|Subject: letter - Rep. P. Kennedy
articulate defender of E. Timor
The Providence Journal (Rhode Island)
May 12, 2006 Friday All Editions
LETTERS - Kennedy articulate defender of E. Timor
Constituents will have to consider whether Congressman Patrick Kennedy's health problems will interfere with his work.
I would like to offer my own testimony. For almost 27 years, I worked in the U.S. Foreign Service, retiring in 2001. In 1996, while I was the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, I was tapped to escort Mr. Kennedy to East Timor.
The congressman had long been an articulate critic of the Suharto dictatorship that had ruled Indonesia for three decades. His critique, accurate but unwelcome at the embassy, which had a too cozy relationship with the dictator, was particularly tough with regard to the Indonesian military's abuse of human rights in East Timor, a tiny land that Indonesia invaded in 1975 and ruled ruthlessly.
My four-day visit to East Timor with Congressman Kennedy was one of the most inspiring moments in my career. The congressman knew his facts, asked tough questions, and showed courage in the face of intimidation by Indonesian officials. His meeting with Bishop Belo -- whom he accompanied into East Timor as the bishop was returning from Oslo, where he had received the Nobel Peace Prize -- was extraordinary. The congressman was eloquent, quoting from memory extensively from the writings of his uncles John and Robert, and relating his own deep commitment to human rights.
Following my retirement, I have worked pro bono on human-rights issues, primarily lobbying in the Congress. Congressman Kennedy has been one of the most stalwart human-rights advocates in Congress. He gets it and he cares. He is a hero, not only to U.S. human-rights advocates, but also to many victims of abuses whom we have brought to his office.
I wish the congressman a speedy and complete recovery - and am confident that he will continue to be the fine congressman I have known him to be.