Statement by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
(ETAN) on the Current Violence in Timor-Leste
For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller (718) 596-7668; (917) 690-4391 (cell)
May 27, 2006 - We have watched the unfolding situation in
Timor-Leste this past week with deep concern. We do not believe that
events had to escalate to this point. Like others, we do not have
complete information about the current situation and its causes.
Below are our initial reflections:
The intervention by foreign military and police forces is a sad
event for Timor-Leste, whose hard-won political independence has had
to be laid aside we hope for only a short time because leaders
and state institutions have been unable to manage certain violent
elements of the population and security forces.
Now that foreign forces are being deployed -- at the request of
Timor-Leste's government, with the stated support of rebel leaders,
and the welcome by most of a terrified population -- we hope that
they serve their intended purpose in quelling the violence and
allowing negotiations and a peaceful resolution, as well as the
identification and arrest of those who have committed crimes.
Outside intervention is a temporary solution at best. Timor-Leste
must find ways, with respectful support from the international
community, to deal with problems in a manner that will not require
Statements by Australian government leaders that providing
security assistance entitles them to influence over Timor-Leste’s
government are undemocratic, paternalistic, and unhelpful. Who
governs Timor-Leste is a decision to be made by its people within
Key countries -- including those now sending troops and police --
must examine their roles in relation to the new nation, including
the training provided to Timor-Leste’s security forces. Australia
bears special responsibility for Timor’s underdevelopment by
refusing to return revenues, totaling billions of dollars, from the
disputed petroleum fields in the Timor Sea, including
Laminaria-Corallina, and by bullying Timor-Leste into forsaking
revenues that should rightfully belong to it under current
international law and practice. As in 1999, we must not forget that
the Australian government’s actions have contributed to the
situations their peacekeepers have now been sent to correct.
Australia should not view its current assistance to Timor-Leste as a
favor, to be repaid, but instead as a partial repayment for the debt
Australia owes the Timorese people for its help during WW II and for
Australia's deep complicity in Indonesia's invasion and occupation.
Independent Timor-Leste had a violent birth. The legacy of
Indonesian occupation left the people of the new nation deeply
traumatized and impoverished, without governmental institutions and
experience. Those who orchestrated, implemented and aided the
illegal occupation have never been held accountable.
We wonder if international and Timorese failures to ensure
justice have led some in Timor-Leste to believe that their own use
of violence would be met with similar impunity. As described in the
recent report of Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and
Reconciliation (CAVR), several countries - among them U.S., U.K.,
and Australia - bear a special responsibility to ensure justice and
accountability due to their action and inaction from 1975 on.
Reparations, as called for by the CAVR, would help alleviate the
poverty and joblessness that have fueled some of the unrest.
It must not be forgotten that despite its many problems, the
transition from occupation to UN administration to independence has
been relatively peaceful, especially when compared to the
experiences of many other post-colonial countries. We hope that the
recent violence -- which appears to have complex causes -- proves to
be an exception.
We urge the key political, security force and other actors in the
current crisis to evaluate their own actions and recommit themselves
to the spirit of national unity and public service, which so ably
provided the foundation for the independence movement. Timor-Leste
needs to examine whether or not it wants a military and, if so, what
is its purpose. In addition to addressing the past, the CAVR report
provides useful recommendations for implementing rule of law and
improving justice and accountability in independent Timor-Leste.
We urge the international community and the UN, especially the
Security Council, to work with Timor-Leste to complete the
nation-building and development tasks to which they have already
committed. If Timor-Leste is to become the success story it has
already been portrayed as, further international support is
necessary. However, this support must be given in an honest spirit
that supports real self-determination and empowers the Timorese
people to take full charge of their own destiny.
ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for
East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal
to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from
1975 to 1999 and for restrictions on U.S. military assistance to
Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces.
ETAN Statement on Recent Events
in Timor-Leste; Country Fragile, International Assistance, Justice Still
Additional news and
Hear ETAN's Charles Scheiner, recently returned from East Timor, on
Leonard Lopate Show;
This Is Hell