|PETITION OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC COALITION FOR EAST TIMOR (APCET) AT THE UNITED
NATIONS COMMITTEE OF 24
Presented by Augusto N. Miclat, Jr. Coordinator APCET
On behalf of the Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET), I express my deepest
gratitude to you and the entire Committee of 24 for granting us again this chance to
present our petition this year.
We had sincerely hoped not to have come back to this august hearing as we were perhaps
naively confident that the East Timor question would have resolved itself, even if only
within this committee.
But APCET does understand that this committee has been intensely lobbied by Indonesia
and its allies to erase the East Timor debacle in the agenda. We are also privy to the
attempts of certain elements to do away with this entire committee itself to suit vested
and festering colonial agendas.
It is thus a tribute to the Honorable Chairperson and the entire Committee of 24 that
you have remained intact and the East Timor question has endured in your agenda. We salute
your tenacity in upholding the principles of the United Nations by ironically keeping
yourself relevant in the age when colonialism has become a paradox and more so for your
bravery in keeping the East Timor issue alive.
So we come before this committee anew with guarded feelings of hope. Of hope because
the East Timorese people are on the brink of the last leg of their inevitable march
towards complete self-determination. And this process has been accompanied in no small
measure by a new impetus emanating from the hallowed office of no less than the United
Nations Secretary General.
The bonding together of otherwise disparate East Timorese forces under the new umbrella
of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) epitomizes this desire. The
CNRTs birthing which will convene an East Timorese peoples congress in
December, is a milestone that clearly manifests the innate readiness of the East Timorese
people to unite amidst their sovereign and inherent right to govern themselves.
This is a clear reflection of what the populace of East Timor desire. This committee
need not be reminded of its mandate to recognize that the interests of the inhabitants of
non-self governing territories are paramount and must accept as a sacred trust the
obligation to promote to the utmost their well-being.
The resolute and consistent efforts of the Office of the UN Secretary - General in
seeking for a peaceful and just solution to the East Timor dispute has helped animate this
It has been through these efforts that East Timorese principals have met, discussed,
negotiated and finally agreed to come together and subsume their respective political
intents for the betterment of their long-suffering people and nation. Let it be noted too
that there have been initiatives of the East Timorese diaspora together with their
counterparts inside the territory and in the international community to already evolve
mechanisms for the socio-economic, political, judicial and cultural development of the
territory in a post-colonized era. The training of East Timors people especially its
youth to chart their nation have already begun in earnest.
This development likewise comes at an auspicious time.
It comes while the dawn of democracy in Indonesia is becoming more possible as the
stream of Indonesian masses continue to pound the remaining ramparts of Suharto-ism. Yes,
Suharto may have retreated backstage, but has this fundamentally changed anything? Is
Indonesia free? Is East Timor free?
Even then, the booting out of Suharto by an enraged Indonesian populace crystallizes
the illegitimate rule of Indonesias erstwhile strongman not only over his own people
but more so over another sovereign nation which he presided to brutally occupy in 1975 and
these past two decades or so. Suharto's ignominious exit not only further affirms the
illegitimate occupation of East Timor but also confirms the non-recognition of the United
Nations of this illegal annexation. Even then, Suhartos downfall is still a battle
won by the forces of democracy. We can only beseech that this proceeds to hasten the
dismantling of the unjust structures that has propped up the rejected Suharto regime.
Suhartos replacement, his virtual adopted son and favorite crony B.J. Habibie,
has already announced that his governments fundamental policy on East Timor will not
change. At most, Habibie says he is open to granting a special status of the territory
within the framework of integration with Indonesia. This he asserts is his bottom line.
The purpose of Habibies overture is to seduce a segment of the East Timorese
populace in a classic divide-and-rule prank. Habibies formula is old hat, a recycled
Suharto recipe which has repeatedly been rejected by the East Timorese.
The undisputed East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao is still languishing in prison
together with other East Timorese political prisoners. And in an apparent slip in a recent
interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation , Habibie says that he was willing to
release all prisoners including those fighting in the mountains if they agree to his
condition of integration. He regards the mountains of East Timor a prison, truthfully
reflecting this evident reality of the entire territory. Clearly, like Suharto, Habibie
seems bent not to heed the clamor from all over -- including that of UN Secretary- General
Kofi Anan -- to release East Timorese political prisoners unconditionally.
Just a couple of days ago, about two thousand young East Timorese camped outside
Indonesias parliament demanding for a referendum in East Timor. Instead of engaging
the students in dialogue, Habibie responded by sending in the troops. The world was
witness to how media captured the brutal dispersal. We have reports of a number of
seriously injured and missing. The scene of youths demanding for the right to
self-determination was reprised inside Dili itself during a meeting called by local East
This but re-affirms the certitude that East Timors freedom will not be gained at
the expense of Indonesias. It will not piggyback on another peoples struggle.
It will come, nay, be won by the East Timorese people themselves. As Indonesias
total reformasi and democracy will also be realized by the Indonesian masses themselves.
