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Senator Jack Reed : Statement on Election in East Timor

see also: Statements on Introduction of S. 1568 suspending assistance to Indonesia (Sept 8, 1999)


Statement by Senator Jack Reed On Election in East Timor  (Sept 4, 1999)

Indonesia must Respect the East Timorese Vote (The Providence Journal Sunday, August 30, 1999)

Reed to Travel to China and East Timor (August 6, 1999)

Statement by Senator Jack Reed On Election in East Timor 
Saturday, September 4, 1999

Following is a statement from US Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) regarding the announcement of election results in East Timor:

"This week the people of East Timor have demonstrated that the vote is indeed more powerful than the army and the forces of intimidation. While I am pleased that the election was held and the results reflect the will of the people, I am deeply disturbed by the violence that continues to escalate in East Timor. As agreed to by the government of the Indonesia, it is the responsibility of Indonesian military forces to provide security for all East Timorese. Failure to protect the people and United Nations workers will have a severe detrimental impact on Indonesia’s relations with the United States and the international community. It will also significantly increase the likelihood of the introduction of international forces."

"The government of Indonesian should also understand that the United States will act swiftly to protect U.S. citizens and will cooperate with the international community to take any steps necessary to protect United Nations personnel."

Reed recently traveled to East Timor where he was briefed by officials of the United Nations in Dili and the western towns of Malianos and Suai on the preparation for the August 30th vote. He also met with East Timorese officials and spoke with members of both the pro-independence and pro-integrationist movements.



Indonesia must Respect the East Timorese Vote by Senator Jack Reed
The Providence Journal Sunday, August 30, 1999

In the sweltering heat of the East Timor village of Suai, 2,000 Timorese are crowded in the shadow of a half-built Catholic Church. They seek refugee from marauding bands of militia supporting the continued integration of East Timor with Indonesia. They are afraid to leave, not only out of fear for their safety but also because by leaving that village they would effectively forfeit their right to vote in tomorrow's referendum.

Rather than eliciting support from the local authorities, these Timorese have incurred the wrath of the bupari, the local headman and a former Indonesian general. Drinking water to the church has been cut off, and food convoys have been deterred by bureaucratic delay and denial. All of this is a clearly orchestrated plan of intimidation: to starve these people away from the polling places and into the clutches of the militias.

This is the political climate of East Timor as I found it during a recent congressional visit and on the eve of an historic vote to either remain part of Indonesia or become an independent nation.

The island of Timor is divided between the Indonesian territory of West Timor, an old Dutch colony, and the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. Since 1974, when Portugal abandoned the last remnants of its colonial empire, East Timor has itself been in the grip of a violent struggle between those who favor independence and those who want a close association with Indonesia. The violence of the '70s provided a pretext for an Indonesian invasion of East Timor and for the unilateral declaration by the dictatorial government of General Suharto incorporating East Timor into Indonesia. This annexation has never been officially recognized by the world community.

Decades of smoldering violence that claimed over 200,000 Timorese victims suddenly took a new direction this spring, when the new president of Indonesia, B.J. Habibie, declared that his government would support a United Nations referendum to allow the people of East Timor to chose between autonomy within Indonesia or independence. The fall of the Suharto government, together with a massive collapse of the Indonesian economy, made Mr. Habibie and his colleagues more dependent on international assistance and more responsive to international demands to allow a vote for self-determination.

Although the civilian government in Jakarta seems reconciled to the vote and widespread predictions are that the vote will overwhelmingly endorse independence, the Indonesian military is staging a last-ditch effort to upset the vote. They are encouraging the militias. Some would even claim that they are arming them. Active-duty and retired senior officers openly consort with the militias and refuse to take any action against them. Indonesian police, privately claiming that the militias are under the protection of the army, stand aside as these militias brandish weapons and surge unchecked through the streets.

The army's position rests on old-fashioned cronyism, and it fears that independence for East Timor will begin the unraveling of this vast and diverse island nation. For decades, individually and institutionally, the army has enjoyed economic benefits from its presence in East Timor. Military leaders are reluctant to give up these privileges or to send a signal to other parts of Indonesia that they will tolerate local separatist movements.

The United States and the world community must demand that the Indonesian government and military shoulder the responsibility to provide for free and fair elections and to respect the results of those elections. The climate of intimidation must cease. Indonesian military leaders who are encouraging this intimidation must be removed.

President Habibie and his generals must know that the support of the international community for the Indonesian economy and any future cooperation with the Indonesian armed forces depends on sincere efforts to provide for free and fair elections in East Timor and to respect the results of those elections.

As I stood before those men and women gathered at the church in Suai, I told them that "the vote is more powerful than the army." They believe that, and will risk their lives tomorrow to exercise that right. The immediate task of the United States and the world community is to make Habibie and his generals believe it and live up to it.


Reed to Travel to China and East Timor

Friday, August 6, 1999

Washington, DC -- During August U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) will travel to the People's Republic of China to meet with U.S. and Chinese government officials and to East Timor to monitor preparation for the August 30th United Nation’s referendum.


August 8th to August 18th Reed will be in China as part of a Mansfield Study Group tour sponsored by the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs. The trip is meant to provide leaders in the Senate with a clearer understanding of the economic, political and social structures of Asian countries. Reed was chosen to participate in the program because of his expertise in international affairs. Last year he traveled with the Mansfield Center to China, Hong Kong, Okinawa and Japan.

While in China, Reed will meet with U.S. and Chinese government officials, tour cities and villages in China’s interior and tour joint Chinese/U.S. commercial operations.

The Mansfield Center, founded by former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT), is dedicated to promoting relations between the United States and Pacific Rim nations. Mansfield was the longest serving Senate majority leader of this century -- from 1961 to 1977 -- and the longest serving ambassador to Japan -- from 1977 to 1988. The Mansfield Center is a part of the University of Montana and the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, which provides major funding.

For further information on the Mansfield Center:

East Timor

August 19th to August 22nd Reed will be in East Timor to monitor the preparation for the United Nations’ August 30th referendum in which East Timorese are to choose between

full independence or remaining part of Indonesia as an autonomous region. Reed will visit the United Nations’ voting centers set-up across East Timor.

East Timor has been wracked by unrest, guerrilla warfare and human rights abuses since Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

Since entering Congress, Reed has closely monitored developments in East Timor. In 1998, Reed successfully sponsored a Senate resolution that affirmed the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination.


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

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