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"We struggled for more than 24 years for independence.
We've learned the lesson
that even small people
have a voice."
-East Timorese leader Mari Alkatiri
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
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
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.
to Donate to ETAN
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.
you for your support.
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