Indonesian military and militia-controlled refugee
camps, under deplorable conditions. No one has been held responsible for
the Suai massacre, and no military members have been tried for any of the
numerous war crimes committed in East Timor.
* The United States must pressure the Indonesian government for a just
resolution to the refugee crisis, and must actively work for an
international tribunal for East Timor (as the United Nations has called
for). It is also critical that the United States maintain an embargo on
ties with the Indonesian military. And, for our government to do this, it
needs to hear from us -- concerned, informed citizens.
EDITOR-NOTE: Diane Farsetta is East Timor Action Network field
organizer. The ETAN office is in the Social Justice Center (663-5431),
GRAPHIC: ASSOCIATED PRESS
A U.N. election worker opens a ballot box for vote counting Tuesday as
East Timorese observers look on in Dili. With half of the votes counted in
East Timor's first democratic election, the party Fretilin, which led the
country to independence, will capture the largest slice of seats in the
fledgling nation's legislature, but with a slimmer majority than party
leaders had expected.
Photo of Diane Farsetta.
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