|House of Rep. Steps Up Pressure for East Timor
Release July 21, 1999
U.S. House of Representatives Steps Up Pressure on Indonesia for
Peaceful East Timor Ballot;
The U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon unanimously called for a tougher U.S. policy in support of a free and fair vote in Indonesian-occupied East Timor. The House took action just days after United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan decided to begin voter registration while saying "the security situation in the territory as a whole remains serious." The East Timorese are scheduled to vote on their political status in August.
The House by voice vote and without opposition amended the State Department Authorization bill (HR 2415) to call on the Clinton administration to "immediately intensify efforts to prevail upon the Indonesian Government and military" to take steps to end anti-independence militia violence and to "allow East Timorese who have been living in exile to return to East Timor to participate in the ballot." It also urged pressure on Indonesia to grant "full access to East Timor" to human rights monitors, humanitarian organizations and the media.
"Congress has made clear that a more forceful policy is needed if East Timor's vote is to be free and fair. We expect the Clinton administration to take the necessary steps to press Indonesia to live up to its commitments," said Lynn Fredriksson of the East Timor Action Network in praising the House action.
During the debate on the amendment members of the House urged the President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of the Treasury (acting through the U.S. representatives to international financial institutions) to intensify their efforts to help ensure a free and fair vote in East Timor.
The amendment was introduced by Rep.Douglas Bereuter (R-NE), chair of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee. Rep. Bereuter has become increasingly critical of Indonesia's failure to fulfill its obligations to allow a free and fair vote in East Timor.
While debating the amendment, several members of the House spoke in favor of stronger measures by the U.S. Although the amendment incorporated much of the language of Rep. Patrick Kennedy's (D-RI) H.Con.Res. 97, several of the resolution's co-sponsors -- including Representatives Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chris Smith (R-NJ) Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Robert Weygand (D-RI), Robert Underwood (D-GU)-- spoke on the House floor in favor of a tougher policy.
The measure requires the administration to report to Congress within 21 days on its own efforts and Indonesia's actions "to ensure a stable and secure environment in East Timor."
The House pointed to credible reports by the UN of political violence, including intimidation and killing, by armed anti-independence militias against unarmed pro-independence civilians in East Timor. The House amendment states that "[t]he arming of anti-independence militias by members of the Indonesian military for the purpose of sabotaging the August 1999 ballot has resulted in hundreds of civilians killed, injured or disappeared." It also states that the inclusion of anti-independence militia members in Indonesian forces responsible for establishing security in East Timor undermines "the absolute neutrality of the military and police is essential for holding a free and fair ballot."
The House amendment echoes provisions unanimously approved last month by the Senate on its versions of the State Department Authorization and FY2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations bills.
Paramilitary militias, armed and backed by the Indonesian military, continue to threaten, attack and kill unarmed civilians and pro-independence leaders in an effort to control the outcome of the vote. Caritas, an East Timor church group, recently said they have registered a total of 85,231 refugees across East Timor. Many face starvation and disease.
On December 7, 1975, the Indonesian military brutally invaded East Timor. The following July, East Timor was illegally "integrated" into Indonesia as its "27th province." The UN and most of the world's countries do not recognize Indonesia's annexation. According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church, more than 200,000 people -- one-third of the pre-invasion population -- have been killed by the Indonesian occupation forces.
The text of the amendment follows:
PROVIDING FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 2415, THE AMERICAN EMBASSY SECURITY ACT OF 1999
24. AN AMENDMENT TO BE OFFERED BY REPRESENTATIVE BEREUTER OF NEBRASKA, OR A DESIGNEE, DEBATABLE FOR 20 MINUTES
Page 84, after line 16, add the following (and make such technical and conforming changes as may be necessary):
SEC. 703. SELF-DETERMINATION IN EAST TIMOR.
(a) FINDINGS- The Congress finds the following:
(1) On May 5, 1999, the Government of Indonesia and the Government of Portugal signed an agreement that provides for a vote on the political status of East Timor to be held on August 8, 1999, under the auspices of the United Nations.
(2) On June 22, 1999, the vote was rescheduled for August 21 or 22, 1999, because of concerns that the conditions necessary for a free and fair vote could not be established prior to August 8, 1999.
(3) On January 27, 1999, Indonesian President Habibie expressed a willingness to consider independence for East Timor if a majority of the East Timorese reject autonomy in the August 1999 vote.
(4) Under the agreement between the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal, the Government of Indonesia is responsible for ensuring that the August 1999 vote is carried out in a fair and peaceful way and in an atmosphere free of intimidation, violence, or interference.
(5) The inclusion of anti-independence militia members in Indonesian forces that are responsible for establishing security in East Timor violates this agreement because the agreement states that the absolute neutrality of the military and police is essential for holding a free and fair vote.
(6) The arming of anti-independence militias by members of the Indonesian military for the purpose of sabotaging the August 1999 ballot has resulted in hundreds of civilians killed, injured, or missing in separate attacks by these militias and these militias continue to act without restraint.
(7) The United Nations Secretary General has received credible reports of political violence, including intimidation and killing, by armed anti-independence militias against unarmed pro-independence civilians in East Timor.
(8) There have been killings of opponents of independence for East Timor, including civilians and militia members.
(9) The killings in East Timor should be fully investigated and the individuals responsible brought to justice.
(10) Access to East Timor by international human rights monitors and humanitarian organizations is limited and members of the press have been threatened.
(11) The presence of members of the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor has already resulted in an improved security environment in the East Timorese capital of Dili.
(12) A robust international observer mission and police force throughout East Timor is critical to creating a stable and secure environment necessary for a free and fair vote.
(13) The Administration should be commended for its support for the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor which will provide monitoring and support for the ballot and include international civilian police, military liaison officers, and election monitors.
(b) SENSE OF THE CONGRESS- It is the sense of the Congress that--
(1) the President and the Secretary of State should immediately intensify their efforts to prevail upon the Indonesian Government and military--
(A) to disarm and disband anti-independence militias in East Timor;
(B) to grant full access to East Timor by international human rights monitors, humanitarian organizations, and the press; and
(C) to allow Timorese who have been living in exile to return to East Timor to participate in the vote on the political status of East Timor to be held on August 1999 under the auspices of the United Nations; and
(2) not later than 21 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President should prepare and transmit to the Congress a report that contains a description of the efforts of the Administration, and an assessment of the steps taken by the Indonesian Government and military, to ensure a stable and secure environment in East Timor for the vote on the political status of East Timor, including an assessment of the steps taken in accordance with subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) of paragraph (1).
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