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Noam Chomsky

"We struggled for more than 24 years for independence. We've learned the lesson
even small people have a voice."
-East Timorese leader Mari Alkatiri

December 2001

Dear friend of East Timor,

For the past ten years, members and supporters of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) – you and people across the country like you – have stood with the people of East Timor during exceptional times. Woven through the many dark years of U.S.-supported Indonesian brutality and international obscurity were moments of hope and victory – moments like the awarding of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize to Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo and José Ramos-Horta and the 1999 referendum when East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence.

As someone who has been deeply involved with the issue of self-determination for East Timor since before Indonesia invaded, I can attest to the tremendous – and maybe even decisive – difference that ETAN’s wonderful work has made. Since 1991, ETAN has effectively advocated for human rights for East Timor and accountability of the U.S. government. ETAN channeled our voices of opposition to U.S. policies blocking East Timorese self-determination, and in so doing became a powerful force for change.

Today, independence for East Timor is only months away – but the need for advocacy and international support continues.

East Timor held its first democratic election last August 30, the second anniversary of its historic independence referendum. The election for a Constituent Assembly, which recently finished writing the country’s constitution, was peaceful and fair. Over 90% of voters turned out, dramatically demonstrating their strong desire to actively participate in building the country for which they have sacrificed so much.

Yet nearly ten percent of the population was not able to participate in the election. These East Timorese are held in squalid refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor. Humanitarian organizations report widespread violence against women in the camps, which are dominated by the military and its militia thugs, and the deaths of many refugee children from disease and malnutrition. This refugee crisis was created and is maintained by the actions of the Indonesian military and their militia. International pressure on Indonesia has had some results, but increased action is needed.

During the 24-year-long Indonesian military occupation, more than 200,000 people – one-third of the population – were killed. Following East Timor’s vote for independence in 1999, the Indonesian military destroyed the country in retaliation. In one month, this massive military operation murdered some 2,000 people, raped hundreds of women and girls, displaced three-quarters of the population, and demolished 75% of the country’s infrastructure. In early 2000, a UN commission called for an international tribunal to try war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor, stating a tribunal is "fundamental for the future social and political stability of East Timor" – but the country has yet to see justice. With increased international pressure, high-ranking Indonesian military and government personnel responsible can finally be tried.

These two important issues have been priorities for ETAN over the last year. They are but two reasons why our voices and our continued support of ETAN’s work are essential. Please consider giving a generous contribution to support ETAN today.

ETAN has had a major impact on U.S. foreign policy. The organization’s decade of public education, lobbying and protests helped move the U.S. government from unquestioning backing of the brutal Indonesian dictator Suharto to active support for East Timorese self-determination and strong legislation restricting U.S.-Indonesia military relations.

The enclosed annual report details ETAN’s achievements in 2001. I think you’ll agree with me they’re significant – building Congressional support for an international tribunal, working to achieve the only court ruling anywhere in the world against an Indonesian military official for 1999’s devastation, organizing a cross-country speaking tour for the head of an Indonesian humanitarian agency working with East Timorese refugees, pressuring the U.S. government to relate to East Timor in a manner supportive of Timorese priorities, and much more. These accomplishments are impressive – and they could not have happened without our support.

ETAN will continue to strengthen grassroots partnerships between East Timor and the U.S., consulting closely with a wide range of community-based organizations in East Timor. With ETAN’s help, members of the first East Timor-U.S. sister city relationship (between Ainaro and Madison, WI) will visit East Timor next spring to focus on reconstruction and women’s issues. ETAN is also working to facilitate volunteer placements of skilled people in East Timor and to begin fair trade exchanges in Timorese coffee and weavings, or tais.

I wish I could write that an international tribunal for East Timor and a resolution to the refugee crisis were imminent, but – unfortunately – that’s not the case. I wish I could write that the U.S. administration was actively pursuing genuine justice for East Timor and prioritizing the refugee crisis in its relations with Jakarta, but that’s also not the case. In fact, in the Bush administration’s eagerness to have Indonesia as an ally in its "war against terrorism," it’s working to end restrictions on military ties with the brutal Indonesian security forces.

And I sincerely wish I could write that international institutions and governments will support East Timor in the course of its becoming a self-reliant democracy through socially and environmentally sound development practices; that East Timor, after all its people have suffered, will be immune to the perils so many other developing countries have faced. But I cannot. As East Timor’s Independence Day – set for May 20, 2002 – approaches, the UN is scaling back its support for the struggling new country and East Timor is fading from the world’s attention. Without continued concerted grassroots pressure, the Pentagon and U.S. administration will erase the many advances ETAN’s work helped win. For these reasons, your voice on these issues and your financial support for ETAN remain crucial.

With your generous support, ETAN will be able to continue its vital work. Plans include a speaking tour with an East Timorese woman activist working for justice and equality; continued advocacy to maintain hard-won restrictions on U.S.-Indonesia military ties; and collaborating with the grassroots in East Timor to have Timorese voices heard by the outside powers influencing their country, including the UN, U.S., World Bank and IMF.

East Timor’s quest for genuine self-determination is unfinished – as is ETAN’s work. The need for grassroots solidarity for East Timor will not end next May 20, nor will the need for us to support ETAN’s essential advocacy efforts. You can help make sure that these founding years of East Timor’s independence realize what the East Timorese have struggled so bravely for and what they so richly deserve – a nation with a safe and free population, where real justice allows wounds from past atrocities to begin to heal, and where the people are able to build a future of their own choosing.

With many thanks for your generous support.



Noam Chomsky

How to Donate to ETAN 

To support ETAN’s advocacy work, please make your check out to “ETAN” and send it to ETAN.

Click here for a form you can print out and mail.

Donations of any size for ETAN's political and advocacy work should be made out to ETAN and are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible checks for over $50 can be made out to "AJ Muste Memorial Institute/ETAN" and will be used to support our educational work.

Thank you for your support.


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