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Kennedy Urges State Department to Increase Pressure on Indonesia to Allow Freedom in East Timor

For Immediate Release Wednesday, September 16, 1998

Washington – Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), joined by three of his House colleagues, recently urged the U.S. State Department to heighten the pressure on the new leaders of the Indonesian government to allow freedom for the oppressed people of East Timor.

Kennedy arranged for the meeting with Assistant Secretary for East Asian Affairs Stanley Roth. He was joined by Congressmen Howard Berman (D-CA), the ranking member of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, Lane Evans (D-IL) and Tony Hall (D-OH). All four have been among the most outspoken members of Congress in condemning the human rights abuse committed against the people of East Timor by the Indonesian government, which occupied the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

"We made it very clear to the State Department that it needs to put more pressure on Indonesia to get its troops out of East Timor," said Kennedy, who wrote to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to request the meeting. "Until it allows the people of East Timor to conduct a vote of self-determination, the State Department must take a more pro-active stand in dealing with the Indonesian government."

Kennedy said that although some encouraging signals about East Timor have been sent by Indonesia's President B. J. Habibie since the downfall of the Suharto regime earlier this year, the State Department needs to make a more concerted effort to seek the withdrawal of the Indonesian troops occupying East Timor. More than 200,000 East Timorese nearly one-third of the population, have perished since the occupation began.

"The State Department must allow the new Indonesia government only so much time before it commits to serious changes in East Timor," said Kennedy. "Our government must decide when Indonesia's actions on behalf of the people of East Timor are not enough in quality or quantity."

Kennedy and his colleagues are discussing legislative approaches if the State Department is unsuccessful in seeking freedom for the East Timorese.