ISSN #1088-8136

Vol. 6, No. 1
Spring 2000

We Can't Stop Here

Gus Dur and the Military Monster

Atrocity Investigations in East Timor

East Timor in Transition: A View from the Ground

Chapter Updates

IFET Launches New Project

Exploring an Indonesia Action Network

Back Issues


ETAN Home Page


ETAN Steering Committee Explores New Territory

ETAN Steering Committee Explores New Territory
by Kristin Sundell

Also: Activist & Chapter Priorities
          Chapter updates

ETAN's December 4-5 National Steering Committee meeting in Chicago drew more than 50 participants, including representatives from 22 ETAN chapters, East Timorese activist Gabriella Lopes da Cruz Pinto, and guests from Indonesia Alert!, Solidarity, and Peace Brigades International. Northwestern University Professor Jeffrey Winters also shared insights into the current Indonesian political environment.

ETAN Steering Committe meets  
Photo by Eric S. Piotrowski
ETAN's Future Mandate

East Timor's new status as an emerging independent country necessitates changes in ETAN's mission and mandate. ETAN's original mission statement supports "genuine self determination and human rights for the people of East Timor" and identifies ETAN's primary focus as "changing U.S. foreign policy and raising awareness of the situation in East Timor." Until recently, cutting U.S. military ties to Indonesia has been the most effective tool to assist the people of East Timor, but this will not be the case much longer. Preventing continuation of the U.S./Indonesia military relationship is an important goal in itself, but other actions and strategies will soon become more important in the struggle to bring about a truly free and independent East Timor. In Chicago, ETAN committed to supporting the East Timorese people as they struggle with the challenges inherent in the transition to independence.

Regarding ETAN's future mandate, the steering committee came to consensus on the following points:

  • One of the most challenging elements of ETAN's future work will involve campaigning against attempts already underway to "normalize" U.S.-Indonesia military relations. ETAN will work to maintain the freeze on all aid to the Indonesian armed forces through the end of the current congressional session. Hence ETAN will continue to work for the passage of HR 1063 - The International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act.
  • As the reconstruction effort progresses we must work to ensure that the people of East Timor are allowed to rebuild and restructure their society without undue interference from external forces. At the same time, East Timor must also receive the financial and material support, and the training, that it requests and deserves from the international community. Helping to make that happen will be a key component of ETAN's work for the foreseeable future.
  • At the request of the Steering Committee, a group of ETAN activists has begun to explore possible mechanisms to focus on Indonesia-related issues on a long-term basis (see article).

Projects and Campaigns

The following projects and campaigns were also adopted by ETAN's Steering Committee:

Campaign to Bring East Timorese Refugees Home: Until all East Timorese who were forced into or fled to Indonesia have an opportunity to return home safely, pushing for a resolution to the refugee crisis will be one of ETAN's top priorities. ETAN is now pressuring the Indonesian and United States governments, as well as the United Nations, to do everything in their power to ensure the safe return of East Timorese currently held in Indonesia.

Monitoring and Observation Project in East Timor: Recent visitors to East Timor report that the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), together with the many international aid organizations in the country, often function as a new occupier, showing little respect for East Timorese skills, dignity, or sovereignty. An international observer team will be established in East Timor to monitor and report on the activities of UNTAET, foreign governments, foreign companies, and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) operating there. This project will be conducted with the direction, input, and coordination of East Timorese groups, and will also monitor the activities of International Financial Institutions (IFIs), including the World Bank, IMF and Asian Development Bank. (See article)

Volunteer and Travel Coordination in East Timor: Due to the complete destruction of East Timor's infrastructure and the flood of internationals who have already come to East Timor looking for ways to help, ETAN currently discourages individuals from traveling to East Timor unless they have much-needed language or medical skills. However, many exciting proposals for volunteer projects in East Timor brought to the national meeting may be possible within the next year. These include sending "work brigades" to help rebuild East Timor, organizing short "activist tours" of East Timor, facilitating sister city relationships between communities in East Timor and the U.S. (see Madison's chapter report), and opening an office in East Timor to help with volunteer coordination. 

Creating an ETAN Activist Listserv: ETAN now maintains an e-mail listserv which East Timor activists around the country use to share ideas, information, and local press coverage of events, and to develop and coordinate campaigns. For more information on this listserv or on any of the projects outlined above, contact Kristin Sundell at or 773-878-4033.

Top Priorities for ETAN Activists and Chapters

1) Set up district meetings with the local offices of your Senators and Representative. Certain members of Congress are trying to lift the ban on US/Indonesian military relations. We must prevent this from happening! The current ban can be maintained through provisions in the FY 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that prevent the normalization of military ties with Indonesia until certain conditions are met. Set up in-district meetings with your legislators soon, especially if they are on the Foreign Operations Appropriations Committee! For a list of the legislators on the Foreign Operations Appropriations committee and talking points for in-district lobby meetings, contact Karen Orenstein in ETAN's Washington office, 202-544-6911 or

2) Push for the return of East Timorese refugees. Over 100,000 East Timorese remain in Indonesian camps although the majority of them wish to return to East Timor. We must increase the pressure on Indonesia to facilitate their immediate return. We will hold regular vigils at Indonesian consulates around the country, coordinated with "call-in" days to appropriate officials. If you live near New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, please join these vigils and show the Indonesian government that these refugees will not be forgotten! For information about events scheduled in your area, check ETAN's website or contact Kristin Sundell in ETAN's field office at 773-878-4033 or

3) Start a Sister-city or support project in your community. Communication with East Timor is improving and it is likely that the first sister city relationships between East Timorese and US cities will be established soon! Now is the time to start meeting with members of your local city council and groups in your area that have already established sister-city relationships and find out how to work the system in your city. For information on sister city projects see, contact Diane Farsetta at 608-251-1730 or and see Madison's chapter report