For Immediate Release
Contact: Karen Orenstein, 202-544-6911
U.S. House of Representatives Nearly Unanimously Congratulates East Timor
Endorses Continued Restrictions on U.S.-Indonesia Military Ties, Pledges Continued Support for New Nation, Expresses Concern about Lack of Justice
May 21, 2002 -- The House of Representatives today nearly unanimously passed a resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 405, see text below) congratulating the people of East Timor on their independence and welcoming the new nation as an "equal partner" in the community of nations. The vote was 405-1.
"Congressional support has been key to East Timor achieving this week's independence. We are pleased that Congress remains committed to supporting the new nation," said Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator of the East Timor Action Network (ETAN).
The resolution calls for maintaining "a level of United States assistance for East Timor commensurate with the challenges this new nation faces after independence."
The House also urged the Bush administration "to ensure that those officials responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes against the East Timorese people are held accountable and that the Indonesian Government fully cooperates with the East Timorese judicial system."
The House expressed its commitment to "maintaining appropriate restrictions and prohibitions in law on military assistance, training relations, and technical support to the Indonesian Armed Forces." Military ties between the U.S. and Indonesia were suspended in 1999 as Indonesian troops and their militia proxies were leveling East Timor following its overwhelming vote for independence.
The resolution highlights the need for repatriation of East Timorese refugees, especially those held in militia-controlled refugee camps in Indonesian West Timor, and calls on the administration to press Indonesia to disarm and disband the militia and ensure security along the border.
Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Tom Lantos (D-CA) delivered speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of the resolution.
Smith said it "addresses the serious challenges" East Timor faces, including, "development of a stable economy, holding accountable those who carried out crimes against humanity and genocide during Indonesia's reign of terror, and caring for those many victims who still suffer tremendously from the scars of war and poverty."
Smith added that he "will be pressing my friends on the Appropriations Committees for a higher level of funding" than requested by the Bush administration for FY 2003.
Rep. Lantos said, "Standing up for human rights and democracy in East Timor was the right and moral course of action. And as a result of the bravery of the East Timorese people and concerted international pressure, we stand here today welcoming East Timor as the first new nation of the 21st Century."
Kennedy told the House that, "After decades of tremendous suffering under military occupation, we need to give generously to East Timor to ensure that children are guaranteed a quality education, adequate health care and shelter, and that other needs for a decent standard of living are met."
Representative Jim McGovern said, "The international community, along with East Timor, must also find a way to bring to justice those accountable for the campaign of violence leading up to and following the 1999 referendum."
In addition to Smith, Kennedy, McGovern, and Lantos, Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Jose Serrano (D-NY) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) co-sponsored the resolution.
Senators Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Russell Feingold (D-WI) have introduced a similar resolution in the Senate, S.Con.Res. 109.
For over a decade, the East Timor Action Network/U.S. (ETAN) has supported self-determination and human rights for East Timor. It continues to work in support human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women's rights. More information can be found at www.etan.org.
see also Congressional Record
H. CON. RES. 405
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MAY 14, 2002
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey (for himself, Mr. MCGOVERN, Mr. WOLF, Mr. FRANK, and Mr. KENNEDY of Rhode Island) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on International Relations
Commemorating the independence of East Timor and expressing the sense of Congress that the President should establish diplomatic relations with East Timor.
