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Press Release


December 30, 1999


WASHINGTON — Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) has written two letters, co-signed by 13 of his House colleagues, regarding the political stability and economic reconstruction of East Timor as a result of the military supported militia rampage following the vote for independence earlier this year.

The first letter, to J. Brady Anderson, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), seeks support from the agency for desperately needed World Bank funding for infrastructure reconstruction in East Timor.

A second letter, to Abdurrahman Wahid, urges the newly elected president of Indonesia to meet and work with East Timorese leaders Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos-Horta to bring an end to the persecution and displacement of civilians in East Timor.

Kennedy, as the co-chairman of the House Portuguese-American Caucus, has long been active in supporting the independence movement in East Timor, a former colony of Portugal.

“As a member of Congress governing the greatest democracy on earth, we have a duty and responsibility to help reconstruct the world’s newest nation,” said Kennedy. “In order for East Timor to survive, it will need the cooperation and support from the newly elected president of Indonesia, along with financial assistance from the World Bank and the United Nations. We must make sure our nation takes a leadership role in bringing about political and economic stability for the people of East Timor.”

In the letter to Anderson, Kennedy notes that the World Bank has estimated that $260 to $300 million is needed for medium-term reconstruction of East Timor over three years, and that an estimated 70 to 80 percent of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed.

In the letter to Wahid, Kennedy states that many civilians who were forcibly exiled to West Timor are still held in militia and military controlled camps where conditions continue to deteriorate. He urges the President to allow the civilians to return to East Timor without military intimidation.

The bipartisan letters were co-signed by Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), James McGovern (D-MA), Marty Meehan (D-MA), Lane Evans (D-IL), Bill Luther (D-MN), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Jose Serrano (D-NY), James Maloney (D-CT), Tom Campbell (R-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Tony Hall (D-OH), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), John Doolittle (R-CA) and John Porter (R-IL).


Press Release


November 12, 1999


WASHINGTON -- Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) and seven of his House colleagues have written to President Clinton to urge the United States to make a commitment of financial assistance to help with the economic needs of the now independent people of East Timor.

In the bipartisan letter, Kennedy and his colleagues asked the Clinton Administration to make a formal monetary request to Congress to help rebuild the infrastructure of East Timor.

"The East Timorese have experienced severe persecution, murder, and displacement as a result of the August 30 vote for independence from Indonesia," wrote Kennedy and his colleagues. "This campaign of terror perpetrated by the anti-independence militia has resulted in the demolition of the physical, political and social infrastructure, which will be costly to repair."

The members of Congress explained that the U.S. has contributed more than $20 million to various aspects of the East Timor relief effort, but it is not enough "to reach the goal of a stable East Timor."

They explained that the United Nations transition team will need international support as they take over the administration of East Timor, including funding to rebuild the health care, education and judicial systems.

"In light of the decimation of East Timor in the post-election period, it is essential that the United Sates indicates immediately to what extent we can assist in the rebuilding effort," said Kennedy. "We need to show the East Timorese that we are willing to help them and their fledgling democracy."

As the co-chairman of the House Portuguese-American Caucus, Kennedy has been active for several years in his efforts on behalf of the predominantly Catholic people of East Timor, a former colony of Portugal. He was joined in sending the letter to Clinton by Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Barney Frank (D-MA), James McGovern (D-MA), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Tony Hall (D-OH) and Frank Wolf (R-VA).


Press Release


October 20, 1999


WASHINGTON -- Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) hailed the decision by Indonesia's parliament to ratify the overwhelming vote for independence in East Timor, giving the people of the former colony of Portugal their freedom for the first time in 24 years.

The 700-member People's Consultative Assembly reached agreement to ratify the results of the August 30 vote, when 87.5 percent of the East Timorese opted for independence. The territory, invaded by Indonesia in 1974, will likely be handed over to a United Nations transitional team by the end of the year.

"The vote indicates the people's deep desire for change in Indonesia," stated Kennedy. "I am very pleased about the decision of the People's Consultative Assembly enabling East Timor to become a U.N. protectorate, pending independence."

Kennedy said that the international peacekeeping troops must remain vigilant because the threat still remains of attacks by paramilitary groups loyal to Indonesia.

"The assembly's agreement to the August vote clears the way for real change in East Timor if we can stabilize the safety of those who are there," said Kennedy. "Now that Indonesian troops in East Timor will be withdrawn and security will pass to the international troops, hopefully we will be able to bring democracy and normal life to the people of East Timor."

As the co-chairman of the House Portuguese-American Caucus, Kennedy has been active for several years in his efforts on behalf of the predominantly Catholic people of East Timor.


Press Release


September 13, 1999


EAST PROVIDENCE -- Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) and Rhode Island General Treasurer Paul J. Tavares hosted a press conference today at St. Francis Xavier Parish to discuss their concerns for the people of East Timor, who have been victimized by violence perpetrated by Indonesian paramilitary forces since overwhelmingly voting for independence.

"The people of East Timor took a courageous stand a few weeks ago when they voted for independence," said Kennedy. "We owe them, these people desperate for freedom and democracy, a simple pledge to support United Nations' efforts to bring in peacekeeping troops and to assist the international community to assemble a peacekeeping force to restore order and peace."

Last week, Kennedy introduced a House bill which not only supports an international peace-keeping mission, but would impose an immediate suspension of $16 million in military assistance and $75 million in economic development assistance to the government of Indonesia until the results of the independence vote in East Timor have been implemented.

