Presented by Augusto N. Miclat, Jr. Coordinator APCET

Honorable Chairperson,

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 CNRT’s birthing – which will convene an East Timorese people’s 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 process.

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 Timor’s 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 Indonesia’s 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, Suharto’s 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.

Suharto’s replacement, his virtual adopted son and favorite crony B.J. Habibie, has already announced that his government’s 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 Habibie’s overture is to seduce a segment of the East Timorese populace in a classic divide-and-rule prank. Habibie’s 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 Indonesia’s 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 Timorese leaders.

This but re-affirms the certitude that East Timor’s freedom will not be gained at the expense of Indonesia’s. It will not piggyback on another people’s struggle. It will come, nay, be won by the East Timorese people themselves. As Indonesia’s 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 Jakarta’s Merdeka palace. It will not emanate from pressure by Western governments or multilateral agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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 Indonesia’s 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 Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor while it continues to siphon the Timor Gap of oil.

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 Suharto’s departure. Worse, they did not even say anything. All some did was to belatedly send dilapidated airplanes to evacuate their nationals.

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” club.

Last month’s 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 Timor’s 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; and

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-ism’s 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 UN’s founders agreed upon are very much pertinent and we are happy to note such consistencies and even delicious initiatives from the Secretary- General’s 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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