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Election 2002 East Timor and Indonesia

The election season provides opportunities to interact with candidates seeking votes. Now is the time challenge or praise incumbentsí records on East Timor and Indonesia, and ask everyone their positions on justice for East Timor and on restoring U.S. military ties to Indonesia.

In 1992, ETAN activists in Wisconsin publicly challenged Republican Senator Robert Kastenís support for U.S. training of Indonesian soldiers. Russell Feingold picked up the issue, defeated Kasten, and today remains one of East Timorís strongest supporters in Washington. "I hadnít always planned to become involved in East Timor, because I wasnít always aware of the situation there," Feingold once said. "But then, more than seven years ago, the Madison, Wisconsin chapter of the East Timor Action Network ETAN brought the plight of the East Timorese people to my attention.Ē

Here are a few things you can do (see sample questions for candidates, below):

  • Challenge House and Senate candidates to state their position on U.S. military training and weapons sales to Indonesia while the Indonesian military continues to evade accountability for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor, block reform to establish civilian control of the military, and carry out brutal acts of repression across Indonesia. Ask the candidates to actively support an international tribunal to bring those responsible for decades of crimes against humanity in East Timor to justice.
  • Raise the issues at debates and campaign events. Praise those whoíve stood up for the people of East Timor and Indonesia, challenge those who havenít, and encourage newcomers to state their positions on these issues. By having people ask questions in a variety of fora, candidates will see that these human rights issues are important to people in their district or state. Encourage others to write or call candidates. 

Try to get the candidate to make a specific commitment to oppose any restoration of training, weapons sales and other military aid to Jakarta and to support an international tribunal for East Timor. Follow up with a letter, reiterating your position and outlining your agreement or disagreement with the candidate. (Be prepared to provide additional information for candidates who may not be familiar with East Timor or Indonesia.)

  • Write letters to local papers calling on candidates to take stronger stands on the issues.
  • Encourage third party candidates to support justice for East Timor and to oppose U.S. support for the Indonesian military in their campaign speeches and materials.

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Sample Questions for Candidates (and feel free to ask these questions after the election of new and returning members of Congress):

  • In response to East Timorís overwhelming vote for independence in 1999, the Indonesian military and its militias killed thousands and destroyed most of the country. Soon after, the U.S. suspended military ties with Indonesia. The administration and some members of Congress are now working to restore these ties even though those responsible for these crimes against humanity have yet to be held accountable and the Indonesian military continues to terrorize its own people. Do you agree that training and weapons sales for the Indonesian military should remain suspended? Should supporting human rights be a key element of our foreign policy?
  • In 1999, after East Timor voted for independence, the Indonesian military and its militias ransacked East Timor. Indonesia has shown that it canít hold its military accountable; six military and police officers have already been acquitted of all charges. Ongoing trials in Jakarta are widely considered a sham designed to blame the United Nations and East Timorese victims rather than hold responsible the military officers who organized and carried out the violence. Should an international tribunal as the UN called for in 2000 be set up now to make certain justice is served? What should the U.S. commitment be to supporting justice for the most serious crimes war crimes and crimes against humanity?
  • On August 31, an ambush took place in the Papua province in Indonesia in which two Americans and one Indonesian were shot dead and several others were wounded. They were employees of the huge gold and copper mines operated by the American company Freeport McMoRan. The Indonesian military immediately blamed local rebel groups, but now the Indonesian police and many others see a closer connection to the Indonesian special forces, Kopassus. In light of the Indonesian militaryís gross human rights abuses against their own people, and now a possibly the killing of American citizens, what are your views on funding and training the Indonesian military or other militaries that do not respect human rights and international law?

Please e-mail any responses to election@etan.org


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