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Congress Discusses IMET

Discussion on the floor of the House of Representatives concerning IMET for Indonesia, from the House Gopher (

The speakers were Nita Lowey (D-NY), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The amendment offered, and subsequently withdrawn, would have banned IMET for Indonesia for another year. The battle over IMET funding now goes to the Senate.

This is from the unofficial version of the Congressional Record. Non-substantive remarks have been edited out.

Congressional Record (House) June 27, 1995. Page H6362


Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment:

Page 23, line 19, insert ‘or Indonesia’ after ‘Zaire.’

Page 23, line 21, strike ‘Indonesia and.’

Mr. CALLAHAN. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the amendment.

Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to correct a critical flaw in the bill before us. In 1992, we voted to end all international military education and training assistance for Indonesia because of that country’s abysmal human rights record and their continued oppression of the people of East Timor.

Regrettably, this bill reinstates IMET funding for Indonesia, which has shown no significant improvement in its human rights record since the IMET ban was imposed. In fact, the State Department’s own human rights report notes that there have been only cosmetic changes in East Timor.

Violent crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations in East Timor continue. First, innocent protestors are massacred and then the military rounds up and jails the witnesses so that the world will never know what happens. Is this the type of oppression we want to be rewarding with U.S. assistance? I don’t think so.

The State Department report goes on: ‘Extrajudicial arrests and detention, torture of those in custody, and excessively violent techniques for dealing with suspected troublemakers continued’ throughout Indonesia. ‘The Armed Forces continued to be responsible for the most serious human rights abuses.’

In November 1991, in the city of Dili, the Indonesian military slaughtered 200 people in full view of news cameras. Sixty-five people are still unaccounted for, and yet the Indonesian Government does not apologize for these killings. On the contrary, the regional commander of East Timor, Gen. Herman Mantiri, said: ‘We don’t regret anything. What happened was quite proper. They were opposing us.’

Mr. Chairman, Indonesia’s policy in East Timor is about the oppression of people who oppose Indonesia’s right to torture, kill, and repress the people of East Timor. It is about the 200,000 Timorese who were slaughtered by the Indonesian military when they invaded in 1975. Two-hundred thousand killed out of a total population of 700,000. It is about genocide.

The language in this bill is the first step toward releasing pressure on the Indonesian Government to clean up its act. Without passage of this amendment, we will continue to support a government that laughs in the face of the human rights principles that we hold dear.

We, in Congress, made the right decision in 1992 when we cut off all IMET funding to Indonesia. But we must not go backward now. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and send a message to Indonesia that we will not tolerate the oppression of the Timorese people.

Mr. CALLAHAN. Mr. Chairman, I continue to reserve my point of order. [Repeated after each speaker.]

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I am really sorry this amendment has to be offered. I would have hoped that the Indonesian Government would have learned, and this is an opportunity I think to send a message to them. The amendment offered by the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey) is a good amendment. The Indonesian military should not be rewarded for their conduct with the American IMET dollars. Congress and the American people value human rights and dignity, and we should not be timid about conveying that message to countries that do not share our basic concerns. We should be prepared to use bills like this to send that message.

Mr. Chairman, the State Department’s country reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994 reports, ‘The Indonesian Government continued to commit serious human rights abuses and in some areas, notably freedom of expression, it became markedly more oppressive, departing from a long-term trend toward greater openness. The most serious abuses included the continuing inability of the people to change their government and harsh repression in East Timor.’

I would tell the Members of the body, if they could have seen the film and talked to the men and women that were there, what the Indonesian army did to these people was brutal, absolute persecution of the Catholic Church. The Congress should be concerned with these issues, and I strongly urge the Members of the body to support this amendment. Hopefully this will send a message to Indonesia, where by next year things will be good and this will not be a problem.

Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey). I think she makes a persuasive and compelling case. The ongoing violation of human rights in Indonesia is unsustainable in a moral way, and certainly not supportable in a budgetary way.

It is my understanding that shortly the Chair will be asked to rule on a point of order with respect to legislating on an appropriations bill. Let me just make this comment: Presumably the Chair will consider whether the proper time to offer the Lowey amendment would have been during the authorization bill. During the authorization bill, we labored under a rule that ate up a considerable amount of time on some very important amendments, that ate up a long, long time of debate. There were dozens and dozens of amendments like this one that could have been offered that were not heard during that debate.

