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Congressional Record from May 16, 2001

Debate on Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003 (HR 1646)

see ETAN Media Release

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The en bloc amendment also contains the East Timor Transition to Independence Act, legislation I introduced with the gentleman from Rhode Island (Mr. Kennedy), the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. MCGOVERN), the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. SMITH), and the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY).

I would express my appreciation to the gentleman from Illinois (Chairman HYDE) and the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. LEACH), chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, and the gentleman from American Samoa (Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA), ranking Democratic member, for their help on this legislation, along with the East Timor Action Network.

Two years ago, Mr. Chairman, the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia. In response, anti-independence militias, with the support of the Indonesian military, launched a campaign of terror and violence.

The East Timorese have now won their hard-earned freedom, and the United States is playing a lead role in helping the East Timorese get back on their feet. This legislation provides a 3- to 5-year trade, aid, and security agenda with East Timor so that our Nation remains a key player in helping to rebuild that small and long-suffering country.

It authorizes $25 million in bilateral U.S. assistance to East Timor , authorizes the establishment of a Peace Corps Program in that country, and mandates a series of steps to increase the involvement of U.S. trade and export agencies in East Timor .

I also wish to point to the amendment offered by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. SMITH) and myself titled the Freedom Investment Act. This amendment ensures that our human rights and democracy programs are not merely part of our foreign policy rhetoric, but are also part of U.S. foreign policy reality.

If we are to accomplish this, the human rights function within the Department of State must be strengthened appreciably.

This provision provides a permanent authorization for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor equal to 1 percent of the Department's main operating account. This continues specific authorizations that the Congress has provided for the democracy and human rights functions and boosts the human rights and democracy fund.

This fund administered by the Department of State has been crucial to providing small level grants to human rights causes around the globe, and it definitely should be increased.

So I want to reiterate my support, Mr. Chairman, of the en bloc amendment offered by the gentleman from Illinois (Chairman HYDE), and I urge my colleagues to vote for his amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and rise to support an amendment which outlines a 3- to 5-year trade, aid and security agenda with East Timor which, as everyone knows, is currently under United Nations control and is scheduled for full independence later this year.

This legislation contained in the en bloc authorizes bilateral U.S. assistance to East Timor in order to promote civil society, independent media, job creation and economic development. It authorizes the establishment of a Peace Corps program in East Timor, requires that a developmental plan to establish full diplomatic facilities in East Timor be accomplished and mandates a series of steps to increase the involvement of U.S. trade and export agencies in East Timor.

I had the honor of having the chance to travel to East Timor with Nobel Prize winner Bishop Carlos Belo, and this was just after he received the Nobel Peace Prize. As my colleagues know, for the last 30 years East Timor has been fighting for its independence. Finally it won it.

Mr. Chairman, now we need to make sure that independence sticks and stability takes hold. In this Congress and many other places, we prepare for war. And when we prepare for war, we make sure that we make an investment in order to win war once we have prepared for it. Now we need to win the peace. We need to make sure that peace takes hold in East Timor. So we also need to make sure that peace takes hold, and this legislation within the en bloc will make that take place.

Mr. Chairman, I encourage my colleagues to join me in support of this very important amendment which will help our relationship with East Timor and help it get underway.

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Mr. MCGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment offered by the Ranking Member of the International Relations Committee that would outline and authorize over three-to-five years a recovery and transition to independence strategy for U.S. aid for East Timor.

I was proud to introduce this legislation as H.R. 675 with my colleagues, Representatives LANTOS (CA) and KENNEDY (RI) in February. I want to express my appreciation for their leadership in designing a bill that looks towards establishing permanent and productive relations with a soon-to-be independent East Timor.

This amendment calls upon the Administration to continue to facilitate East Timor's transition to independence, to support democracy and economic recovery, and to strengthen the security of East Timor. Today, the situation on the border between East and West Timor remains tense and combative. Over 100,000 East Timorese remain trapped in squalid refugee camps just inside the Indonesian territory of West Timor. Indonesian-supported militia groups during the violence of 1999 forcibly removed most of these people from their homes in East Timor. International humanitarian and refugee organizations are limited or unable to provide these refugees with assistance because of the threatening climate created by Indonesia.

We should recall that three United Nations humanitarian workers were brutally and publicly murdered--stabbed to death-by these militias while Indonesian police and authorities stood by. The individuals who carried out the murders were tried and sentenced to the lightest of sentences, giving official sanction to similar violent acts.

