Subject: CONG: Pat Kennedy (D-RI) on East Timor's independence

EAST TIMOR'S INDEPENDENCE -- (House of Representatives - May 20, 2002)

[Page: H2637]

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Kennedy) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island. Mr. Speaker, this week, on the other side of the globe, the world celebrates the creation of a new democracy, the Democratic Republic of East Timor. I congratulate and honor the people of this island nation for their perseverance and for the triumph of freedom over oppression.

The effort to bring self-determination to East Timor was a dream back in 1994, when I first came to the House. But now, today, it is a reality. Since coming to Congress, I have seen how the East Timorese people have stood against tremendous odds, resisted military rule, despite the killing of one-third of the population in the 1970s and the oppression and massacres of subsequent years.

There have been many of us in Congress dedicated to the plight of the East Timorese largely because of the information we learned over years of meetings and visits with the residents of East Timor. I personally had the opportunity to go to East Timor to visit with Bishop Belo, one of the two Nobel Peace prize winners. They and others were willing to give me their stories, tell me what was going on.

In that context, Mr. Speaker, and with the work of groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, and I might add the Catholic Conference of Bishops was a tremendous help in this effort, as well as the Indonesian Human Rights Network, and, of course, East Timor Action Network, all who were instrumental, everyone should feel very proud of this effort and outcome.

Let me just conclude by saying we are at a critical time now with this new democracy. We need to give it all the support it can get so that it can establish itself and make a difference for the people of East Timor.

As we move forward, however, we cannot forget the need to continue to show our support for East Timor's sustainable development and a positive future.

The United States should work with the United Nations and its members to make sure that the job of preparing East Timor for self-rule is completed.

Enough proper expertise and funds must be provided to ensure a smooth transition in government services and to train East Timorese to fully manage their own affairs.

After decades of tremendous suffering under military occupation, we need to give generously to East Timor to ensure that children are guaranteed a quality education, adequate healthcare and shelter, and that other needs for a decent standard of living are met.

This is especially crucial in light of the recently released United Nations Development Program Report that classified East Timor as one of the twenty poorest countries in the world and the poorest in Asia.

Life expectancy in the island nation is just 57 years, and nearly half the population lives on less than fifty-five American cents ($.55) per day.

This burgeoning democracy will need our hand as we move into the Twenty First Century.

I look forward to working with my Colleagues in Congress on these issues and these challenges.

But today, we celebrate the perseverance and the spirit of the East Timorese and we celebrate the creation of democracy.

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