Now, it seems to me that this kind of consideration of process puts the Members of this House in a Catch-22 situation. You cannot legislate on an appropriations bill by attaching conditions to spending like this. That is our rule. And then you are supposed to pursue it in an authorization bill. But when the authorization bills come up, we have unduly restricted rules that cut off debate in an arbitrary time and never permit this kind of thing to come up.

The real shame, Mr. Chairman, the real shame that is being raised by Mrs. Lowey’s amendment, is that such a meritorious and critical debate will never really happen and never really get a vote because of the way the rules of the House are being manipulated. I think that is a shame.

Mr. REED. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this amendment and commend the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey), and the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wolf), for their leadership in proposing this amendment. Indeed, I attempted to offer a similar amendment to H.R. 1561, the Foreign Aid Authorization bill, but as my colleague from New Jersey explained, because of this construction of the rule, I was effectively prevented from doing this.

In 1992, my former colleague from Rhode Island, Mr. Machtley, offered successfully an amendment to cut training for funding for the training of Indonesia military in response to flagrant abuses of human rights in East Timor. When Congress cut this money, it send two strong messages: First, to the Government of Indonesia that the U.S. will not tolerate any more human rights abuses by the military in East Timor, and, second, to the East Timorese, who were finally given hope that someone had listened to their call for help and provided them a voice in the face of oppression.

Today we are debating a bill which effectively restores this money. That might be appropriate if the conditions in East Timor had improved, but in fact they have not.

I would like to emphasize that this amendment is not about the efficacy of American military training and the value of exposing foreign military personnel to our professional military instruction. No, this is about sending a strong signal concerning the abuse of human rights in East Timor.

In June and July of last year, Indonesian troops committed acts of sacrilege against the East Timorese church and clergy. The courts are still sentencing people to long prison terms for speaking to journalists or sending information critical of the government. On January 12 of this year, Indonesian soldiers killed six men outside Dili. These six civilians were shot in retaliation for a guerrilla attack the day before, but sources present indicate that the six were never involved in the attack.

At a joint hearing before the International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and International Operations and Human Rights on March 16, the Director of the Human Rights Watch stated, ‘In East Timor, violations of fundamental rights have been especially severe, and have worsened dramatically since the APEC summit meeting in Jakarta last November.’

When we are cutting aid to Africa and are cutting many, many worthy programs, it seems incongruous we would be giving money in the face of these human rights abuses.

I would urge my colleagues to accept the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey). I would urge them to send a strong signal to the Government of Indonesia that we will not tolerate further human rights abuses in East Timor.

A headline in the New York Times in November of last year stated, ‘Timorese worry world will now forget them.’ Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues not to forget them, to stick to the precedent we have now established. We have taken a stand. We can make a difference. Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support the Lowey-Wolf amendment.

Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island. Mr. Chairman, I rise as a supporter and a true believer in the International Military Education and Training program. But I am compelled, like my colleagues who have just spoken, by the overwhelming evidence to support this amendment offered by the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey), and the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wolf).

This is a good program, but this is the wrong time and the wrong place for IMET. For 3 years, Congress has denied IMET to Indonesia. A careful look at the record shows that this is no time to shift this policy. When Congress, at the urging of my predecessor, Ron Machtley, revoked Indonesian participation in IMET, a clear and unmistakable message was sent. We will no longer tolerate an intolerable situation. The human rights abuses in East Timor must end. Simply put, the abuses have not ended. IMET should not be restored.

This amendment is most appropriate, considering recent assessments of human rights conditions in Indonesia. To quote from the State Department’s 1994 human rights report,

“The Indonesian government continued to commit serious human rights abuses and in some areas, notably freedom of expression, it became markedly more repressive.” The most serious abuse included the continuing inability of the people to change their government and harsh repression of the East Timorese dissidents. Restoring IMET at this time would run counter to these findings and would undermine the moral force of these findings.

We have in Indonesia a situation where the benefits of IMET would be lost. The corruption is too deep. The violence is too extreme. And the repression is too severe for us to hold any hope that it can be tempered through education and training. IMET is designed to support democracy and military professionalism, and we cannot support what does not already exist.

U.S. aid cannot fill this vacuum. IMET is a powerful and effective tool. It must be used in the right way at the right time. This is not the time. Only through continued pressure will we be able to have the opportunity for an improvement in East Timor. Now is not the time for the United States to send conflicting messages on this issue.

Mr. Chairman, I urge the adoption of the Lowey amendment, and I ask my colleagues to do the same.

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Lowey-Kennedy amendment and urge our colleagues to support them.

