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The Situation in East Timor 

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

THE SITUATION  IN EAST TIMOR -- (Senate - September 13, 1999)

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Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, like many of my colleagues, I was pleased yesterday when President B.J. Habibie of Indonesia agreed to work with the United Nations to allow international peacekeepers to restore peace and stability to East Timor. The reprehensible wave of violence that engulfed East Timor in the week following the announcement of the August 30 referendum was inexcusable, and demands the harshest condemnation by the international community.

But, more importantly, the international community must now work to bring an immediate end to the violence in East Timor, protect refugees, safeguard humanitarian aid for displaced persons, and work with Indonesian troops already in East Timor to see to it that they fulfill their mission of protecting the East Timorese.

On August 30, close to 98 percent of the eligible voters of East Timor went to the polls for the United Nations sponsored vote on East Timor's autonomy. This vote was in keeping with the May 5 agreements between Indonesia, Portugal, and the United Nations regarding the future of East Timor.

On September 4, the Secretary General of the United Nations announced the outcome of the August 30 vote, and the results show that the people of East Timor have spoken with a clear voice: 78.5 percent rejected autonomy in favor of complete independence from Indonesia.

Under the May 5 agreements, if East Timor opted for independence, the Government of Indonesia committed itself to a process of peaceful and constitutional change, in which the United Nations would oversee the transition to independence for East Timor.

Unfortunately, following the Secretary General's announcement of the clear, overwhelming, and freely-expressed choice of the East Timor people, anti-independence militias, backed by the Indonesian military and police, began a systematic and organized campaign of terror, violence and intimidation in an effort to overturn the will of the people of East Timor.

The criminal action undertaken by the militias and their backers in the Indonesian military are reprehensible: mass looting, arson, systematic destruction of infrastructure, and most disturbing of all, murder.

According to the United Nations, hundreds, and possibly thousands, have been killed and more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. There are also reports of mass killings and a systematic campaign of political assassination.

The May 5 Agreements between the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal and the United Nations mandated the popular vote on the offer of autonomy and clearly delegated responsibility for peace and security before, during and after the ballot process to the Government of Indonesia. And the Government of Indonesia freely agreed to take on that responsibility.

Yet, in the face of widespread violence, the Indonesian army and police forces have stood aside and, worse, assisted the anti-independence militias. I, like many of my colleagues, was startled by the Government of Indonesia's unwillingness or inability to control its own military forces and police in East Timor.

Now that the Government of Indonesia has agreed to work with the United Nations to restore peace to East Timor, there is much work to be done.

First, I am heartened by the willingness of the Australian government to lead peacekeeping efforts to restore peace in security to East Timor, by the willingness of the states of ASEAN to participate in this peacekeeping mission, and by the efforts of the United Nations Security Council to engage the Government of Indonesia to address these issues. The United States, along with our partners in the United Nations and the international community, must be responsive to these efforts and provide appropriate assistance.

Second, I believe that it is essential that the international community condemns the acts of violence that have occurred in East Timor in the past week--as it has in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, and elsewhere--and urge a complete investigation into any criminal acts with those responsible being brought to justice.

Third, now that the Government of Indonesia has agreed to allow international peacekeepers into East Timor, I am hopeful that it will continue to work with the United Nations to implement the August 30th vote and safeguard East Timor's transition to independence. The United States and the international community must remain engaged and involved with this transition, and strongly encourage the Government of Indonesia to make those changes that the people of East Timor in the August 30 referendum overwhelmingly supported.

Lastly, I believe that President Clinton's decision to review U.S. international financial and military assistance to Indonesia in the context of the violence in East Timor was wholly appropriate, and that Jakarta must understand that as much as we value our relations with the people of Indonesia, future U.S. assistance will depend on

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their continued cooperation with the international community in resolving this deplorable situation.

Mr. President, the people of East Timor have made their feelings clear. They want a peaceful transition to independence. The Government of Indonesia has made a commitment that they would grant the people of East Timor independence and oversee a peaceful transition. As the Government of Indonesia has belatedly recognized, it must live up to its commitments. The international community can play a crucial role in providing support and helping guarantee the security of the people of East Timor in this transition to independence. We must not let them down.





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

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