|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Deborah DeYoung, 202/225-1217
August 11, 1999
100 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS CALL ON PRESIDENT TO USE ALL CHANNELS TO PRESS INDONESIA ON EAST TIMOR
WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, joined 99 other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in urging President Clinton to do "everything in its power to convince Jakarta to call off the paramilitaries" that are threatening to derail elections in East Timor.
The elections have been postponed twice because of violence , and now are set for August 30. "This is a historic opportunity," the Members wrote. "However, if Indonesian forces and those under their effective control continue in their currentmanner, the process will lead instead to an unfair election or no election at all - which could lead in turn to yet another bloodbath in East Timor."
In the 23 years since Indonesia illegally annexed East Timor, 200,000 people have died - including tens of thousands who starved there in 1978-79. The Members wrote, "... the killings continue even now. Tens of thousands have been displaced by these attacks, leading to widespread deprivation in East Timor's countryside. Authoritative church sources say that such actions, orchestrated by the Indonesian military, could make it impossible for a fair vote to be held as scheduled in August."
In 1994 and 1996, Hall, a long-time advocate for human rights who has made fighting hunger and other severe poverty a policy, nominated Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo for the Nobel Peace Prize. Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta were awarded the prize in 1996 for their work to ease suffering in East Timor.
The text of the letter is available at www.house.gov/tonyhall/
August 6, 1999
Dear Mr. President,
We would like to express our grave concern over developments in East Timor. Atrocities in recent months by anti-independence paramilitaries - which operate with the support, direction, and sometimes even participation of elements of the Indonesian military - have led to hundreds of killings. Although the most dramatic incident was a bloody assault on a church in April, the killings continue even now. Tens of thousands have been displaced by these attacks, leading to widespread deprivation in East Timor's countryside. Authoritative church sources say that such actions, orchestrated by the Indonesian military, could make it impossible for a fair vote to be held as scheduled in August. Repeated physical attacks and intimidation against United Nations monitors and relief personnel in East Timor are an added cause for grave concern.
We therefore believe it is imperative that the United States and its allies use all the influence we can possibly bring to bear on Jakarta to help ensure a democratic process in East Timor in complete cooperation with the United Nations, coupled with an end to obstruction of relief efforts. The United States and its allies should work to persuade Indonesian forces to put an end to atrocities in East Timor and allow a free and fair vote to take place. There must also be an expansion of access for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other relief teams in East Timor's countryside and towns, and a relief operation and protection efforts should be conducted immediately. It must be stressed that in 1978-79, many tens of thousands of people perished because of a catastrophic war-related famine, which underscores the need to address the current crisis without further delay.
These humanitarian problems and the 23-year conflict itself could soon be resolved through the employment of timely international diplomatic action and unrelenting pressure on Jakarta to fulfill its commitments within the May 5, 1999 United Nations agreement on the vote in East Timor. This is a historic opportunity. However, if Indonesian forces and those under their effective control continue in their current manner, the process will lead instead to an unfair election or no election at all - which could lead in turn to yet another bloodbath in East Timor. This would have disastrous consequences not only for the East Timorese, but also for Indonesia's relations with the United States and other nations.
There is still time to reverse course - but only if Washington does everything in its power to convince Jakarta to call off the paramilitaries. Not only our Embassy and State Department, but also U.S. Defense Department officials who have enjoyed a close relationship over the years with the senior command of the Indonesian military, must make this appeal in the strongest possible terms.
We would like to request a meeting with you to personally discuss these urgent matters in greater detail. Thank you in advance for your consideration of these requests.