First, before speaking about that amendment, I want to commend our chairman, the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Callahan), and the chairman of the full committee, the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Livingston), as well as our ranking members, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey) and the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Wilson), for their leadership in bringing this very strong bipartisan bill to the floor.

As a member of the subcommittee, I want to personally thank Mr. Callahan for his exceptional leadership his first time out with this bill. He has consulted individually and personally with members of the subcommittee, listened to our concerns and did the best that he could do under the circumstances of our very limited allocation. That allocation was limited not because our chairman of the full committee, Mr. Livingston, did not work hard to get us a better allocation but just the realities of the budget resolution.

It is in that spirit of bipartisanship and admiration for our chairman that I hope that we can pass this not perfect but best possible bill we could get on the floor today. I hope when we do pass it today or tomorrow that it will have the Lowey-Kennedy language in it.

To get to the point about Indonesia, because I know time is of the essence, it is a close call on the enhanced and expanded IMET. Many of us have had some very serious concerns about how IMET funds have been used throughout the world. And in some countries, it underwrites the brutality of authoritarian regimes with U.S. taxpayers’ dollars. The expanded IMET is supposed to be used to teach human rights training, democratic institutions, the role of a military in a democratic society. And it would be hoped that that is what these purposes would be in Indonesia. And I commend the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey) and the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Kennedy) for bringing this resolution to the floor because it focuses just on what expanded IMET is and why if we would continue to grant it, if we would grant it to Indonesia, why it should be used specifically for those purposes.

The concern of some of us is that funds sent to a country are fungible and if the regime happens to be authoritarian and a violator of human rights, then we are subsidizing that even with our good intentions.

Others today have talked about what the situation is in Indonesia in terms of human rights. I will say that I will join with some others in quoting the 1995 State Department human rights country report which calls Indonesia ‘strongly authoritarian’ and notes that ‘it became markedly more repressive’ during 1994 as the ‘government continues to commit serious human rights abuses.’

Last December, a United Nations Special Rapporteur noted, the conditions that allowed the 1991 Santa Cruz killings to occur are still present. In particular, the members of the security forces responsible for the abuses have not been held accountable and continue to enjoy virtual impunity.

The Rapporteur ‘clearly sensed terror among many East Timorese he had the opportunity to meet.’ The situation has gotten worse during the first half of 1995.

That is all to say, Mr. Chairman, that I think that we should have the opportunity to discuss this issue. If the Chair has a point of order that we cannot pass it here today, at least we should be sending a message to the authoritarian regime in Indonesia that if they get this IMET, it is to be for enhanced, that is, training their troops in human rights and training their military in the proper role of the military in a democratic society.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I again commend our chairman, Mr. Callahan, and the ranking member, Mr. Wilson, for their great leadership on this legislation.

Mr. CALLAHAN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words. Before pressing my point of order, I want to rise in opposition to the amendment and speak to it just briefly.

I do rise in opposition to the amendment of the gentlewoman from New York, although I know she is offering it because it is based upon her own strongly held convictions as well as the other speakers who have spoken tonight. I appreciate the strong concerns of the gentleman from Virginia and the gentlewoman from California, the gentleman from Rhode Island. But as the gentlewoman from New York knows, under our bill, Indonesia will not be eligible for IMET training.

Under H.R. 1868, Indonesia will only be able to receive human rights training under the expanded IMET training, as it is called. Expanded IMET is specifically designed to help improve human rights practices of the military. This is exactly the kind of program I think the gentlewoman from New York should be supporting.

Furthermore, I would note that the House Committee on International Relations has already recommended expanding IMET for Indonesia, and included it in the authorization bill passed by the full House on June 8.

Also I note that because of the concern of the gentlewoman from New York, the committee report requires that all candidates for expanded IMET be carefully screened to make certain they have not been involved in past human rights abuses. I would hope under those circumstances that the gentlewoman would reconsider offering her amendment in light of the committee’s action on this very important amendment.

Mr. CALLAHAN. I yield to the gentlewoman from New York.

Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, before I do, I want to thank the gentleman again and commend him for his outstanding leadership of this committee.

It has really been a privilege for me to work with the gentleman. He has been open. He has worked in a bipartisan way. He has approached each issue in a very thoughtful manner. I want to thank the gentleman, again, and the ranking member, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Wilson).

In response to the gentleman’s request, I do want to ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment. Mr. Chairman, we will be watching expanded IMET for Indonesia over the next year. And if the human rights records does not improve, we will work to cut off all IMET funding next year.

Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment.

Return to Congressional Action on East Timor: Statements, etc.

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