For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller, 718-596-7668,
East Timor Holds First Free Elections August 30
New Country Moves Towards Full Independence with Refugee Crisis,
Justice Issues Unresolved
August 28, 2001-- The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) welcomed
this weekís election in East Timor as an important milestone in East
Timorís path to independence, but cautioned that many important issues
must be still be addressed by the international community. On Thursday,
August 30, the people of East Timor will go to the polls to elect a
national assembly. On the second anniversary of 1999ís historic
referendum for independence, voters will elect an 88 member body tasked
with writing the national constitution in a mere 90 days. The country,
currently under United Nations administration, is expected to become
independent in 2002. Key concerns include:
The continuing refugee crisis. Approximately one-tenth of East
Timorís population is unable to vote because they continue to be held in
Indonesian military and militia-controlled refugee camps, mostly in
Indonesian West Timor. Up to 80,000 refugees remain in the camps, under
extremely poor conditions, two years after Indonesian troops and their
militia proxies forced them across the border during the post-referendum
devastation of East Timor.
The need for an international tribunal. War crimes and crimes
against humanity committed by the Indonesian military during and prior to
1999 have been well documented, but no military members have yet been held
accountable for the murders, rapes, forced population movements, property
destruction, or other gross human rights abuses committed in East Timor.
Many have in fact been promoted within the Indonesian military. An
international tribunal, called for by East Timorese leaders and
non-governmental organizations as well as two UN commissions, is needed to
prosecute those most responsible.
International accountability. East Timorese leaders and
non-governmental organizations have charged the United Nations and other
international institutions with not consulting adequately with East
Timorese and not allowing adequate time for the institutions of the new
nation to be firmly established during the transitional period. As the
international presence decreases sharply over the next year, it is crucial
that every effort be made to meet East Timorís needs, strengthen local
capacity and reflect local priorities.
Border security. Indonesian military-backed militias continue to
destabilize East Timor by launching cross-border raids from their bases in
the West Timor refugee camps. Many militia leaders say they plan to
increase hostilities when the UN reduces its peacekeeping presence in East
Timor next year.
The following ETAN members are available for interviews, to discuss
East Timorís upcoming elections, critical issues, and U.S. policy
towards the region:
John M. Miller, Brooklyn, NY;
718-596-7668, 917-690-4391 (cell)
John M. Miller, ETAN's Media and Outreach Coordinator, co-founded ETAN in
1991. He is the UN representative of the International Federation for East
Timor and served as staff for the Parliamentarians for East Timor observer
mission to the 1999 independence referendum in East Timor. He was
evacuated from Dili, East Timorís capital, on September 6th, with the
last remaining international observers.
Diane Farsetta, Madison, WI; 608-663-5431; 608-347-4598 (cell)
Diane Farsetta is ETAN's national field organizer. A member of ETAN since
1993, she was the coordinator of ETANís Madison chapter for over four
years. She was based in Suai, East Timor as a UN-accredited observer
during the 1999 referendum in East Timor, and was also evacuated from Dili
on September 6. She coordinated the successful effort to join Madison, WI
with Ainaro, East Timor, as the first official sister city of East Timor
in the U.S.
Ben Terrall, San Francisco, CA; 510-985-0385;
In early September 1999, Ben Terrall returned from his second trip to East
Timor, where he was a UN-accredited election observer. Two years earlier,
Terrall founded the East Timor Relief Fund, which distributes U.S.
contributions to East Timorese individuals and organizations. His articles
on East Timor and Indonesia have appeared in Indonesia Alert!, The
Progressive, and the Christian Science Monitor. Terrall coordinated a
major book drive for the People's Library of East Timor and the University
of East Timor, and continues to support educational initiatives in East
Timor. He is the coordinator of ETANís San Francisco chapter.
Chris Lundry, Tempe, AZ; 480-784-4696; 480-965-5881 (office)
A doctoral candidate in political science at Arizona State University,
Chris Lundry has traveled to East Timor five times. His work covers issues
of human rights, indigenous rights, democratization, sovereignty, and the
role of non-governmental organizations in Indonesia and East Timor. An
accredited observer during 1999ís vote, he returned to East Timor and
Indonesia last January to identify priority areas for aid and document the
militaryís destruction. He has also researched the role of the UN in
East Timor, focusing on plans to bring past and current human rights
abusers to justice.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports 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. ETAN has 28 local chapters. For additional
information, see ETAN's web site: http://www.etan.org.
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