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Congressional Support Builds for East Timor
Key House Committee Supports Self-Determination

For Immediate Release
Contact: John M. Miller (718) 596-7668
Lynn Fredriksson (202) 544-6911

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) today praised support by the House Appropriations Committee for self-determination for Indonesian-occupied East Timor. The powerful committee called for an "internationally supervised referendum" when it passed the foreign operations appropriations bill late last week. The committee action is the most recent expression of Congressional support for a UN-supervised vote on the Indonesian-occupied territory's political status.

The same week over 100 members of the House sent separate letters to President Clinton and Indonesian President Habibie urging a just solution based on the wishes of the people of East Timor.

In a report accompanying the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, the House of Representatives committee pressed the Indonesian government "to take bold and innovative steps to deal with the East Timor issue. In this regard, the Committee supports an internationally supervised referendum to determine a comprehensive settlement of the political status of East Timor."

"Recent actions by both the House and Senate send a strong message that members of Congress want to see a just and peaceful end to a brutal military occupation in which over 200,000 East Timorese have lost their lives," said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative of ETAN. "It is appropriate that the U.S. Congress has taken a strong interest in the plight of East Timor. Its invasion and occupation by Indonesia were made possible by U.S. weapons and political support."

The House letters to the two presidents, initiated by Representative Tony Hall (D-OH), urged the release of political prisoners, including East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao, and underscored the need for a speedy resolution of the East Timor problem "based on the freely expressed wishes of the people of East Timor," as called for by UN resolutions, Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Belo and many others in East Timor and Indonesia.

The House appropriations bill reported out of committee on September 10 would also continue the ban on IMET (International Military and Education Training) aid to Indonesia, allowing only expanded IMET. Expanded IMET is supposed to be restricted to classroom training in matters such as civilian-military relations.

The committee also said it was "very disturbed" that Indonesia had received military training through the JCET (Joint Combined Exchange Training) program, saying it was "certainly inconsistent with the ‘spirit'"of the IMET ban. The committee report said that: "In an effort to clarify this matter, the Committee emphasizes that it remains the Committee's firm belief that at the present time all military training for Indonesia should be limited only to expanded IMET."

The Foreign Operations Appropriations bill calls for a detailed report of all overseas military training to foreign militaries conducted or planned by the Pentagon. This provision resulted from the controversy over JCET training of the Indonesian military revealed by ETAN and others earlier this year.

The Foreign Operations Appropriations bill must still be voted on by the entire House of Representatives and reconciled with the Senate version before becoming law.

On September 3, the full Senate banned the use of U.S. weapons in East Timor. The provision, included in its version of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, requires that any agreement to sell weapons to Indonesia "shall state that such items will not be used in East Timor." A version of this provision is included in the House bill.

On July 10, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 237. The resolution urges the Clinton administration to "work actively, through the United Nations and with United States allies, ... to support an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination."

The House Appropriations Committee also called for an end to human rights abuses in Indonesia and East Timor saying the "Committee remains convinced that human rights and democratic pluralism in Indonesia must be awarded greater respect and protection by the Indonesia Government and every effort must be made by the Government to ensure that human rights abuses, torture, political intimidation and harassment are completely curtailed not only in East Timor, but throughout Indonesia."

On December 7, 1975, Indonesia brutally invaded East Timor. The following July 17, East Timor was illegally but formally "integrated" into Indonesia as its "27th province." The UN and most of the world's countries do not recognize this act, and the East Timorese reject it. According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church more than 200,000 – one-third of the population – have been killed by the Indonesian occupation forces.

The East Timor Action Network/US was founded in November 1991, following the massacre of more than 271 peaceful demonstrators in Dili, East Timor. ETAN/US supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor in accordance with the UN Charter and General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. ETAN has 20 local chapters.