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Statement by the East Timor Action Network on the
UN Agreement on East Timor

March 12, 1999
For Immediate Release Contact: John M. Miller, (718)596-7668;

The East Timorese people moved closer to being able to determine their own future following this week's round of talks at the United Nations. According to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the people of East Timor will be soon be able to decide whether they want autonomy or independence. The decolonization process, interrupted in December 1975 by Indonesia's brutal invasion and occupation, will finally resume.

Indonesia has agreed to allow the UN to create and implement a system of "direct ballot" to allow the East Timorese to vote on whether they want remain part of Indonesia as an autonomous province. If they reject this, Indonesia has said it will repeal the legislation by which it illegally annexed East Timor as Indonesia's 27th province, thereby clearing the way for East Timorese independence. East Timor will have its referendum on self-determination in all but name.

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. welcomes this development, but will monitor its implementation closely. The Indonesian military (ABRI) must be withdrawn and the militias disarmed before any vote takes place. The demilitarization of the territory must be a priority. Any balloting must be fully democratic with all adult East Timorese, both inside and outside the territory, able to vote. All remaining East Timorese political prisoners, including resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, must be released and free to participate. East Timorese inside the territory must be able to cast their ballots free of coercion, especially by the Indonesian armed forces and Indonesian armed militias and paramilitaries.

An UN monitoring team must be quickly deployed to prepare the vote and insure peaceful conditions for any ballot. Efforts at reconciliation among the East Timorese should be encouraged. Yesterday's cease-fire agreement between Xanana and leaders of pro-Indonesia paramilitary forces can be assisted by international monitoring and demilitarization of all sides.

While progress is taking place in New York and Jakarta, conditions in East Timor are especially worrisome. Militia and paramilitary threats and violence continue. Foreign and East Timorese health care workers, aid workers, and journalists report serious food shortages and a mounting health care crisis with few doctors and limited medicines available. Outside relief has been obstructed by Indonesian government bureaucrats.

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have already endorsed self-determination for East Timor. We urge the executive branch to do the same, to stop supplying and training ABRI (the Indonesian armed forces), and to press the Indonesian government to live up to its international commitments by withdrawing its troops, disarming the militias, and allowing a free and fair vote on autonomy versus independence. The Indonesian government must allow the importation of basic necessities like medicines, fuel and food into East Timor, and international humanitarian aid organizations must be free to carry out their work in East Timor.

The U.S. should also assist the UN financially in carrying out the vote and providing emergency relief via UN agencies to alleviate the latest food and health crises in East Timor.

Posted 6/99: UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET)