I would be more than happy to share my reflections on ETAN. My first
knowledge of East Timor (and hence ETAN) came as a result of listening
to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! broadcast about the Santa Cruz Massacre
of 1991. I had never heard of East Timor and of course, had no idea
where it was. In the ensuing years leading up to East Timor's 1999
referendum for independence, I would hear an occasional mention of East
Timor also on Democracy Now!.
It was the violence of the 1999 referendum which really caused me to
become particularly curious about East Timor. Hearing reports of this
violence now being covered in mainstream media, I had to know exactly
what it was the people of East Timor had done to deserve such brutal
treatment. It wasn't before long that I found out that this brutal
treatment in reality had been a "genocide", having taken place over the
24 year period of the Indonesian occupation. Of course, I was appalled
||It was during this
time that I became familiar with the work that the East Timor
Action Network was doing in bringing attention to the
American public about not just what the Indonesian government
was doing in East Timor but, how the United States was
facilitating Indonesia's suppression of the people of East Timor
by arming and training Indonesia's security forces, both the
military and police.
I immediately began to try to find out as much as I could about the
history of East Timor and it's people. News reports suggested an element
of racism involved. Being a person of African descent, I was
particularly sensitive to this aspect of these reports.
It was during this time that I became familiar with the work that the
East Timor Action Network (now East Timor and Indonesia Action
Network) was doing in bringing attention to the American public about
not just what the Indonesian government was doing in East Timor but, how
the United States was facilitating Indonesia's suppression of the people
of East Timor by arming and training Indonesia's security forces, both
the military and police.
It was also during this time that I began reading about Indonesia's
involvement in West Papua. After learning about this history, I was
equally outraged and felt that like ETAN and it's campaign to raise
awareness about East Timor, I had to do something to try to raise
awareness about what Indonesia was doing in West Papua. With support
from friends here in Los Angeles, I eventually became involved in the
West Papua Solidarity Movement.
My involvement in the West Papua Solidarity Movement eventually led me
to the doors of ETAN when I was invited to participate in it's "Lobby
Days". ETAN had began to advocate on behalf of the people of West Papua
and like it's advocacy for East Timor, was lobbying members of Congress
to support legislation minimizing the US military support of the
Indonesian government. With it's impressive array of human rights
activists, scholars and former diplomats, all devoted to making the
world aware of Indonesia's gross human rights record in areas such as
East Timor, Aceh, the Moluccas Islands and West Papua on the one hand,
and pressuring the US government to stop facilitating it on the other, I
was really encouraged by what I saw.
The people of West Papua like the people of East Timor, Aceh and others
who have suffered at the hands of the Indonesian military, also have
much to be encouraged about in knowing that ETAN is still here
advocating and 'fighting" on their behalf.
I should mention before I sign off, that many of the activists I met
while working with ETAN were from East Timor, West Papua, Aceh and the
Moluccas. Those were pretty heady days for me.
HAPPY 20TH ANNIVERSARY ETAN!
Pan-African Coalition for the Liberation of West Papua
West Papua Action Network North America
Read additional reflections on ETAN's