Whereas on May 20, 2002, East Timor became the first new country of the millennium;
Whereas the perseverance and strength of the East Timorese people in the face of daunting challenges has inspired the people of the United States and around the world;
Whereas in 1974 Portugal acknowledged the right of its colonies, including East Timor, to self-determination, including independence;
Whereas East Timor has been under United Nations administration since October 1999 during which time international peacekeeping forces, supplemented by forces of the United States Group for East Timor (USGET), have worked to stabilize East Timor and provide for its national security;
Whereas the people of East Timor exercised their long-sought right of self-determination on August 30, 1999, when 98.6 percent of the eligible population voted, and 78.5 percent chose independence in a United Nations-administered popular consultation despite systematic terror and intimidation by the Indonesian military and its militia;
Whereas the East Timorese people again demonstrated their strong commitment to democracy when 91.3 percent of eligible voters peacefully participated in East Timor’s first democratic, multiparty election for a Constituent Assembly on August 30, 2001, and when 86.3 percent of those eligible participated in the first presidential election on April 14, 2002;
Whereas East Timor adopted a constitution in March 2002; Whereas East Timor is emerging from over 400 years of colonial domination and a 24-year period of occupation by the Indonesian military;
Whereas, as the people of East Timor move proudly toward independence, many still struggle to recover from the scars of the military occupation and the 1999 scorched earth campaign that resulted in displacement which, according to the United Nations and other independent reports, exceeded 500,000 in number and widespread death, rape, and other mistreatment of women, family separation, and large refugee populations and the destruction of 70 percent of the country’s infrastructure;
Whereas efforts are ongoing by East Timorese officials and others to seek justice for the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been perpetrated in recent years, efforts which include the work of the United Nations Serious Crimes Investigation Unit and the East Timorese Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation to document and assess responsibility for these crimes;
Whereas recommendations by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Security Council to investigate and prosecute senior Indonesian military and civilian officials for their roles in promoting the 1999 anti-independence violence in East Timor have not yet been fully implemented;
Whereas, although the people of East Timor are working toward a plan for vigorous economic growth and development, the Government of East Timor faces a substantial shortfall in its recurrent and development budgets over the first 3 years of independence, and is seeking to fill the gap in full with grants from donor countries;
Whereas a large percentage of the population of East Timor lives below the poverty line with inadequate access to health care and education, the unemployment rate in East Timor is estimated at 80 percent, and the life expectancy in East Timor is only 57 years; and
Whereas Nobel Peace Laureate Carlos Ximenes Belo, Roman Catholic Bishop of Dili, East Timor, has appealed to the international community and the United States for increased economic and development assistance for the fledgling nation: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate 1 concurring), That—
(A) congratulates and honors the courageous people of East Timor and their leaders;
(B) welcomes East Timor into the community of nations as a sovereign state and looks forward to working with East Timor as an equal partner;
(C) supports United Nations and international efforts to support reconstruction and development in East Timor, and United Nations and international peacekeeping forces to safeguard East Timor’s security;
(D) remains committed to working toward a debt-free start to East Timor and just, sustainable, and secure development programs as well as adequate resources for the judicial system for East Timor for the foreseeable future beyond independence;
(E) expresses continued concern over deplorable humanitarian conditions and an environment of intimidation among the East Timorese refugees living in West Timor;
(F) strongly supports prompt, safe, voluntary repatriation and reintegration of East Timorese refugees, in particular those East Timorese still held in militia-controlled refugee camps in West Timor, especially reunification of East Timorese children separated from their parents through coercion or force;
(G) expresses a commitment to maintaining appropriate restrictions and prohibitions in law on military assistance, training relations, and technical support to the Indonesian Armed Forces;
(H) acknowledges that a United Nations International Commission of Inquiry found in January 2000 that justice is ‘‘fundamental for the future social and political stability of East Timor’’, and remains deeply concerned about the lack of justice in the region; and (I) commends the President for immediately extending to East Timor diplomatic relations afforded to other sovereign nations, including the establishment of an embassy in East Timor; and
(2) it is the sense of Congress that the President and the Secretary of State should—
(A) maintain a level of United States assistance for East Timor commensurate with the challenges this new nation faces after independence;
(B) work to fund in a generous and responsible way East Timor’s financing gap in its recurrent and development budgets, and coordinate with other donors to ensure the budget gap is addressed;
(C) focus bilateral assistance for East Timor on the areas of employment creation, job training, rural reconstruction, microenterprise, environmental protection, health care, education, refugee resettlement, reconciliation and conflict resolution, and strengthening the role of women in society;
(D) strongly urge the Indonesian Government to step up efforts to disarm and disband all militia, hold them accountable to the rule of law, ensure stability along the border, and promptly reunite East Timorese children separated from their parents through coercion or force; and
(E) review thoroughly information from the East Timorese Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation and use all diplomatic resources at their disposal to ensure that those officials responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes against the East Timorese people are held accountable and that the Indonesian Government fully cooperates with the East Timorese judicial system.
Note: For those without a fax application on their computer - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/