The bill also requires the U.S. to oppose any loans or other assistance by international financial institutions to Indonesia, and urges other donor countries to do the same. Among funds that would be eligible for suspension are $1 billion in a World Bank Loan and $2 billion in an International Monetary Fund loan.

As the co-chairman of the House Portuguese-American Caucus, Kennedy has been active since coming to Congress in 1995 in his efforts on behalf of the predominantly Catholic people of East Timor, a former colony of Portugal.

Tavares, the only Portuguese statewide official, has also been active in expressing his concerns for the East Timorese, writing letters to the United Nations and the Indonesian government.

Also participating in the press conference were the Rev. Victor Vieira, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish who was a missionary in East Timor and came to Rhode Island following the occupation by Indonesia in 1975, and Dean David Targan, a professor at Brown University, who is one of the country's leading experts on East Timor.



September 4, 1999


WASHINGTON -- Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI), while hailing the overwhelming vote for independence in East Timor announced last night, expressed his disgust over the continued violence which the Indonesian government has allowed to rage since last Monday's historic vote took place.

Joined by three of his colleagues, Kennedy today authored a bipartisan letter to President Clinton, imploring him to take immediate action to end the bloodshed in East Timor.

"It is clear that the Indonesian government has stood by while violence flared and that it is incapable or unwilling to provide security in the territory," said Kennedy, one of the most outspoken members of Congress for several years on the East Timor independence issue. "The Indonesian government must disband the anti-independence militias or know that their failure to do so will jeopardize their relations with the United States."

Along with Congressmen Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and George Miller (D-CA) and Delegate Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Kennedy wrote to Clinton in the aftermath of Monday's vote when 98 percent of the registered East Timorese voters turned out despite weeks of violence, threats and intimidation by the Indonesian-backed paramilitary. Since the vote, numerous East Timorese and at least five United Nations' workers have been killed, entire communities have been torched, and foreign journalists have been injured.

"I am very glad that the East Timorese have had an opportunity to exercise their voice and vote for independence, which 78.5 percent of the voters elected to do," said Kennedy. "However, I am outraged by the recent violence and deaths at the hands of militia gangs, and I am deeply concerned for the flood of refugees in Timor and neighboring areas."

In the letter to Clinton, Kennedy and his colleagues implore the President to temporarily suspend all military assistance to Indonesia until the security situation in East Timor allows for a peaceful transition.

"We believe the moment has come to insist, through more than strong statements, that the Indonesian military contain, disarm and disband their paramilitary proxies," they wrote to Clinton. "Indonesia must also arrest and try paramilitary attackers, remove Indonesian military (TNI) officers directly implicated in military/paramilitary violence, and immediately begin a genuine withdrawal of their own military personnel."

Kennedy and the other members also pointed out that a peace agreement and cease fire in the area needs to take place with a larger UN presence, encouraging Clinton to seek an expansion of the UN mission in terms of number and mandate.

"There is no reason why the U.S. government, whose public, whose Congress, whose State Department officials have so firmly supported East Timor's right to self-determination and condemned Indonesian government-backed obstruction, cannot act preemptively to halt further needless loss of life," wrote Kennedy and his colleagues to Clinton. "We respectfully ask you to take the next step to facilitate the peaceful political transition for the East Timorese, who have overwhelmingly opted for independence."

As the co-chairman of the House Portuguese-American Caucus, Kennedy has been active in his efforts on behalf of the predominantly Catholic people of East Timor, a former colony of Portugal which was invaded by Indonesia a few months after gaining its independence in 1975. Kennedy visited East Timor in December 1996.

Last month, Kennedy and about 100 of his colleagues in Congress sent a letter to President Clinton to express grave concern over the anti-independence militia violence.

Also earlier in August, Kennedy helped spearhead a successful amendment to the House Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to limit military training funding to Indonesia, and to end military relations with Indonesia, if violence continued and if the elections were not free and fair. The bill is still pending a conference with members of the House and Senate before a final version is adopted.


Press Release


September 13, 2000

Kennedy's Resolution Condemns Militia Attack in West Timor, Calls For An End To The Violence

WASHINGTON – Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) today introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning last week's militia attack on United Nations' refugee workers in West Timor, and calling for an end to militia violence in East Timor and West Timor.

Kennedy introduced the legislation (House Continuing Resolution 395) along with Congressmen Christopher Smith (R-NJ), James McGovern (D-MA) and John Edward Porter (R-IL) to keep the pressure on Indonesia to cease the violence against the East Timorese people.

Kennedy has called for the creation of an international human rights tribunal to seek justice against the more than 1,000 East Timorese who were killed after the independence vote, which is included in the resolution. The members also call on the U.S. to suspend all military relations and cooperation with the armed forces of Indonesia, including a cutoff of all security assistance and joint training programs.

The resolution also calls on the U.S. government to continue economic and development assistance and other support to the East Timorese people.

Kennedy is a leader in Congress on behalf of the people of East Timor, a former colony of Portugal which had been occupied by the Indonesian government. A year ago, the East Timorese voted for independence, but since that time, Indonesian militias have carried out mass violence and terror, with three-quarters of the population displaced and most of the country's infrastructure destroyed.

The latest affront came on September 6 when a militia mob attacked the West Timor offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), murdering three humanitarian aid workers.

"The Indonesian military, which has been charged with providing security for the UN in West Timor and for East Timorese refugees, has completely failed to disarm and disband militias," said Kennedy. "The latest incident is a chilling reminder of last year's violence in East Timor after the referendum for independence there.

"Now is not the time to resume military ties with Indonesia," added Kennedy, "but it is time to give full support to an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed last year in East Timor and time to condemn the militia violence there."


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

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