While some areas of reconstruction and recovery have moved ahead in East Timor, a great deal more needs to be done to rebuild this tiny nation which has suffered so much in order to gain its freedom. Current reconstruction and longer-term economic aid should focus on creating employment economic security for the majority of East Timorese. It should include the participation of local communities in the planning and design of projects and help preserve, strengthen and expand local leadership. The people of East Timor are eager and more than capable of rebuilding their homes, businesses and communities. International aid targeted at these tasks should hire and compensate the East Timorese for their productive labor, rather than flowing into the pockets of high-salary consultants and officers of multilateral and other foreign organizations.

This amendment looks ahead to the future of an independent East Timor. It sets forth requirements for the provision of bilateral assistance, multilateral aid, Peace Corps assistance, scholarships for East Timorese students, security assistance, and trade and investment aid.

I can see that future, and I commend the gentleman from California in moving this amendment forward so that it can become a reality.

[From the Boston Sunday Globe, May 5, 2001]

Born Amid Violence, and Yet Looking to the Future (By Arnold Kohen)

[From the Tablet, Apr. 21, 2001]

High Hopes of a New Nation (By Arnold Kohen)

Easter is an especially verdant time of the year in East Timor, a tropical island off northern Australia whose beauty belies its tragic history. Regeneration, both within East Timor and of the international networks vital to the sustenance of this martyred land, is urgently needed. Administered by the United Nations since an international peace-keeping force entered the former Portuguese colony in September 1999, East Timor is still reeling from its ordeal. Border attacks from Indonesian territory continue.

Two years ago, the people of East Timor suffered a mounting series of assaults by Indonesian army and local militias, some carried out in and around churches in this predominantly Roman Catholic island nation. After nearly 80 percent of eligible voters opted for independence from Indonesia in a referendum, the territory was subjected to an orgy of violence and destruction spearheaded by these same Indonesian forces. Now, 18 months later, renewal is under way.

The task is immense. Much if not most of the infrastructure was left in ruins. Electrical and water facilities were severely damaged, and even the manuals needed to operate these systems were destroyed by Indonesian military elements bent on vengeance. Many homes and public facilities have yet to be rebuilt. Though the UN presence has created jobs, an estimated 70 percent of East Timor's people are unemployed. Paradoxically, many of those without work at present were among the most committed members of the resistance to the 24-year Indonesian occupation: often they did not pursue their studies or were expelled for their political activities. Their plight must be redressed urgently.

UN-sponsored elections are due on 30 August this year. In these crucial transitional months leading up to the poll, the people of East Timor are under great stress. Yale University medical specialists report that a majority of them are suffering from the after-effects of the traumatic events surrounding the referendum of 1999. With only minor exceptions, justice has not been forthcoming and will take time to achieve--indeed, is impossible under current conditions, for the Indonesian military is refusing to cooperate with prosecution of those in its ranks seen as the guilty parties. An international tribunal should be established.

Massive reconstruction remains to be done, and many areas need the most fundamental attention such as the cleaning up of garbage and debris. Reforestation, planting of gardens, building or rebuilding of parks and gardens could all be increased to improve the environment and serve as an important psychological boost to a long-suffering population. Beyond such emergency jobs, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, the Nobel peace laureate, has issued a call to all nations to work to create sustainable enterprises to tackle unemployment.

The East Timorese are demonstrating enormous pride and resilience. Bishop Belo has told the young people that this Easter they should become joyful and happy about opportunities now open to them that never before existed. In fact, a vibrant civil society is developing resourceful non-governmental organisations devoted to human rights, women's concerns, the environment, relief and reconstruction and the rest. Most of these groups are led by people under 35, which gives strong reason for hope in the future. Can the world community fulfill its obligation to provide stability and sustained support--especially those nations that spent decades and billions of dollars of economic and military aid effectively supporting Indonesia's military occupation of the former Portuguese colony? For a start, the UN staff and peacekeeping troops are a force for stability and a bulwark against reinvasion: they should stay for several years.

International financial authorities, the real economic overlords in the territory, have argued that in three or four years East Timor will be simply another poor Pacific island nation and have no special status. But they miss a crucial point: something terrible has happened in East Timor over the past quarter-century that the world must not be allowed to forget. A small but significant step was taken on 2 April in the United States when the East Timor genocide documentation project was launched by Yale University's genocide studies programme, adding to existing Yale efforts on Cambodia and Rwanda.

About a third of East Timor's original population of 700,000 perished from the combined effects of the Indonesian military occupation. As the East Timor resistance leader Xanana Gusmao recently asked two priests who schooled him as a young man, who is going to dry the tears of the widows of the freedom fighters? Who will feed those who struggled for more than two decades? In the light of the special relationship of the Catholic Church with the people of East Timor, it would seem appropriate to request backing from international church authorities so that they may press governments for long-term support for East Timor, in terms of troops, qualified aid workers and finance. Local and foreign church agencies (and private development organizations such as Oxfam) that support East Timor have limited means to address employment or larger economic and political matters, but they have knowledge that should be transmitted to interested parties.

