International East Timor Conference Held in Utrecht
Highlights Ongoing Issues
14 May 2000
Forty activists from nine European countries, the United States, and
Indonesia came together in the Netherlands during the second weekend in
May 2000, for the first international solidarity conference on East Timor
since the referendum last August. The meeting was hosted by Vrij Oost-Timor,
a new Utrecht-based solidarity group.
In addition to celebrating the end of Indonesia's 24-year occupation of
East Timor, participants discussed the problems facing East Timor under
the U.N. administration and as the newest nation of the twenty-first
century emerges from occupation to independence.
Some issues from the occupation still cry out for the attention of
people around the world. More than 100,000 East Timorese are still trapped
in West Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia after being forcibly relocated by
the Indonesian military (TNI) and their militias last September. In
addition, TNI and militia leaders responsible for crimes in East Timor
during 1999 and the previous two decades continue to enjoy impunity.
Conference attendees decided to continue and increase political activity
in their home countries until these crises are resolved.
East Timor's new freedom has given birth to a rapidly evolving civil
society, including more than 100 local NGOs and other grassroots
initiatives. East Timorese people are reclaiming control over their own
lives that was denied for centuries of colonization. The conference
discussed ways for non-Timorese to support and participate in these
initiatives, as well as to help the East Timorese gain human and material
resources to develop their country.
In spite of East Timor's new freedom, the local people still cannot
control their government, reconstruction or economic development. This was
highlighted by the opening address of Ambassador Santa Clara Gomes, who
represents Portugal (President of the European Union) in The Hague. The
Ambassador cited reports from East Timor that many people are describing
the U.N. and international aid agencies as "new colonizers."
Rens den Hollander, who just returned after nine weeks working in East
Timor with Autonoom Centrum of Amsterdam to develop a local human rights
center in Viqueque, elaborated on the problems caused by insensitive and
inappropriate activity by international officials. In addition to the
economic disparity between well-paid foreign workers and the
80%-unemployed East Timorese population, Ms. Hollander related numerous
problems stemming from the fact that the East Timorese have little control
over international activities in their country.
Four conference workshops discussed ways foreign supporters can work
with East Timorese people to assist in development and democracy, monitor
and critique foreign institutions, bring the perpetrators of crimes
against East Timor to justice, and obtain educational resources and
expertise for East Timorese civil society.
Many at the Utrecht meeting have worked for decades to support East
Timorese human and political rights, and the end of the Indonesian
occupation provides new opportunities and avenues for this work. After
reassessing and reinvigorating their activities thus far, participants
proposed that East Timorese and their supporters from around the world
come together in East Timor for a conference later this year.
For further information: Stichting Vrij Oost-Timor, tel.
+31-30-2945438, fax +31-30-2721532, email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Scheiner, U.N. Representative International Federation for East Timor P.O.
Box 1182, White Plains, New York 10602 USA Telephone:1-914-428-7299;
fax:1-914-428-7383 hand:1-914-720-9205; email@example.com