etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer Representative McGovern on Frs. Hilariao Madeira and Francisco Soares

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD -- HOUSE Monday, September 13, 1999 106th Congress, 1st Session

145 Cong Rec H 8134


Mr. McGovern (D-MA)

[*H8134] The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I welcome the news that Indonesia will allow an international peacekeeping force into East Timor, but let me emphasize that the international community must act quickly before more lives are lost.

Shortly before the August 30 referendum on independence, I was in East Timor with two of my colleagues from the other body. Dili was a bustling city as it prepared for the U.N.-supervised vote. We were the only Congressional delegation to travel to East Timor before the elections and the last Members of Congress to see Dili as it once was. The burned, looted, and destroyed city emptied of its people is heartbreaking. Our delegation traveled to two towns along the western border, Maliana and Suai; and I would like to share some of what I saw in Suai. August is the dry season in East Timor. It was sweltering, hot and dusty. In this poor town we went to the Catholic church compound where over 2,000 people were seeking refuge. Father Hilario Madeira, the senior parish priest, and Father Francisco Soares who would be our guides greeted us. They introduced us to their world, one filled with worry and tension and subjected daily to violence and intimidation by the Indonesian military and militias organized and armed by the Indonesian armed forces.

Despite the strain and uncertainty of their situation, I was impressed by Father Hilario and Father Francisco's warmth, good humor, hospitality, and steady nerves. Here were men carrying out God's mandate to love and care for your neighbor, protect the weak and live humbly.

In talking to the refugees, we discovered most had been burned out of their homes or forcibly evicted. The majority were women and children. They sought refuge in the church compound surrounded by militia who over the past 2 days had cut off all their food and water.

Our delegation met with town officials asking that the water be restored. It was clear that militias were in charge of the water and that town officials would do nothing. The armed Indonesian police and soldiers, those charged with protection and security of the East Timorese people during the U.N. process, stood in the shade doing nothing, laughing and joking with the militias.

When I met with President Habibie in Jakarta, we demanded the water be restored in Suai. Less than 24 hours later the militias turned on the water.

Father Hilario shared with us his concerns about the current violence and his fears about violent retaliation


against the people who would go to the polls scarcely a week later, and we took that message to heart.

That evening in Dili we had dinner with Nobel Peace Prize winner and Catholic bishop Carlos Belo. In the dining room of his house overlooking the courtyard between his residence and the chapel where he said mass, Bishop Belo emphasized the need for protection following the vote, and as we met in Dili with Indonesian officials, police and military commanders, we were constantly assured they were providing security for the people. They brushed aside our description of the situation in Suai, and I asked that they could cite a single instance where they had detained, arrested, or confiscated the weapons of any militia member, and they could not.

As our delegation prepared to depart from Dili, we called upon the U.N. to immediately deploy armed peacekeepers to East Timor to protect the people from further violence, especially following the referendum.

Now we know everyone's worst fears have been realized. Over the Labor Day weekend I received word that the home of Bishop Belo where I had dined just 2 weeks ago had been burned to the ground. The bishop barely escaped with his life. The 3,000 people given refuge in his courtyard were forced out at gun point by uniformed Indonesian military militias. Their fates are unknown.

And on Wednesday morning I received a phone call from human rights workers in Jakarta that eyewitnesses reported militias had gunned down and killed Father Hilario and Father Francisco along with Jesuit priest Father Dewanto. Many of the people of Suai sheltering inside the church were also killed. Some escaped while others were forcibly transported out of the country. These were good men; these were holy men. Nothing we say or do here in Congress, nothing President Clinton may say or do, nothing the U.N. may say or do can bring these men back to the people of Suai. In so many ways we in the United States and the international community failed them. They trusted us, and we failed them. If we were to honor their memory, then we must not fail them again.

Mr. Speaker, we must support the rapid deployment of an international force to rescue and guarantee the security of the people of East Timor. We must take immediate steps to protect refugees and displaced people from further harm and attacks. We must disarm the militias and confiscate and destroy their weapons. We must provide humanitarian support, food and medicine for East Timor. We must safely return those who are forced to leave their homes, villages, and country. We must guarantee the full and safe implementation of the independence process for East Timor, and we must help the East Timorese people rebuild their cities and towns.

This time the international community must keep its word to the people of East Timor

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