It will not come as token expressions of freedom parceled out by the current crop of
sputtering powers holed up at Jakartas Merdeka palace. It will not emanate from
pressure by Western governments or multilateral agencies like the International Monetary
Freedom will come even if the United States continue to drill Indonesian military
officers on the art of torture and counter-insurgency under its Joint Combined Exchange
Training (JCET) and International Military Education Training (IMET) programs.
Self-determination will come even if countries like the United Kingdom continues to
sell weapons of mass destruction to Indonesia while betraying the East Timorese position
in a complete turnaround in the last UN human rights commission hearings in Geneva despite
earlier promises of support. It will come even if the entire European Union allows itself
to be carted by the Blair government in their miscalculated and salivating desire for a
foothold in Indonesias market by appeasing a dictator who would be booted out a
couple of weeks afterwards by his own people.
Freedom will come even if Australia continues its de jeure recognition of
Indonesias annexation of East Timor while it continues to siphon the Timor Gap of
It will come even if the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) cling to a
warped policy of avowed non-interference in internal human rights issues within its member
nations and thus perpetuate a conspiracy of silence on the genocide in East Timor and in
the other atrocities in the region. This avowed silence was again deafening when not one
ASEAN government condemned the brutal deaths and killings of Indonesian students during
the recent riots that led to Suhartos departure. Worse, they did not even say
anything. All some did was to belatedly send dilapidated airplanes to evacuate their
Even then, governments including those of ASEAN are slowly buckling under the
collective pressure of their civil societies on the question of human rights and that of
East Timor in particular.
In Thailand, our third Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor (APCET III) was
successfully held last March despite what we deem was the low-intensity
harassment by the Thai authorities. Yet, the fact that the conference pushed through
is a testament to the possibilities of change even within the ASEAN big boys
Last months Philippine elections saw the entry of a number of progressive voices
in the incoming administration and we have been assured privately of possible shifts in
foreign policy that may finally accommodate a more pro-active stance in dealing with the
East Timor issue.
This new attitude is also being reprised elsewhere in the region and beyond, from
Australia to Japan and even within Indonesia itself. Some Indonesian civil servants have
already made tentative forays to communicate with us in the guise of dialogue to convince
us with their version of East Timors history. Nevertheless, we view and welcome this
as an opening.
This committee and the United Nations for that matter can hasten the certain coming of
freedom in East Timor.
All it has to do is implement with vigorous will its own resolutions on the subject.
This is a most opportune time to break the cycle of compromises and accommodation, of what
is perceived as realpolitik, and proceed to adopt a no-nonsense attitude in resolving the
issue. Just as it crowed to have done so in the Gulf war.
Thus we call on the United Nations and its appropriate agencies and officers to:
1. Establish a working committee of the United Nations and related agencies to prepare
the foundation for the self-determination of the people of East Timor;
2. Establish a permanent office of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights
(UNCHR) in Dili;
3. Extend the terms of reference of the All Inclusive East Timorese Dialogue (AIETD) to
allow East Timorese participants to discuss the political status of East Timor;
4. Extend the United Nations supervised Portugal-Indonesia governmental talks on East
Timor to include recognized leaders of the East Timorese people;
5. Send a team of Special Rapporteurs relating to various disciplines to East Timor to
ascertain details of the suffering and human rights abuses of the people of East Timor;
6. Direct immediate United Nations action to ascertain the extent of drought and famine
in East Timor to include and provide necessary humanitarian assistance.
Suharto-isms days are numbered. And it may as well be as the winds of freedom are
sweeping away the last tyrants from this earth.
Peoples are over and over again asserting their own destinies. And they are doing these
together. Communities, movements, civil societies from across boundaries are linking up,
exchanging, networking, inspiring, animating and accompanying each other in their
respective and common struggles for justice, progress, and social -- if not-- national
liberation. If globalization is here to stay, global people-to-people solidarity has
likewise arrived. It is the fresh spirit that will pulverize the crumbling parapets of
despots and tyrants, of avarice and greed, of indifference and irrelevance.
This, in the wake of growing cynicism among peoples and even nations especially among
the most disenfranchised, about the perceived toothless role of the United Nations in the
resolution of conflicts such as that in East Timor. Whatever its shortcomings, whatever
the perceptions, the principles and tenets the UNs founders agreed upon are very
much pertinent and we are happy to note such consistencies and even delicious initiatives
from the Secretary- Generals office and even from the General Assembly. We hope we
could say the same of the Security Council. But that is another story.
Indeed, the gales of change are mercilessly hurtling down miens of subjugation and
burying veneers of reaction.
It might as well be, as colonies - one of the last aberrations of this century - should
likewise be left alone to determine their own fate.
This committee is in an enviable position to preside over this historical honor. We
pray that you do not scuttle this chance.
Thank you very much.
30 June 1998
United Nations New York USA
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IID is also maintaining the following web sites:
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Mindanao-Palawan Peoples Network on BIMP-EAGA (MPPN) http://www.mppn.home.ml.org