For example, Maryknoll Sisters have medical and psychological expertise, and are specialists on women's health. Agencies associated with Caritas such as Cafod and Trocaire can use their influence in Europe to gather support for East Timor: Cafod staff have travelled widely in hard-hit areas near the border with Indonesia. For its part the Jesuit Refugee Service, led by Fr Frank Brennan, is doing indispensable work assisting East Timorese refugees who remain in West Timor.

The United States bishops can work in Washington, where lawyers for East Timorese victims of the carnage of 1999 recently brought a case against an Indonesian general who was in the chain of command during those events. The testimonies of the Timorese, whose identities were not revealed for their own protection, provided a searing microcosm of what their nation underwent: lives and limbs lost, property and meagre possessions totally destroyed; in some instances families nearly wiped out.

International headlines featuring East Timor these days focus on who will be the first president of this nascent nation, which is expected to become independent next year. But the politics of the moment are far less important than long-term international programmes to help in the country's resurrection. A major danger is that discontent fuelled by East Timorese unemployment will provide fertile ground for subversive forces, some of them linked to Indonesian military elements that were responsible for the tragic events of 1999. Left unchecked, the situation could lead to riots and social breakdown which could sabotage the international peacekeeping mission and UN efforts. But such dire outcomes can be averted with timely initiatives and patience. Like many other things, it is simply a matter of political will.

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Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the en bloc amendment to H.R. 1646 and my amendment which is contained therein.

The amendment I offered is a Sense of Congress provision that recognizes the extraordinary importance of the national elections this year in Fiji, East Timor and Peru, and urges the Secretary of State to support the holding of free and fair elections in these nations.

Mr. Chairman, each of these countries has recently undergone significant political instability and turmoil.

In Fiji, the government of former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudry, an Indo-Fijian, was deposed by an attempted coup in May of last year. Fiji has long suffered from political and economic tensions between its indigenous Fijian population and the Indo-Fijian community, which is comprised of individuals of Indian descent. I believe much of Fiji's problems today are a tragic result of Great Britain's bitter legacy of colonialism. For a century, Fiji was controlled and ruled by England as a colony. During that period, from 1879 to 1916, the British brought waves of indentured servants and laborers from Indian, another English colony, to work the sugar plantations of Fiji. The colonial policies of transmigration have resulted in a dilemma today for native Fijians who fear they may lose control of their government as well as their homeland.

This August 25th, Fiji's caretaker administration will hold national elections intended to return Fiji to parliamentary government. Both New Zealand and Australia have pledged to assist with Fiji's elections, and the United States should join that effort by providing election monitors to ensure free, fair and democratic elections.

As our colleagues know, when East Timor voted to break away from Indonesia in the August 1999 referendum, it triggered a campaign of killings and destruction by pro-Indonesia militias that devastated the territory. Five hundred thousand East Timorese were made refugees and upwards of 2,000 were murdered.

Under the guidance of the United Nations Transitional Administration, East Timor is slowly recovering stability and progressing towards democracy. A crucial part of that process will take place on August 30th, when East Timor holds its first national election to select the 88-member Constituent Assembly. Once seated, the new parliament will draft a Constitution for an independent and democratic East Timor.

The recent resignations from the National Council, the interim government, by President Xanana Gusmao and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta is not a good sign, indicating that problems may surface in the lead up to the elections. The United States should support East Timor and U.N. authorities to ensure that the first national elections are successful in consolidating democratic government for the people of East Timor.

Mr. Chairman, Peru is overcoming 10 years of authoritarian rule under former President Alberto Fujimori, whose administration has increasingly been revealed as crime-ridden, with high-level corruption spanning from top politicians to Supreme Court Justices to military generals. Fujimori's intelligence chief, Vladimiros Montesinos, orchestrated the rigging of elections, bribing of high officials, and plotting against opponents. This culminated last year with Fujimori's fraudulent attempt to win a third term, the collapse of his administration, and the former president fleeing the country in November.

This past month, the interim government of Peru held open and fair presidential elections which I was privileged to witness as an election monitor with a delegation led by former President Jimmy Carter. On June 10th, a runoff election will be held between the two top presidential candidates, Alejandro Toledo and Alex Garcia.

Mr. Chairman, I commend the Peruvian electoral officials for the open and impartial elections held in April and urge that our nation continue to support Peru, as well as Fiji and East Timor, to ensure that the upcoming crucial elections are conducted under free and fair conditions necessary for democracy to flourish.

I thank Chairman HYDE and Ranking Member LANTOS for their support of this provision and urge our colleagues to adopt the en bloc amendment.

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